Rafa Benitez says his team is united in more than just name.
Newcastle United dropped into the relegation zone on Saturday.
Benitez’s side were beaten 2-1 by Premier League champions Manchester City.
Newcastle conceded an early goal at the Etihad Stadium, but they equalised before the break and were only beaten by a 30-yard strike from Kyle Walker.
Benitez’s tactics had come under scrutiny following the defeats to Nottingham Forest and Chelsea last month. It had also emerged that captain Jamaal Lascelles had had a disagreement with his manager and a heated exchange with team-mate Matt Ritchie at the club’s training ground.
However, Benitez – who had to sell to buy in the summer – is happy with the attitude and application of his players.
“I think we have more or less seen what we have – it’s a team that’s united, a team that’s working hard in defence, and that will also try to go and attack,” said Benitez.
“Obviously, Arsenal (on September 15) will still be tough, because they’re another top side, but maybe we will have a few more chances.
“That can be good, although sometimes it can also be bad, because you have to take more risks, but we have to do it.
“After, we will see against the other teams. I cannot say we’re better than anyone, but if we work like we did, we cannot be worse than anyone either. We can beat and compete against anyone.”
Loan signing Salomon Rondon set up DeAndre Yedlin’s equaliser against City, and Benitez believes his squad, if not his starting XI, is stronger than it was last season.
“In terms of the squad, when you look at the players we have now, we have some options in different positions that maybe we didn’t have last season,” said Benitez.
“In terms of the team, it depends on the new players and whether they can give us something different, because it is more or less the same team.
“The problem that we have is the other teams have been spending money and bringing in players.
“If we can keep the organisation of the team, keep the same team spirit and improve a little bit in the transition and the attack, then I think we will have chances to win more games.
“As soon as you win a couple of games, the confidence goes higher, and then you have more chances to continue winning.”
Benitez was heartened by the opportunities his team created against City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
“The positive is the way we were going at the end of these games with chances,” said United’s manager.
“That’s something good in terms of the confidence of the team.
“When you talk with them, they know we were close. That’s the positive, and that’s also the message for the future.
“We will have some players on the international break now, but some players will stay there and we will analyse things.
“We will talk about what we did well and what we can improve.
“We do that all the time, and you can see the team is getting better.
“The performance in defence against Chelsea was really good, and today against a fantastic team that won the league, we were still there.
“We’re still improving things, and we will improve more because these players work really hard and listen to you.
“They try to do their best in every training session and every game.”