On a day where other results went against the Magpies too, Newcastle United fell to a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. The result was of little surprise, in all honesty, given the gulf in class between the two respective lineups, but those in black and white did give a resilient and valiant performance.
A lack of depth and quality in the Newcastle team has led to some real problems, particularly in central midfield, in recent matches and the trip to Stamford Bridge drove that home perhaps clearer than any other.
Rafa Benitez is without the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-Yueng and Mohamed Diame, and as such was forced to field a midfield of Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff against one of the Premier League’s best and most creative, attacking sides.
Playing such an inexperienced midfield against a side like Chelsea is asking for problems, but such is the squad strength and depth issues on Tyneside that it was quite literally the best available selection for Benitez.
Unsurprisingly, Chelsea capitalised on the weakened midfield and unpicked it numerous times with their talented stars. Within eight minutes they were ahead courtesy of a long ball over the top for Pedro and the match looked destined to be a write-off.
The players should be applauded for their spirit and resilience though, and got just rewards when Ciaran Clark slammed home an equaliser from a corner just before half time. It was unexpected, given Chelsea’s superiority, but it gave those in black and white some sort of borderline hope.
It wasn’t meant to be, with Chelsea’s winner coming through a moment of brilliance from Willian – and therefore there is little that can be said against that goal. Sometimes, at the top levels, you do just concede to moments of individual magic like that. Sadly, Newcastle seem to be lacking any of them at this moment in time.
In terms of individual performances, I was impressed by Rondon once again, whose physicality and strength genuinely terrify me. He’s a perfect hold-up players and is showing he can do real damage to teams now he’s fit. Hopefully more goals will come from his game, but I’d certainly like to see Newcastle make his loan deal permanent at some stage.
Longstaff also deserves some real praise too for his game. He was pulled from pillar to post throughout the game by Chelsea’s players and by full time looked genuinely dead on his feet – a late tackle of Jorginho proving as much – but he gave 110% to the team cause certainly.
I still don’t believe he is of Premier League quality, but if we are going to be forced to have to throw him into the deep end like today, there’s little more we could ask from his performance than what he gave. He ran himself into the ground for the cause, and fans respect that sort of attitude.
At the end of today, it looks like a quite dire situation with results elsewhere seeing Newcastle slip into the relegation zone, but today’s match was kind of always a write-off, and so the defeat shouldn’t be the end of the world.
We definitely need to end our torrid run of form – six points from nine Premier League games is the sort of thing that sends you down – but matches against Chelsea with a less-than-full-strength side (which already isn’t the strongest) isn’t the moments you’re gonna put that sort of thing right.