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I’m no Mike Ashley apologist but what about the man who picks the team?

3 years ago

The Blame Game …

With three games gone – two in the league plus last night’s dismal Carabo Cup result – and nothing to show for it, the blame game is in full swing.

Blame Ashley. Blame Charnley. Blame anyone. But what about the man who picks the team?

The only blame associated with Rafa Benitez is that which he’s attempting to deflect from his own shoulders since before the season kicked off – and it seems that many of the blinkered ‘In Rafa We Trust’ supporters are all too willing to believe him.

I’m no Ashley apologist but I too would wouldn’t be keen on loosening the purse strings to a manager whose buying record at the club is average at very best. For every Gayle, Ritchie and Clark there’s a Gamez, Laazar and Hanley. Bought for the Championship this trio of ‘Benitez Buys’ hardly managed a handful of appearances between them.

Of the other Rafa Benitez signings who went on to become regular starters, it would be true to say they hardly set the world alight with their performances.

Last season’s Championship winning campaign was for the most part, a series of uninspiring performances with the Newcastle manager’s negative tactics grinding out results when a more expansive attacking formation – especially at home – would surely have brought the same end result but with a flourish, rather than a sense of relief.

Even then it was apparent that Dwight Gayle would struggle as a lone striker at a higher level but the tactical genius we’re forever being reminded is in charge of our team, seems oblivious to this. Defending way too deep and hoofing long balls to the diminutive Gayle to chase isn’t a tactic – it’s just plain ridiculous.

Blaming a lack of signings, saying the players aren’t good enough for the Premier League, that the difference between winning and losing is not taking your chances  – when you’ve been out-fought and outplayed by a better team – is pure flannel and reminiscent of the constant excuses that Pardew and McClaren were reviled for.

Whether you’re a factory worker, a shop assistant or a bricklayer, if your line manager is forever making disparaging remarks about you and your workmates it certainly isn’t going to create a harmonious atmosphere. So why does Benitez feel it necessary to disrespect his players – many of them his own substandard signings – in this manner?

The goalkeeping situation is a prime example. Bringing in Matz Sels as his first choice before having to ship him out on loan – after proving to be an abject failure -then attempting to purchase yet another number one when there are three excellent keepers at the club, must surely leave Elliot, Darlow and Woodman feeling just a little bemused.

As for last night – here was an opportunity to play a near first choice eleven against a lower-league, although in-form Forest side. Play two up front, attack down the wings, get crosses into the box and with a bit of luck and a couple of goals ahead bring on some fringe players for a runout. Confidence booster for fans and players alike.

What actually happened…

We got ten changes from the previous game, a defence that have never played together before and the personnel selected as either (a) a dig at Ashley’s non-investment or (b) to put players in the shop window in an effort to shift a couple of them on before the transfer window closes.

And I almost forgot – after a dream start from Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goal in the third minute – we got another defeat too.

Instead of bleating on about a lack of signings, our manager should do the job he’s paid for. Set up a team that plays to the strengths of the players he has. Ditch this single striker approach – or use someone with the physicality to carry it out. Spend what money is available wisely.

The £12 million paid to Norwich for Murphy appears more of an investment in the future judging on his performances so far, but we’re in the here and now, and need someone to make a difference immediately. That tidy sum, plus the £5 million paid out for Joselu, could well have been better earmarked for an experienced forward or midfielder to slot straight into the first team – as would any cash earmarked for a keeper.

Rafa Benitez appears to have an affinity for the supporters, the city and the club. I do sincerely hope he can turn things around – but the blame game has to stop and the buck stops with him.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])


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