I haven’t written anything for a while, mainly because everything is going swimmingly, so the negativity has dried up and I have nothing to rail against (not that I’m complaining).
I suppose if I wanted to stir up some discussion, I could ask those people who swore they would never return to St James Park as long as Mike Ashley was in power, if they had been to a match recently…but I’m not going to. I’s a free world and people can do what they want.
So, I’m going to write something sickeningly positive and add it to the pile of plaudits that our incredible Iberian is proudly sitting upon.
WARNING: There is nothing new or ground-breaking here, this is no-frills fanaticism with only 7% insight, but will take as long to read as an average-length dump takes to drop, so may well serve your purpose depending on your situation.
The crux of my current confabulation is the massive improvement in professionalism on the pitch and off it (save for a knockout weekend in Scouseland).
Recently, we have been predominantly scoring 2 goals and/or winning by a margin of 2 goals, with only Preston, Cardiff and Rotherham the exceptions (2 of those being away matches). I don’t think this is any accident or coincidence.
In fact, it seems to me that we are intentionally dominating teams as soon as we can (fairly obviously!), scoring, continuing to attack, scoring another, and then sitting back and containing the oppo with the occasional counter attack when they get desperate later in the second half.
To some, it might seem as though we go off the boil in the second half; that what seems like a nailed on 6-0 ends up being a much-tighter-than-expected 2-0 or even 2-1, and it may even seem that we aren’t playing well.
It’s an easy conclusion to come to, and I do it myself sometimes..“why couldn’t we have pushed on for a third” I’ll be heard saying immediately post-match. However, when the dust settles it becomes apparent that at no point did I ever genuinely feel like we might lose the match.
The reason, it seems, is that we are playing ‘professionally’, the lads on the pitch are doing a job, efficiently dispatching the sacrificial lamb in front of them and then conserving energy for the next match. I don’t have the statistics to back this up, but I’ve noticed far fewer injuries cropping up on the pitch this season, and the training ground incidents tend to be the same old unfortunate souls.
Is this because Rafa Benitez has an organised team, who aren’t overplayed, who know when to bust a gut and when to sit back? I think so. It isn’t rocket science, but it is intelligent, pragmatic and ultimately, deeply professional.
Another area related to this that warms the cockles of my heart, is when I read interviews with people like Isaac Hayden, who has barely put a foot wrong when he has played, but is consistently left out in favour of Jack Colback. He (Hayden) is gushing with happiness, he is full of praise for the very manager who leaves him out because he knows it is for the benefit of the team, and for him. He is young, but he is being coached by one of the best guys in the business and he understands how lucky he is and how much it is improving his game.
The same goes for Mitro, for Atsu, for Ciaran Clark, there is a long list of players who could (or could have become) disgruntled, but who have not displayed even an iota of wanting to leave or chucking anything out their pram. Achraf Lazaar is another excellent example, he has barely kicked a ball this season, yet he was in the media the other week still talking about how happy he is.
Would that have happened under almost any manager we’ve had in recent memory? Even Sir Bobby had people knocking on his door and his abilities were absolutely without question.
The point is, Rafa’s professionalism extends from the top to the bottom of the club. From the very top, the fans, who have turned up in numbers, to the very bottom, Mike Ashley, who appears (for the umpteenth time, and hopefully permanently this time) to have either given up or learned his lesson (again).
As if the feel good factor wasn’t already felt strongly enough, there are rumours of a reunitation (I made that word up and I’m sticking to it) with Newcy broon, now that would be good, I might even buy a shirt.
So, to sum up the above in a snippet, Rafa Benitez is a bloody genius.