Weblog: The football punter
Magpies can nick a point at London Stadium
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Back-to-back home wins have helped Newcastle soar away from imminent relegation danger and they can inch further clear of the bottom three by nicking a point at the London Stadium.
West Ham are finally becoming a tough team to beat on their own patch – they’ve lost only one of their last eight home matches.
But a couple of those have ended in draws and that might well be all they can glean from a well-organised and defensively-minded Toon.
Rafa Benitez is hoping that Newcastle can do to the Hammers what West Ham did to them when they bowled up on Tyneside in December.
Newcastle fell behind early and as they chased and chased to get back into the game gaps appeared and the slick Hammers’ attack made them pay on the counter running out 3-0 winners.
On this occasion it will be Newcastle sitting deep with a five-man defence and four in midfield, anticipating West Ham making the running, and it will be they who would hope to make hay on the break.
It sounds a reasonable approach though the evidence suggests it’s not a tactic which is proving hugely successful for the Magpies.
They’ve won only two of 13 away games and have scored only ten goals in those matches.
They have, though, drawn six times – the most by any side in the Premier League – and their five losses have come at sides in the top six. And only one of those reverses was by more than one goal, the 4-0 drubbing they took off Manchester City.
Newcastle don’t get turned over easily because they are so well drilled by the innately cautious Benitez. Their record of 34 goals shipped in 28 matches is by some distance the best in the Premier League’s bottom half, and better than that of both Arsenal and Manchester United.
So that’s what West Ham will endeavour to break down and they should recognise what Newcastle will try to do. After all, it’s exactly what Manuel Pellegrini tried at Manchester City on Wednesday night when City were allowed 76 percent of possession, bossed the shot count 18-2, the corner count 13-2, yet had just a questionable Sergio Aguero penalty to show for all that dominance.
West Ham’s 14 home matches this season have produced 41 goals, just shy of three goals per game. They’ve kept only two clean sheets. However, with Newcastle unlikely to come and play much, that might not be that relevant.
Benitez has won 11 matches against West Ham as a Premier League manager, more than he has against any other opponent. He may just have to settle for a draw this time though it’ll probably feel as good as a victory in their fight for survival.