Rafa Benitez has been talking about Dwight Gayle again.
The Newcastle manager saying that his number nine wasn’t left out of the 18 man squad v West Ham due to injury.
Rafa instead giving two other reasons, as to why Gayle wasn’t involved after starting against both Spurs and Huddersfield.
The first reason the United boss gave, was that Mitrovic had been doing well in training.
However, the other factor was ‘confidence’.
Back in February of this year, was the first time Benitez said that confidence was an issue for Dwight Gayle, that the recurring hamstring problems the striker had experienced in the past couple of years, meant he then had problems mentally once the physical side had healed. That is problems with feeling able to sprint flat out, which is obviously the key part of his game when getting into scoring positions.
At the beginning of August Rafa came back to these confidence issues affecting Dwight Gayle and now he is saying the same thing again.
Joselu did pretty well and obviously scored against West Ham, whilst Mitrovic also did ok in his 20 minutes at the end, also scoring.
However, it is clear that a better quality attacking option is also needed as part of the mix.
On his best form of last season, Dwight Gayle could well be that man, but with these injury/confidence issues you can’t count on it.
The last 48 hours have seen claims that Newcastle could sell Gayle and use the money to buy a new striker, with some media/fans even claiming that Newcastle could get as much as £20m for the former Palace man.
Much of that is based on the fact that Burnley paid £15m for Chris Wood, who ended up top scorer in the Championship last season with four more goals than Dwight Gayle, but he started 15 more matches for Leeds as Gayle was the victim of hamstring/confidence issues…
Little doubt the Newcastle striker would have finished top scorer with 30+ goals last season but only if he had stayed fit…and that is a big if.
Chris Wood has started this season in good form and fitness, scoring once for Leeds before his move, then a dream Premier League debut seeing him scoring that late equaliser for Burnley at Wembley against Tottenham on Sunday.
On the other hand, as we know all too well, Dwight Gayle hasn’t looked anywhere near his best and now his manager confirms the confidence issues again.
The bottom line surely is that for better or worse, Newcastle United and their number nine are stuck together at least until January, as nobody is going to pay big money for a striker with hamstring/confidence issues – no matter how mad the transfer market has gone. There being little point in allowing him to go out on loan, with next to nothing added to Rafa’s transfer pot.
Hopefully this will work to our advantage and Gayle can get himself sorted and get back amongst the goals.
If anybody is going to leave then surely it will have to be Mitrovic, with his fitness proved and scoring a couple of goals already helping to pull in a buyer, rather than somebody landing him on loan.
Rafa Benitez talking about Dwight Gayle’s absence on Saturday:
“Dwight Gayle wasn’t on the bench because Mitrovic has been doing well and training well.
“We had two strikers (Joselu & Mitrovic) and they both scored.
“Obviously, he (Gayle) has to go back to his level, but sometimes with strikers, it depends on scoring goals and confidence, so we will see.
“He is coming back and he is training well again, but because he had this issue maybe two or three weeks ago, he was a little bit worried and we were talking.
“In reality, he was not injured, so it’s just the confidence.
“I think he needs his confidence back – he’s fine, he was training (ahead of West Ham).”
The Mag – 7 August 2017:
Dwight Gayle started 21 of Newcastle’s first 26 Championship matches last season, scoring 20 goals.
After scoring and picking up yet another hamstring injury against Brentford on 14 January 2017, Gayle then missed a number of matches, returning for the Aston Villa home match on 20 February.
A week before that Villa game, Rafa Benitez suggested that getting his main striker back playing, was at least as much a mental thing as a physical thing, saying ‘It depends on him…he has trained OK. But sometimes it is the confidence of the player, so we will see how he feels.’
After only 33 minutes of that Villa game, Dwight Gayle was subbed, saying he didn’t feel right.
In the final 20 games of the Championship season, he only started five matches and score three goals, with ongoing worries about Dwight Gayle feeling confident of playing again without worries over his recurring hamstring problems.
Kicking off the friendlies with both goals in a 2-1 win at Hearts, Newcastle’s number nine burst out laughing when it was suggested after the game that his hamstring problems were ‘clearly behind’ him. Saying ‘I wouldn’t say that. Just seeing how it goes and fingers crossed’.
With just 30 minutes in the last three friendlies and no time on the pitch in the last two games, Dwight Gayle’s fears appear to have proved correct.
However, just like back in February, Rafa Benitez once again says it is very much a ‘confidence’ thing, rather than purely a hamstring issue.
A key part of the forward’s game is his pace and Rafa says that Dwight Gayle has to regain the ‘confidence to know he can sprint’ and that they are working in training to try and help him do that.
The last player Newcastle needed to have missing this coming season, with a ‘hamstring niggle’ and ‘confidence’ issues, difficult to see Gayle starting against Spurs – so best hope is we could see him on the bench and potentially involved in a cameo later on, with a first Premier League start for Newcastle just around the corner.
Just like Dwight Gayle, Newcastle fans will have ‘fingers crossed’.
Rafa Benitez – 6 August 2017:
”It’s not his hamstring – it’s more the feeling that he has. He’s not comfortable and we don’t want to take any risks.
“Dwight is training with the fitness coach, so hopefully he can carry on training this week.
“He needs the confidence to know he can sprint and do everything as he was doing before.
“It’s a question of confidence, so we will carry on pushing him in training and hopefully we can get back the confidence.”
Dwight Gayle interviewed – 15 July 2017 (after scoring twice v Hearts):
‘Towards the back end of last season you were plagued by that hamstring trouble a little bit. That’s clearly behind you now, it is all in the past?’
In response, Dwight Gayle burst out laughing at the playing down of his injury problems and said:
“I wouldn’t say that. Just seeing how it goes and fingers crossed I can get as many games as possible next season.”
Rafa Benitez – 13 February 2017:
“It depends on him (Dwight Gayle).
“He is training with the team and he has trained OK.
“But sometimes it is the confidence of the player, so we will see how he feels.”