Rafa Benitez identifies new way forward for Newcastle United
The transfer circus is still to be properly kickstarted for Newcastle United but already we have clear signs of the direction that Rafa Benitez wants to take the squad.
Back in the 2011/12 season when United finished in fifth place, the squad was filled with any number of players at their peak age, players around the 25, 26, 27 years of age mark. The likes of Cabaye, Tiote, Cisse, Ba and Ben Arfa all playing at their optimum level.
However, a failed transfer strategy has seen the Newcastle squad take on a lopsided look when it comes to the players relied upon.
If signings had worked out, we would now be looking at players such as Santon, Riviere, de Jong, Cabella and Yanga-Mbiwa as the backbone of the team, all within that prime age bracket.
Instead, Newcastle ended up last season looking to rely on a combination of the inexperienced (Mitrovic, Mbemba, Thauvin, Perez, Lascelles) and those at the other end of the scale (Coloccini, Tiote, Taylor, Cisse, Elliot).
Getting out of the Championship is usually a case of relying significantly on more experienced players but Rafa Benitez may well be going for a very different model.
Taylor is already discarded, whilst Fabricio Coloccini revealed that Benitez wants to base his defence on players under the age of 25 – the question is, is he planning on a similar strategy in midfield and up front?
Coloccini must be a knocking bet to leave, whilst Cisse and Tiote are likely to be discarded rather than their current year remaining contracts being extended, the same with Gouffran if they can find anybody to take him.
That is the older generation taken care of but what about those in the prime age range? Well most fans seem to accept/expect Janmaat, Wijnaldum and Sissoko to all leave, others such as Saivet and Riviere will surely struggle to get near the team, whilst Krul could be another possible departure with only a year left on his contract.
So betting without knowing the identity of any signings yet, Newcastle could be relying on the following as the heart of their team/squad (ages in brackets):
Goalkeeper: Darlow (25), Woodman (19), Elliot (30)
Defence: Dummett (24), Lascelles (22), Mbemba (21), Haidara (23), Mbabu (21), Sterry (20)
Midfield: Townsend (24), Shelvey (24), Colback (26), Aarons (20)
Attack: Mitrovic (21), Armstrong (19), Perez (22)
On the surface it may seem like a bit of a risk to go with such a young base of the squad but just maybe this is the way for Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United to go, a young squad that can grow together, hopefully topped off with some quality additions.
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