A Newcastle United supporter’s life is never boring, never predictable…with so many twists and turns that would throw a shade on the most melodramatic Mexican soap opera.
After winning the Championship on an entertaining final day, to the HMRC raids, followed by the Chinese takeover talks. Then if that was not enough, there then came the rumours of Rafa Benitez wanting to walk away even before pre-season started.
This club is crazy but addictive. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad for friends who support the likes of Brighton and Bournemouth, who don’t have to deal with our level of drama…
On a more serious note, Rafa’s reported discontent with the lack of transfer progress seems a little alarming given reported deals have either dragged or fallen through with players that were seemingly locked in, instead opting for other clubs. Bringing into question whether Charnley has been stalling over valuation, payment of fees, or sell on clauses. Charnley for me is still learning his trade.
He could help himself by taking a page out of the NBA contract negotiating handbook. For example, clubs protect themselves in the event of signing a player with an injury record, or may not be able to adjust/prove himself in a league outside his home country.
One way of negotiating the Riviere contract would have been to structure his six year contract under which the first two years would have been guaranteed but the third to sixth year would have seen the club have the power to terminate the player contract if he turned out to be a failure – but the club would still sweeten the deal by paying some severance, probably amounting to 6 months wages and 10% of that as commission to his agent, as to make it a good sell given the highly influential roles agents play nowadays.
Anyways, I hope Lee Charnley wises up, learns to trust his Manager’s judgement when he is stuck at the crossroads negotiating with a club over a player that Rafa badly wants, not to stubbornly stick to his original valuations. To go out and get that player, like Newcastle did with Matt Ritchie 12 months ago.
It appears likely this season is not going to be a big splurge; Rafa will have to revise his strategy due to a combination of a very inflated market, coming off the back of a season spent in the Championship.
So that brings me to the speculation of how many and which players would Rafa would be targeting in this summer.
Ideally on the back of the meeting with Ashley, It was safe to assume that he would have hoped for 7-8 new players but financials have played a big part. My guess is that he will look to cover high priority requirements like centre-back, deep lying playmaker and forward with quality buys. Which means then acquiring a new left-back and winger will depend on whether he is successful at moving some deadwood and generating extra cash.
Centre-back – At the time of writing Florian Lejune has just been unveiled as a Newcastle player and got straight into training. Rafa making this an important buy after last season, when it became apparent that after Clark, there wasn’t anyone that would be able to step up to the demands of PL football.
You look at clips of Lejune and even Mangala, one trait was obvious and that is they look to close down on approaching forwards and tackle straight on rather than turn sideways and backtrack like Lascelles and Hanley. As you see Lejune’s games, while defending crosses from wings, he is quick to gauge his positioning and reach for his marker, a situation where we often saw Lascelles being stranded in no-man’s land. Lascelles will grow and get better, the tools are there, he needs to be more assertive and put in work on the training ground but in the Premier League, you just need someone who has a more ready game to be first choice pairing with Clark.
Deep lying playmaker – I would like to see a playmaker who can operate from deep, linking directly with his defence, offering them an easy outlet pass, someone who is calm on the ball and is able to initiate the passing game, finding spaces despite high pressure on the ball from rival teams. An ideal player type would be a prime Micheal Carrick, Cabaye, or even Roque Mesa who Swansea signed from Las Palmas. Samaris from Benfica who we are constantly linked with seems a decent option.
One of the reasons for me pitching a deep lying playmaker is that it allows Rafa to push Shelvey into a forward attacking midfielder role. Shelvey played a couple of blinders when Rafa went 4-1-4-1 vs Brighton at home and QPR away but the manager generally preferred to play Shelvey deeper. Which is not necessarily a bad thing as he has fantastic vision with ability to link play and spray passes – but his temperament and discipline under constant pressure has me feeling he would be more of an asset operating higher up the pitch, rather than deeper. It would also solve our number 10 issue given the inconsistent plays of Diame and Perez.
Forward – Despite Gayle’s prolific form, Mitro’s lack of finishing/pace will have Rafa look to bringing in another striker. Someone like Gayle who will run the channels, has power, speed and discipline. As of now, the most likely candidate seems to be Andre Gray who did well, despite playing in a pragmatic set up by Dyche.
If finances permit, I can see Rafa moving on to these two positions as well:
Left-back – Dummett has done a good job defensively but his lack of pace and offensive limitations severely impacts on Newcastle’s play down the left. Midfielders and wingers tend to redirect play from left to the middle.
Rival teams were already aware of that in our relegation season where they deliberately allowed Dummett to have the ball but quickly closed down Gini whenever he looked to pass it to him. I would love to have Jetro Willens from PSV. He is tall, physical and attack-minded, who would improve the side’s play significantly.
Winger – After signing Atsu, we do have back up options in Aarons and to some extent Lazaar – but if Rafa could get some more class, than Montpellier’s Ryad Boudebouz is someone I would love to see in black and white. Blessed with great skills, he was their highest assist getter last season and scored important goals. At 15 million euros he would be worth the investment.
It will be an interesting window and more importantly, it will require Lee Charnley to be able to clear out the dead wood and fill those positions with the players Rafa has identified.
Hopefully, Rafa gets the players he needs in time to get them playing to his philosophy, to enable a good start in the opening six games, to set the Club and City alight for a great season.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])