It is now over a month into the new season and Rafa Benitez has kept his promise to rotate his team’s starting line-ups game to game.
Citing the league’s busier schedule as his motive, the Newcastle manager maintains that keeping legs fresh is the best way to win and gain promotion on the first go.
This approach is logical and thus far has worked like a charm. Following the recent transfer window, Newcastle possesses the deepest roster the organisation has seen in years. A rotation system such as this wouldn’t have been possible five months ago, when struggling to even field a quality starting eleven.
With so many players now at his disposal, I wonder if Benitez has a different motive behind the constant rotation of players.
If the manager had to name his absolute best starting eleven right this minute, I’m not sure he could do it, at least with a great deal of confidence. Constantly rotating the starting line-ups allows Benitez to observe different combinations of players in actual games, which provides him with a greater sense of the quality of players he can call upon.
Many of these players will be in contention for starting spots at the beginning of next season if Newcastle achieves promotion. Certain players, like Matt Ritchie, look like definite starters in their positions going forward, but other positions have multiple players vying for playing time.
And this team is comprised of many types of players at different stages in their careers. Benitez wanted to add experience, and he did with additions such as Daryl Murphy and Ciaran Clark, but there are also many young players at points in their careers that you would expect to see development.
For players such as Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic, a year in Championship is a great opportunity for them to accumulate playing time and enhance their abilities.
By implementing this rotation system, Benitez is balancing a ‘win now’ mentality while also looking ahead to next season. He’s brought in players that can get the job done immediately, yet he’s also making sure his younger players have playing time, enabling them to develop.
Ideally, this system will result in promotion, and a better-than-usual newly promoted squad. Benitez’s ability to coax the best out of promising youth such as Perez, Mitro, and even newly added players Christian Atsu and DeAndre Yedlin, could be essential to Newcastle’s future if promotion is gained.