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It’s not a crisis but it is a tough call for Rafa Benitez to make

5 years ago

As Clive Dunn would say in every single classic episode of Dad’s Army – “Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring. Don’t panic!”

Cue the canned laughter – though I wasn’t laughing when Wolves made it two nil.

Now there’s a motto for all Newcastle fans at the moment: ‘Don’t panic’. After all it’s only September. There’s a long way to go before the pressure starts to build. Time enough to launch a sustained assault on the summit.

As the leaves come off the trees, the teams with weaker squads will fall away, right? We’ll be well placed to put fresher, more quality hunks of beef on the park as we get stuck into the rump of a season which feels endlessly long.

I’ll be totally honest at this point, despite all of that logic, I’m finding it hard not to panic, given our outlay on players.

What Rafa and his charges mustn’t do is let anyone run away with it completely and leave us in a bun fight for the second automatic promotion spot.

Norwich are the big threat as things stand. Wolves look like they may come good. Huddersfield should fall away, I’d suspect, to leave space for more back markers to come through on the run to Christmas.

It’s tight at the top and logic states that we should be able to make more ground once this alleged harder run of games is over.

A non-NUFC fan suggested to me the other day that we’d be three points clear at the turn of the year. I’d take that all day long but it won’t be easy. The players have done well so far, but as Rafa often says, there have been mistakes and we know we can be so much better. We need to be a bit mentally tougher, for sure, and not let Tiote within a country mile of the pitch.

The trick is not to panic! Not just yet anyway. Oh, and as I’m invoking the Dad’s Army metaphor here, please don’t call me a stupid boy if things do start to go ridiculously well in the next few weeks.

Who do you think you’re kidding, Didier Domi?

Our former French full back is now a TV pundit on BeIN Sports and he has had a lot to say on Newcastle’s failed French revolution. He makes some good points on the subject to be fair to him.

On his day Domi was a class full back. He was able to get forward and support attacks with consummate ease. At the time he was spoken of by some as the best full-back we’d ever had.

He has stated that we had too many French players and Rafa has been right to redress the balance.

What sticks in my throat is this all comes from a player who left Newcastle in a blizzard of unprofessional conduct.

Domi, if you recall, went AWOL. He criticised Bobby Robson’s training methods and went off to Paris in a huff, refusing all requests to come back to Tyneside and sort the situation out correctly.

He’s probably been right in what he’s been saying, but seems to have airbrushed how he himself was once our very own Gallic pain in the derriere.

Rafa’s search for solutions

As the manager of Newcastle United, Rafa Benitez has to find solutions to problems right across the pitch. One area under the spotlight is goal scoring and who he should play up front.

I’m not sure the ‘Mo Diame just off Dwight Gayle’ ploy has really worked all that well. Gayle up there on his own seems a bit lightweight, while Diame isn’t far enough forward to do the donkey work or really create anything.

Then we have Mitrovic. We’re still waiting and hoping that this kid can tear up the division but I’ve seen little evidence to suggest that this is going to happen just yet.

Perez is a Roll Royce on his day but consistency is still an issue.

The time seems right to throw Darryl Murphy in. His goals record in the division is not to be sniffed at. He’s not the future of NUFC, that’s a racing cert, but he is definitely one for the now.

And what of playing two out and out strikers in a game? It might be worth a go.

A keeper crisis?

The Matz Sels situation is a tricky one. While the online abuse he got was bang out of order let’s not lose sight of the fact he’s struggled a bit. He’s had more than a few dodgy moments, not least at Villa Park. It’s his first taste of English football, so he deserves a chance to turn it around and I’m sure that he can.

However, in the immediate short-term would it not be better just to take him out of the firing line for a few weeks and give Karl Darlow his chance? It’s not a crisis but it is a tough call for Benitez to make. Darlow seems the right option.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton



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