By Danny Wright

Football Insider analyses three talking points from Newcastle’s 0-0 draw with Birmingham at St. Andrews on Saturday.

Rafa Benitez tactical blunder

Newcastle’s approach to the match lacked common sense. The Magpies looked as though they were set up to soak the Birmingham pressure then look to attack quickly on the counter attack. Despite being away from home, the ex-Liverpool boss should have expected Newcastle to enjoy most of the possession and for Blues to sit with a deep line. The long balls forward rarely worked as the home side’s rearguard rarely deviated from their positions. Newcastle have enough talent in their side to be able to get the ball on the deck and pass opposition to death. Gianfranco Zola got the better of Benitez on Saturday as he didn’t fall into his trap.

30-year-old should be axed

Yoan Gouffran had a poor afternoon and with Christian Atsu sat on the bench, Rafa Benitez has to make the call the axe the Frenchman from his starting line-up. In what has been an impressive season for the Magpies, attacking midfielder Gouffran should really be contributing a lot more to his side. With just one league goal since mid-October, it’s time for Atsu to get a get a run of games. The 25-year-old was one of the more impressive performers in the 3-1 loss to Fulham last weekend and should be in the starting 11 when the Toon welcomes struggling Wigan to St. James’ Park in their next outing. Atsu has only started 10 of his 24 league appearances and for a player of his skill and flair he should be starting a lot more.

Premier League won’t be easy

Newcastle didn’t perform to their capabilities against a team that have been struggling for form since Zola replaced Gary Rowett in charge. Benitez will have to make some serious improvements to his side if they are to cope with Premier League football next season. An instant return to the top-flight looks almost certain but an inability to dominate against teams like Birmingham highlights that they are already potential candidates for relegation next season. There are some good players in the side who can make the set up, such as Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey, but some of the club’s main players this season have already proved that they cannot reach the level needed in the top tier.

In other Newcastle news, fans have reacted to Huddersfield’s surprise defeat to Bristol City.

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