Anxiety strikes again.
Many people, including myself, thought that relegation doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing for the club.
Changed transfer policy and such a prominent manager in full control, offered hope that the club might actually grow, rebuild the team and come back stronger after one useful season in the Championship.
We were all excited but one game was enough to change a mood from Rafalution back to depressiveness.
Looking back to that dreadful season, our team had three obvious weaknesses:
1) non-existent left side
2) awful set-piece defending
3) alarming lack of creativity.
These problems had to be assessed and fixed, alongside improving team’s composure.
(*Some will argue that we didn’t have proper strikers, these should know that our finishing was average, well above relegation zone, we simply didn’t create enough goalscoring chances – ‘sitters’)
So, what did Rafa (not) do?
No left-back and no left winger were bought. Gamez is here, but his best position is RB and he was on the bench (at Fulham). After Thauvin’s return to France, our left side is only weaker.
With Shelvey on the bench, Thauvin in France, Townsend replaced by Ritchie and Diame being less creative than Wijnaldum, creativity remains appalling.
Did we buy what we needed? Is this team better? I don’t think so.
One more thing makes me wonder.
With Sissoko soon out, the best Newcastle players are Mbemba, Shelvey, Ritchie and Mitrović. Their CVs prove it. Are they used to their strengths?
Mbemba is our best defender, pacey but weak in the air. He’s not a proper CB, not in England. I strongly believe that he should play as a RB, which he did at times in Belgium. With him still at CB our air ability remains a weakness, his pace and talent stay unused.
Shelvey is our best passer and playmaker, he’s not playing.
Ritchie was used as a LM in first half vs. Fulham.
Mitrović has been mostly a benchwarmer since Rafa took charge.
Rafa simply isn’t building a team around the best players. He wants defensive contribution from his attacking players. Usually, bigger defensive contribution is expected from defensive midfielders and full-backs, which isn’t the case here.
Of course, it’s his right to do it that way. In my opinion, it would be fair to everyone involved to either use the best players, or to sell them and replace with more suitable. Three weeks for transfers and forty-five game weeks to improve the team are still there.
No panic, but I’m expecting more, a lot more.
Howay the lads!