Rafa Benitez says that his job has now been made more difficult because he isn’t in total control of what may, or may not happen.
The results last weekend have weakened his hand, with Norwich’s surprise win at the Hawthorns meaning the draw in the derby became a much weaker result.
If Newcastle had beaten Sunderland then United’s fate would have still been in their own hands but if Sunderland won every game (unlikely…) or more realistically just matches the Magpies’ results, then Rafa Benitez would be doomed.
The Norwich win has made them look by far the biggest threat to hopes of survival for Newcastle United and their next three games could be a real game-changer in the relegation run-in.
The Canaries face Newcastle and Sunderland in their next two home fixtures, with a game away at Crystal Palace in between. If Norwich pick up significant points in that trio of matches then they could easily make it all but impossible (realistically) for the north east two to catch them – the only potential silver lining then being that they could maybe drag Pardew’s Palace into the relegation battle.
Whilst Crystal Palace have no wins in their last 13 Premier League matches, Newcastle are still eight points behind them, so Alan Pardew’s failings will be all immaterial unless Rafa Benitez can get a lot more out of this failing United team.
Benitez says that the players just have to concentrate on every match and fight every time for three points, rather than losing focus by thinking about other things that they can’t control.
The past week saw Rafa move all the Under 21s out of the first team training base to the Academy, so that it is one less distraction and a less crowded environment.
We can be sure that Rafa Benitez will have the right focus but can he get it across to the players in the brief time he has available?
Mike Ashley allowed things to go on for far too long with Steve McClaren (should never have appointed him in the first place as he clearly didn’t have what it takes, apart from being a yes man) and with only 10 matches to play with it is a tough call.
Parallels with Liverpool’s great escape and triumph in Istanbul are increasingly being talked about but are Newcastle’s players capable of reacting to being ‘three goals down’.
“Maybe…because you cannot control other things, it’s more difficult.
“Everyone was expecting maybe Norwich not to get anything – but they won against West Brom.
“So we have just have to keep doing well, or better, because if not it will be very difficult.
“But I have confidence and my message is very clear and it was after the game.
“We still have eight games to play, we have to fight for each game, for three points, and don’t see the other things.
“If we do well (at Norwich) it will be easier – but if we can’t do well next week then we (still) have to carry on every day.”