MARTIN DUBRAVKA is calling for ‘clear-the-air’ talks with his Newcastle United team-mates after Saturday’s home defeat to Leicester City heightened the sense of crisis that is building at St James’ Park.
The Magpies are firmly rooted in the Premier League’s bottom three after goals from Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire extended their winless start to the season to seven league matches.
Off the pitch, tensions are threatening to boil over, with supporters’ protests at Mike Ashley’s ownership continuing to gain traction despite speculation linking former Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon with a possible bid for the club.
Things are no better on the field, and while Rafael Benitez might point to a lack of summer investment as an explanation for Newcastle’s struggles in the opening two months of the season, Dubravka insists that he and his team-mates cannot hide behind transfer issues as an excuse for their poor form.
The vast majority of the current squad finished in the top half of the table last term, and Dubravka is hoping a frank exchange of views might spark a much-needed revival when the Magpies travel to Manchester United this weekend.
“We need to be honest with each other and react differently because we have an attitude and we have a mentality but we need to bring it onto the pitch,” said the Slovakian goalkeeper. “We had spoken a lot about how we react when we concede a goal, but it was almost the same again.
“We started the second half well, then conceded a goal and after that, did not create anything. So we need to be honest with each other.
“I spoke to Jamaal (Lascelles) after the game, and said we need to arrange a meeting with all the players. We need to talk honestly and we need to change something. Sometimes, you have to do that. Sometimes, that can help the players. We have to react differently.”
Despite last month’s flare-up between Lascelles and Matt Ritchie, Dubravka insists there is no suggestion of the dressing room being divided. There is disappointment at results and performances, and voices have been raised as a result, but there is a shared determination to turn things around rather than look for scapegoats.
Nevertheless, with an international break following Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford, there is an acknowledgment things will have to change quickly if the season is not to become a protracted battle to try to avoid the drop.
“We are together,” said Dubravka. “We win together and we lose together. But as I said, we need to be honest with each other and if we want to be successful, we need to change something.
“What needs to change? I don’t know. If I did know, I would be honest and tell all of the guys. We need to find it ourselves. We need to analyse everything, but we have to be honest with each other. We didn’t do that until now I think.”
There is also a need to rebuild confidence, which is understandably low after a return of just two points from seven league games, not to mention an embarrassing Carabao Cup exit at Nottingham Forest.
Benitez insists it is too early to panic, highlighting Newcastle’s difficult start as another mitigating factor for their results so far.
However, while the fixture list becomes easier on paper after the next international break, the Magpies’ forthcoming games could look considerably more difficult if there is a five or six-point gap to the safety zone.
A trip to Old Trafford is hardly the easiest way to try to turn things around, although Manchester United will head into Saturday’s game with problems of their own after Saturday’s defeat to West Ham followed a League Cup defeat to Derby.
Last season, Dubravka made his Newcastle debut in a 1-0 win over Manchester United, and the Slovakian is hoping for a repeat performance in four days’ time.
“Hopefully, we could achieve the same result as last time,” he said. “We have to bring the same attitude as then and do the same things.
“It is no good talking about the same things again and again though, if we want to change things, we have to start it off by doing it ourselves. It is down to us.”