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Opinion

The hidden and untalked about big advantage Rafa Benitez has given Newcastle United

4 years ago
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It only just struck me what a hidden advantage Rafa Benitez has given Newcastle United this season in the Championship.

I haven’t really seen it mentioned anywhere else and it only came to me when watching the reserves play last night.

A decent performance actually, a rare run out at St James Park saw Newcastle’s second string defeat Middlesbrough 2-0, though disappointing to see just over five hundred there.

Anyway, I digress.

Looking at the reserve line-up last night, as usual it was all kids/younger players, rather than reserves. Not that unusual as that has become the norm, with only occasionally the odd one getting a game – such as Haidara when coming back from injury.

The thing is though, with such a big squad as Rafa Benitez has assembled, wouldn’t it make sense to play the maximum number of over 23 year old players you are allowed in these reserve matches to give some fringe players time on the pitch.

Then it came to me…

Why would Rafa Benitez need to do that?

Here are two teams that Rafa could put out tomorrow, depending on the likes of Gayle and Murphy etc shaking off knocks:

Darlow, Yedlin, Lacelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden, Gouffran, Diame, Gayle

Sels, Anita, Mbemba, Hanley, Gamez (or Lazaar), Atsu, Colback, Tiote, Perez, Murphy, Mitrovic

The top team is pretty much what has been the first team in the Championship recently but could you say for sure that it would beat the eleven players below?

That is the rub of it, on the training ground Rafa Benitez can have his first team playing against arguably the second best side in the division, any day he wants.

Why then would he want to send out the likes of Mbemba, Murphy, Atsu or whoever, in a game against 20 year olds in a reserve match, when they can play in a proper quality full scale 11 v 11 in training?

When you are competing day in day out in training with similar quality players, it is surely giving you massive benefits when it comes to the real thing on a Saturday (or Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday).

Which of course makes you think just what a disadvantage it was in recent Premier League seasons when Mike Ashley refused to allow Newcastle to have a proper squad.

Never mind real fringe players Pardew/Carver/McClaren would have had to draft in to make up the numbers for a full 11 v 11 in training, you simply have to look and wonder what Newcastle’s better players got out of facing the likes of Obertan, Riviere, Marveaux, Sammy & Shola Ameobi, Ferguson, Vuckic and half-hearted efforts from the likes of Cisse, Doumbia and Thauvin amongst others?

It can only be a negative to one minute be marking Riviere in training and then the next you are supposed to stop Aguero scoring – or alternatively playing against Obertan in practice and then Mahrez in reality.

It isn’t just competition on a matchday that Rafa Benitez has brought to Newcastle United, he has also delivered competition in training every day they are on the job.

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