Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez says that he sees analysis using computer software as invaluable in trying to improve the team, as well as in his team selection at times.
When Sam Allardyce rocked up to St James Park in 2007 with his much heralded backroom staff of analysts, he was increasingly ridiculed as the season unfolded and both performances and results got ever worse.
The bottom line of course is that technology can only go so far and the judgement of the manager then takes over.
Rafa Benitez indicates that it was analysis of Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu that led to him resting the Scottish international winger and playing his Ghanaian one against Rotherham.
The Newcastle boss saying that when it works likes that, Atsu being man of the match and scoring the only goal, it can make you look a genius.
However, he says that win, lose, or draw, the Newcastle fans can be ‘reassured’ that decisions aren’t just taken on a whim, rather it being based on all the information from matches and training.
With such a large squad, you are always going to get far more debate on who is or isn’t in the squad, rather than as in the past when under Pardew, Carver and McClaren the first eleven often pretty much picked itself, as Mike Ashley had allowed the squad to be so weak – particularly with so many bad buys adding to the problem by hanging around, as it proved impossible to get rid of them.
The players under most debate in these first two months of the season, have been questions as to why Mitrovic has started only one Championship game, as well as Murphy and Lazaar not being involved at all in the league matches.
The other side of the coin seeing supporters question how the likes of Diame and Dummett play week in week out.
It wouldn’t make sense for Rafa Benitez to deliberately handicap his team’s efforts by leaving better players out of the team, so the only conclusion can be that the likes of Mitrovic, Murphy and Lazaar just haven’t shown enough in training, particularly as the United boss has shown that he is willing to leave anybody and everybody out -either on rotation’ or because they aren’t performing.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles was quickly dropped, whilst first choice keeper Matz Sels also found himself out of the team in recent games.
Rafa Benitez taking to the Shields Gazette:
“We have a lot of information and we try to manage this information to put the strongest team on the pitch. We’re not (just) improvising.
“We also have our software and after every game you will see me taking notes, well it goes into the software.
“It’s about the strengths and weaknesses of the team in those games and we can return to it after 10 games and revisit it, start working on that.
“After maybe ten games he (one of Rafa’s backroom team) will say ‘We need to improve the counter-attack’, so we put on more sessions on that – but we don’t change after every game, we work in the longer term.
“The idea is that little-by-little we are improving things as we go along.
“Maybe I’ll make a mistake but we will only know after the game.
“People will see Ritchie isn’t playing but I know Atsu was playing well, then he does well (man of the match v Rotherham) and I look like a genius!
“If he doesn’t, it’s ‘Oh no’ but people need to be reassured that we have a lot of information, we see them in training.
“For example, Yedlin had problems in his ankles after tackles in his last two games, so we have Anita who is playing and training well, so why not play him and give Yedlin a rest?
“I am quite happy, although still not 100% satisfied because we are not at the top of the table.
“I think we are going in the right direction but I probably sound like a broken record because I am saying this all the time, I can still see room for improvement.
“For me though, that is quite a positive, asI can see that the team has to improve. A lot of things are going well but also a lot of things that can still be a lot better.”