After making it three wins and a draw plus 14 goals scored and only two conceded, the Rafa Benitez reaction was simply to say that the team are improving BUT ‘still far away from what we have to be’.

The Newcastle boss tempers that by saying that it is a difficult balancing act, as you want the players peaking at the right time and not to burn themselves out too early in pre-season.

After winning the latest friendly with rare goals from Vurnon Anita and Yoan Gouffran against Southend, Rafa Benitez was full of praise.

With the Frenchman he paid tribute to his attitude, saying that despite knowing he was unlikely to feature too much, Gouffran was approaching it all in a professional way giving everything in training and in the friendlies.

As for Vurnon Anita, Rafa says that he is ‘tactically intelligent’, which allows the Dutchman to play in a number of positions.

The Newcastle boss even joking/musing that he might try out Vurnon as a target man…

Rafa Benitez talking to NUFC TV after beating Southend 2-0:

“It was different (to Lokeren), when you play in England the style of football is different and closer to what we expect in the Championship.

“A solid performance for the team, we were moving the ball –  sometimes not as quick as I was expecting, but they (Southend) were organised and working hard.

“As soon as we scored the first goal they were more open and we could move the ball easier and had a little bit more control of the game.

“Obviously (Championship sides) will be a little stronger but similar style and important for us to be working hard and be organised – but to play our style of football too. Keep winning, another clean sheet.”

‘Are you encouraging shots from outside the box?’

“When a team is well organised it is not easy to find the space. The first (Anita v Southend) was something we are trying to do in training, regaining the ball after giving it away – and it was a great goal.

“Then Gouffran scored another really good goal. Goals and clean sheet – but as I said the other day, still room for improvements.”

‘Vurnon Anita, doesn’t score many goals but played further forward (v Southend)?’

“He is a player who can play in almost every position, I don’t know if he can play as a striker, maybe as a target man…but we will try maybe one day. He is very clever tactically – can play on the right, can play as a right-back, as a winger and a left full-back, as a midfielder – so he is quite intelligent tactically.”

‘Gouffran an example of a player on the fringes who has to take his chance?’

“Yes, it is important to have players competing. He is a good professional, working hard, even when not playing. Really pleased for him because when you have a player who knows maybe he won’t have too much time on the pitch and he keeps working, he deserves to score.”

‘Is team where you want it to be?’

“I think we are improving every game but still far away from what we have to be. It has to be like this because if you are too good now then you might not have energy for the rest of the season. 

Important though to keep on improving and doing the things we want to see this season.”