Has Rafa Benitez provided more questions than answers on his transfers?
Whilst the finger of blame for our summer of discontent is being firmly pointed at our odious owner, is the man hailed as the Messiah, Rafa Benitez, as innocent as is being portrayed?
Sunday’s defeat has seen Jonjo Shelvey rightly vilified for his “pathetic” step, I’ll refrain from using the word ‘stamp’ due to its feeble nature, on Dele Alli, but is that diverting attention from what seemed blatantly obvious?
Of our five senior signings during the close season, only two, Atsu and Lejeune, started the game on merit, Manquillo deputised for the injured Yedlin, while Murphy and Merino sat on the bench.
Over £30m of our meagre transfer budget has been spent for no real overall improvement on what we already had.
We had an option to buy Atsu, so no scouting was required, the deal was already in place and even Newcastle United couldn’t fail to get that one ‘over the line’. He’s a decent player at a decent price so the deal made sense, and even if some might prefer to see Aarons given a chance whilst he’s fit, Atsu can cover both wings for a minimal outlay.
Which takes me on to Jacob Murphy. Yes, the pictures of him and his brother as toddlers in Newcastle shirts make a good story, but does it make it a good signing?
The team selection against Tottenham showed that Ritchie is still favoured, and Atsu got the nod for the left hand side, so we had £10m on the bench sitting alongside a similar player who cost nothing. In the event, neither dirtied their boots. Surely that money could, and should, have been invested elsewhere in an attempt to really make a difference to the team?
With Murphy’s fee potentially rising to £12m, we could instead have had a player who scored 14 goals in 35 games in Ligue 1 last season, one goal less than the much lauded Mbappé, and some change. Instead Mounié was snapped up by the big boys of Huddersfield and put straight in to the team to decent effect.
Then we have Manquillo. Short of funds, we decide to spend £4m on a reserve full back who hardly set the world alight at either Liverpool or Sunderland. Time will tell whether Rafa can turn the lad around, but hardly an instant improvement to the team and he’d have struggled to even make the bench had Yedlin been fit.
I’ll conveniently forget the last Spanish full back Benitez brought in at this point… Oh, and Huddersfield signed the EFL Championship ‘team of the year’ left back Scott Malone from Fulham whilst we weren’t signing Cairney, never mind Man City releasing four PL experienced full-backs over the summer.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see enough of Lejeune before he was cut down by Kane, but it may still take him time to adjust to the pace and rigours of English football. Will we have the luxury of letting him settle in, or should we have gone for someone like Maguire to hit the ground running?
The loan signing of Merino may prove to be a shrewd move, and Shelvey has very kindly arranged for us to potentially have a look at him over the next few games at least, but again, wouldn’t it have made more sense to get someone in with PL or English football experience?
With the likes of Loftus-Cheek, Izzy Brown & Chalobah all leaving Chelsea for the bright lights of Palace, Brighton & Watford, either on loan or permanently, and going straight into their new teams’ starting XI, you don’t have to travel very far to get good players.
So £30m+ spent and now we are looking to strip some of Ashley’s wallpaper to see if we can get some more money. But on this evidence, would you be willing to let Rafa have a free rein with the chequebook?
We are stuck with millions of pounds worth of ‘assets’ that nobody seemingly wants, including the likes of Gamez, Lazaar & Hanley that were signed by Benitez.
Now we hear that Joselu may be on his way in… hardly one to set the pulses races racing. Those four goals in 22 games for Stoke being indicative of his top flight career across Europe, where he hasn’t played successive seasons for the same club.
We can blame Ashley all we want, and he is guilty on most counts, but, on his transfer dealings at least, Rafa has provided more questions than answers.
If, as we are led to believe, he has control over the transfer policy at Newcastle United, that policy is not always making sense.
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