By 90Min
September 10, 2018

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez has received a lot of negativity and criticism by pundits for his ultra-defensive style against Chelsea and Manchester City but clearly some in football must think there's method to the madness.

Tyneside local Paul Dummett, who captained his boyhood club in the 2-1 loss to Manchester City, made his long-awaited return to international duty during this international break.

New Wales boss Ryan Giggs sought to bring Dummett in from the cold for his competitive debut against the Republic of Ireland, after previous boss Chris Coleman had all but rubber-stamped the end to the defender's international career back in May 2017.

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While it may not seem like much on the surface, the 26-year-old's call-up might have far more implications that it might at first seem.

Clearly, at least in the eyes of Ryan Giggs, there is nothing wrong with Newcastle's approach. Instead, he evidently believes that the Magpies' defenders are performing at a top level - even despite having failed to win any of their opening four matches.

At a time when pundits are repeatedly taking shots at Benitez and those in black and white for setting up to defend and defend alone, there is at least one legend of the footballing game who is not in with the consensus.

Clive Mason/GettyImages

As a national team manager, you call up the best players you possibly can and you call up the players who are performing at club level.

This is especially true if you're bringing a player in from the cold who hasn't been part of the squads for a number of international breaks.

In Giggs' opinion, its clear therefore, Dummett is performing.

While Newcastle have certainly languished at the bottom of the possession stats table following their Premier League performances against Chelsea and City, they've also only conceded four goals.

That doesn't sound too impressive until you realise just how much goal difference might matter come the end of the season, and its guaranteed losses against these top sides - whose quality of players is so much greater than anything Newcastle can muster - that can sometimes be as important as victories.

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Newcastle conceded just four goals against the two sides - including the champions of the Premier League last season - and even more impressively, against City especially, it took real moments of brilliance even to earn them.

Having also scored twice in those games, it means Newcastle just shipped two goals off their goal difference. Huddersfield lost five to City alone, losing 6-1.

It could make the difference come the end of the season, and it comes down almost entirely to the relentless and diligent work of those Newcastle defenders. In particular, often the unsung heroes like Dummett.

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Against City, it took a great strike from Raheem Sterling and a Kyle Walker screamer to earn the hosts the points because City - despite all their attacking talent - simply couldn't find a way through a structured, well-drilled Newcastle defensive unit.

Dummett led that unit, as captain, and they fought tooth and nail to deny the free-flowing City any time and space on the ball.

Giggs clearly saw that performance, and unlike so many of the pundits, saw the positives from the negative, defensive tactics of Benitez rather than complaining it was boring to watch.

He saw Dummett come into his own, as so many defenders under Benitez do, and earn himself a spot in that Wales side. All this from a player that, during Alan Pardew's reign, was told he didn't have a future at the club.

While Giggs' personal motives for calling up Dummett will have been to get together the strongest Wales side he could, he has inadvertently given clear vindication to the Benitez style of play.

It might not be pretty to watch for neutrals, but if it keeps them up at the end of the season the Newcastle faithful will not care.

Cardiff City FC/GettyImages

And it should be appreciated for what it is actually, which is very good football.

It's extremely well-drilled and organised defensive football, but that is a style of football all the same and the manner and professionalism with which those Newcastle players, Dummett especially, carried out that task in the last few games is worthy of recognition, not criticism.

Giggs clearly understands that, and with his willingness to recognise the performances of Dummett for his top defensive work perhaps other managers will soon do so too.

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