Feature article written by Mizgan, (twitter – @mizgans)
Newcastle United are in dire straits at the moment, and if they are hoping against any hope to stay in the Premier League, it is just because they have a manager named Rafa Benitez at the helm.
Anti-Modern-Day Operation of the club
Nowadays, we tend to discuss teams spending money and building success for a longer term. Take Manchester City as an example; they were a mediocre team at best in the league before the “oil money” arrived. If we study their progress in the past six to seven years, it has been nothing short of a miracle as to how they have turned their fortunes around.
Nothing like that has happened at Newcastle, where ever since the arrival of new owner Mike Ashley, financial spending have been close to nil. For that reason, the quality of players arriving at the club is way short of the level Benitez requires to propel this club to where it belongs.
The Spaniard performed a mere miracle by pushing a squad of under-performing players (with all due respect) to a top-ten finish in the Premier League last season. Despite the results and final finish, it was clear that this team needs surgery, or it may fall sooner rather than later.
Speaking ahead of the start of this campaign, Benitez was quite worried and unsure about the new signings, which is just weird to think. To believe that a manager doesn’t have a clue of what he will be served up in the transfer market and who all will join him in the training sessions and perform for him on the pitch is strange.
The former Liverpool manager quoted as saying (Independent):
“Things are not going well off the pitch, and you can see a reflection of that on the pitch. ”
Replying when asked about what kind of response he is getting from the owner, Benitez said:
“I have no idea.” He gave the same response when asked if there was money to spend.”
He also warned the fans to be concerned about the situation, which is alarming just a week before a start of a brand new season.
Terrible start to the season
That was then; however, the current sitch isn’t that great as well. Newcastle have lost six of the eight league games played, drawing the other two goalless. They have managed to score only six goals and concede 13.
If there is any consolation, they have played five of the league’s “top six” in the process, three of them at home and two away.
But the way they struggled to carve out an opening against Cardiff City and surrendered meekly against Leicester City, it showed the lack of confidence and quality throughout the squad.
The Magpies were two goals up at Old Trafford last week, yet they didn’t possess the assurance to hold that lead versus a crisis-ridden Manchester United.
Yes the fixture list will be a bit kind to Benitez and his men post International break, however, the fact that the manager isn’t exuberant about the situation relating to the board and the owner, nonchalance won’t be flowing out on the pitch, even against level-headed oppositions.
Last season, the Spaniard was a tiny bit more buoyant even without any higher hierarchical support. He helped the team to overachieve. But overachieving comes to a halt, especially in a competition which is as fierce as the Premier League.
The top-ten finish of last year was a mere over-procurement by the whole squad with a helping hand from the manager.
If Newcastle fans are expecting anything close to that, considering de facto without any up-gradation of the squad over the summer, they should pray Benitez is up for the challenge and is ready to pull another rabbit out of the hat.
Benitez deserves better than this
Perusing at the accolades Rafa Benitez has won in his career, predominantly with Liverpool and the famous 2005 Champions League scalp, you would wonder he deserves better at Newcastle. The Spaniard was even excited about this season, as he revealed to build a “great team” in the north-east of England, to possibly challenge for a top-eight finish.
If the previous campaign was any evidence, he has proved that he can take a sub-par team to a good result in the end. Hence, it is obvious to think of getting better so that he can further improve the performance and aim higher.
Benitez’s structured football guarantees discipline and the hope for results when his team is playing is against superior sides. Hence, in a way, he is just showing signs that he can do better if good quality players are given to him, which isn’t the case at Newcastle.
Therefore, to think that the Spaniard is under-used is about right. It is because he has the propensity to take teams to challenge for high positions with some support from the owners. But at St. James’ Park, the opposite is happening.
So in that sense, he has had to dig his team out of the relegation zone, rather than aiming to fight for Europa League places, which doesn’t make the billing Benitez can fill by his managerial tactics.