With Newcastle's first game ending in defeat, we take a look at what they can do to improve their chances of promotion.
Newcastle’s Championship season got off to a tough start as they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Fulham in London. The Magpies were beaten by a Matt Smith header as Rafael Benitez’s first full season with Newcastle started on the wrong foot. While there were some positives to take from the game, what must Newcastle do in order to claim their first victory?
Increase the intensity
Without the ball, Newcastle were fairly good, they kept a compact shape and looked far better drilled than last season. However, there was a real lack of intensity and desire to win the ball back once they had lost possession. While Newcastle did enjoy 55% possession which, especially away from home, is an impressive amount, it only serves to highlight the fact that Fulham carved out the only telling opportunity of the game with less of the ball, perhaps due to a lack of pressure on the ball from the Magpies.
Fulham enjoyed a lot of time on the ball throughout the match which allowed them to calmly pick their passes and put Newcastle under pressure. The Magpies must look to harass their opponents when they don’t have the ball. This will make it far more difficult for the opposition to play their own game and should enable Newcastle to win the ball high up the pitch, setting up more advanced attacks for them.
Newcastle's Jack Colback looks dejected after a missed chance
Get rid of the favourites tag and get to business
Newcastle and their fans will still be reeling from their opening day defeat, but they must move on quickly. The Championship is renowned for being one of the most competitive leagues and it is incredibly difficult to get promoted. It is far more likely that a team will get relegated and then stay in the Championship, rather than come straight back up.
Newcastle must find a way to rid themselves of the tag of favourites. Of course it will be a good ego boost for the Magpies, but they must get down to business soon. The amount of money that has been splashed out on the squad will not matter too much if they come straight back up into the Premier League as their expenses will be offset by a return to England’s top-flight.
However, anything more than a season in the Championship will mean that Newcastle’s outlay will not match what they have achieved.
Therefore, it is paramount that they gain promotion this season.
Newcastle must find the back of the net consistently
Newcastle were very savvy this transfer window with their outlay of strikers in particular impressive. Papiss Cisse left for Shandong Luneng in China, while the Magpies hold of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez, their two most talented strikers. They then brought in Dwight Gayle from Premier League side Crystal Palace.
Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring the second goal for Newcastle
The signing of Gayle was particularly astute with the Englishman a promising talent. However, until Newcastle start scoring, the arrival of Gayle and keeping the two aforementioned strikers cannot be seen as a success.
The Magpies had eight shots in the game of which two were on target. That is not good enough considering they are a side that will fancy themselves to go up as champions this season.
Forget about Sissoko
Moussa Sissoko was in fine form during the Euros in France with the winger putting in a string of fine performances to help his nation to the final. Once the final whistle blew, rumours were flying around with the Frenchman linked to a number of clubs.
With many assuming Sissoko would be leaving in the transfer window, Newcastle fans resigned themselves to losing one of their star men, but picking up a hefty profit in return.
France's Moussa Sissoko during training.
However, Sissoko remains at the club with no concrete deals yet being tabled. This is disruptive for Newcastle though, with the winger remaining at the club casting a cloud over the team. It is very important then that Newcastle get some form of closure on the player’s plans. For as long as his future at the club remains in doubt, it will take focus away from their next game.