The positive feeling surrounding the management of Rafa Benitez management has grown again in the past week, after United made a superb start in the transfer market.
With the club undergoing a rebuilding project in English football’s second tier, Benitez has identified key areas of the pitch that needed improvement and acted hastily to bolster his options.
It’s a refreshing change to our last transfer window, where the need for defensive options and a goal scorer were there for all to see, and incredibly weren’t acted upon. Benitez’s early transfers suggest a change from desirable transfer options to necessary options.
With Benitez in complete control, these four essential signings in the space of a week make the Magpies look an even stronger bet to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Moreover, in terms of outgoings, Benitez has once again insisted he withholds the final decision of who stays and who goes, and also told want-away midfielders Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum that they must take responsibility for the club’s relegation.
The early signs suggest a successful season lies ahead. In Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie we have two proven, British players who are more than adequate at Premier League level, and know the magnitude of the club, as well as the importance of bouncing back at the first opportunity.
Last year, alongside two other colleagues I produced a statistical based piece on why a British heartbeat is more likely to produce a successful team.
Yet after a summer window where the club once more recruited from abroad, Newcastle were relegated.
While I’m not naïve enough to suggest if we had solely bought British players we would have survived; clubs like Southampton, Stoke and Swansea have adopted this policy and once more comfortably upheld their Premier League status with Southampton qualifying for the Europa League. Andros Townsend was easily Newcastle’s best signing last season, and it is interesting that Benitez has followed this principle with his first two big money signings.
In Gayle they have a striker who has an incredible goals per minutes played ratio.
In Ritchie Newcastle have a Scotland international, who was one of Bournemouth’s better performers in the Premier League and the club made it clear they didn’t want him to leave. It may have been a Championship record fee, but when you consider he’s a direct replacement for the mercurial Townsend, he was subject of a bid from Europa League qualifiers West Ham United, and his statistics during Bournemouth’s Championship winning season, it is money well spent. Ritchie banged in 15 goals and made 17 assists as the Cherries stormed to the 2014/15 League title, and if he can replicate that form this season there’s no reason why he can’t fire Newcastle to the title as well.
Goalkeeper Matz Sels comes in at a time where Tim Krul’s future is uncertain, Rob Elliot is ruled out with injury, Freddie Woodman looks set to continue his development out on loan, while the jury is still out on Karl Darlow to be Newcastle’s number one custodian in the meantime.
Spanish right-back, Jesus Gamez comes in from Atletico Madrid, in a position where Newcastle were woefully short last season. Whenever Daryl Janmaat was unavailable, centre midfielder, Vurnon Anita had to sit in.
Now with Gamez coming in, we have an able replacement for Janmaat should, as is widely expected, he leave the club this summer, while also providing adequate cover should he stay. At 31, he has played at the highest level, gaining Champions League experience while captaining Malaga as well as recently with Atletico, and will bring a wealth of quality and experience to the side.
With a centre-half next on the priority list, Benitez is getting his work done early, and refreshingly Newcastle look pretty comfortable in every position as we begin our tilt at returning to the Premier League.