Benitez’s tinkering has allowed the Magpies to stay afloat in the top flight this season, and Merson feels it will be enough to earn his team a 1-1 draw atWolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.
“Rafa Benitez is tactically very good, he goes under the radar, but tactically he is probably the best in the Premier League,” he wrote on the Sky Sports website. “He gets results against Man City, so they will be hard to beat.
“Wolves, though, struggle against teams that do not come out against them and they get frustrated – they lost at home at a canter to the bottom club, Huddersfield, so this could a difficult game for them. Benitez will have seen that and will not open up against them – if this turned into a ‘you have a shot, we have a shot’ match, I would dread to think what the score would be.
“They will be five at the back, will not move and they will wait for a set play from Matt Ritchie, who is good at them, a little bit of guile, and I could see them getting something from this game.”
Wolves will undoubtedly be the favourites for this game, but there is no reason why Newcastle should not be able to sneak something from it. As Merson says, they will not be playing expansive football at Molineux. They will be disciplined, stick to their shape and will look to take advantage of the few opportunities they do get. It tells you how good Nuno Espirito Santo’s team are that Benitez will likely approach this game in the same way that he would a clash with Manchester City, for example. And his tactics worked then, so why not go for it again? Merson is right, Wolves can get frustrated at times. They create a lot of chances but don’t always take them, and that could be a recipe for disaster against a team like Newcastle. Away at Wolves is pretty much a free hit for the Magpies, so let’s see if they can upset the apple cart and get something on Monday.