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Rafa Benitez at least has variety of choice in this position

4 years ago

Newcastle’s latest transfer activity has filled few hearts, except Mike Ashley’s icy organ, with optimism. Our barebones squad is looking easily susceptible to being plunged into crisis by only a handful of injuries or suspensions.

One of the few positions, however, where there is at least paddling-pool depth for Rafa Benitez, is up front.

It was therefore unnerving when reports arrived on deadline day of offers being seriously considered for Dwight Gayle and relieving when they ultimately fell through.

Even more surprising was the fact Rafa Benitez had allegedly lost faith in our number nine after his poor start to the season.

Despite Gayle’s deficiencies in certain respects, he is still a valuable player to the team and adds one vital ingredient to our gameplan: pace.

Rafa is the most tactically shrewd manager I can remember at Newcastle in my, albeit relatively short, lifetime. Squad rotation is something he routinely indulges in to vary the team’s play based on each fixture.

Even though none of our three current strikers are consistently reliable goalscorers in the top tier, Rafa at least has a variety of choice. Gayle provides the speed which was so effective in the Championship, Mitrovic supposedly adds strength, whilst Joselu is a more technical player.

With Rafa remaining sceptical of Mitrovic’s abilities or temperament, Joselu and Gayle will be the ones rotated in the starting role. Both could add  5-10 goals to our total across the season, so long as they are given the right support.

Gayle’s anonymous performance at Huddersfield was as much to do with the absence of Shelvey or an adequate number ten as it is with his own attributes.

Gayle will only be able to find chances if our playmaker can continue to function in a quarterback role. Without Shelvey’s passing ability, launching the ball from deep into advanced areas, last season’s top goalscorer can’t run onto balls behind the opposition’s defensive line.

Last season, I argued that this ploy would still be productive against certain Premier League teams and I stand by that claim. The first 45 minutes against Spurs was solid, as we tried to play on the break with this strategy.

Far from looking to offload one of our few noteworthy attacking players on Thursday, the club should have been scrambling to acquire an improved number ten to partner him.

Gayle obviously isn’t about to transform into Thierry Henry. Nevertheless, he is far from being surplus to requirements this year.

What proved so successful in the Championship can still fuel our survival at a higher level.

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