Newcastle v Nottingham Forest: Four home defeats, but Mags chief won't change his approach
Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez says he won't change his approach at St James's Park in the wake of a fourth home defeat of the Championship season.
The second-top Magpies, who host Nottingham Forest tonight (7.45pm) have lost as many home games as Bristol City, Burton Albion and Barnsley, following the Boxing Day defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
Benitez is set to resist calls to start Aleksandar Mitrovic and play a more direct game while midfielder Jonjo Shelvey is on a five-game ban.
“If you play with Mitrovic or (Daryl) Murphy, for example, and play with one striker or two strikers, it’s not enough just to play them,” said Benitez.
“You have to give them good delivery. You need players to get to the byline and cross into the box. It’s not just enough to hit the ball up to them.
“We have to be a top side in this division. We have to play football – and we have to win.
“Winning games is better, but you have to play better.
“It’s not just the way to be more direct. It could be a solution in one game – in a difficult game – but our way has to be to control games.
“If you look at the numbers, we have scored more goals than anyone. We are the third-lowest team in terms of conceding goals.
“We are at the top of the table now with Brighton (who are two points better off ahead of their clash with Cardiff tonight). Everything has been right, so why do we have to change our style and everything just because we are missing one player?
“We have to be sure we improve at home, but not by depending on one player.
The team has to take responsibility, and we have to be stronger mentally, technically and tactically when we approach these games.
“If you think about the last game we didn’t change too much. We have two or three options in our approach with the players we have but a team that before the game that was top, why do you have to change everything?”
Benitez insists new leaders Brighton will be targeted by opponents after supplanting his team.
“It will be a boost for them but also more pressure. We have seen a lot of teams playing against us when we were at the top who give 100 per cent,” Benitez said.
“Now every team that will play against Brighton will see it as an opportunity to do something important and there will be more pressure on them.”
Meanwhile, Benitez is looking at the loan market ahead of the transfer window opening.
The Tynesiders are working through a list of potential midfield targets, including Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
“We are working on names, but we have a lot of names out there,” said Benitez.
“You can read a lot of names, but we have to keep doing things in the way we were doing before – just working behind the scenes and just seeing what happens.”
Asked if he would sign a player on loan, Benitez said: “Yes, I don’t have a problem if he’s a good player.”
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte could be prepared to loan out Loftus-Cheek for the second half of the season.
A number of clubs are interested in the 20-year-old midfielder, who is looking to play after recovering from a number of injuries.