​Newcastle United are finally having the Championship campaign that most people expected of them before a ball was kicked in earnest.


The two opening defeats to Fulham and Huddersfield Town are now a thing of the past as Spanish manager Rafa Benitez has managed to galvanise his squad into a formidable outfit to play against.


One of the Magpies' long-standing weak points has been in defence, and any Toon fan from the last few decades will be left clutching at straws when asked to name the last time United had a consistently strong back line.

Newacaslte United v Brighton & Hove Albion: Sky Bet Championship

But Benitez looks to have solved that problem, at least for now. They haven't conceded a goal now for four matches - which has given the team the stability it needs to win by small margins.


One of the surprise packages from this campaign has been the rise of Vurnon Anita. The former Ajax man is dearly loved by his manager, who has featured him as a winger and a full-back this season.


Anita used to play on the left hand side of defence for the Dutch giants, and so perhaps it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to see him playing well in a similar role - although Geordies had got used to watching the man operating from midfield. 


But despite these successes, there are very few easy games at this level. After all, Newcastle's first two games were probably the easiest to win on paper - while Reading, Brighton and Derby would have hoped to take points off United.

Benitez still has some thinking to do, particularly with his forward options. It is now up to him to keep four senior players happy, among them the talented and much loved pair of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez.


The Serbian can only play up front and so is limited by the fact that he isn't a versatile footballer, while Perez is suited to supporting a main striker or also featuring out wide and so should have more chances to feature and impress.


But for now, how can the Tinkerman change around a system that has yielded four wins and four clean sheets in a row? The signs for the new season are encouraging, but the hard work is far from over.