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.

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



  • steve

    How can you possibly argue that Rafa is the most tactically shrewd manager you can remember when he literally has one system. Even when we are losing he is totally incapable of changing the system and resorts to like for like substitutions.

    • hetonmag

      Poor manager let’s get shot of him I’m sure there’s a better one out their somewhere,someone who is shrewd enough to give you what you want.

  • mentalman

    Rafa has let the best infact only no10 we had leave and persists with his pet perez out of position.

    As for the best tactical manager we’ve had he has one tactic and thats it, he waited too long to change things against spurs and the huddersfield match was perfect for a change to 3-5-2 but he’s not willing to change

    • Paul Patterson

      Who was our best No10?

      • mentalman

        De jong was our only no10 therefore by default he was our best no10

        • Paul Patterson

          De Jong made about as many appearances for us as Marcelino. Not a valid argument.

          • mentalman

            Whether you think it is a valid argument or not it is fact. De Jong was the best no10 at the club.

            Had he been given the opportunity perez had over pre season and the first 3 games of the season i would wager he’d of had better stats.

          • Paul Patterson

            He would’ve last an hour and then be out for three months with a ruptured fetlock. Unreliable.

      • Alreet

        Ben arfa was the best 10. If only pardew hadnt screwed him

        • steve

          No one screwed Ben Arfa other than himself

    • hetonmag

      Yes an awful manager who is one dimensional who’s won nowt in the game,who plays boring football, definitely got one tactic and that’s not to lose a game with the player’s he’s got.

      • Ram Kishore

        Last season you were supporting that awful manager…. Moaners are worse where they worry if we win or lose..100 times worser than critics

        • hetonmag

          Got me wrong there pal I was being sarcastic, Rafa in my eye’s is the best thing that’s happened to this football club he is the only chance if backed we will ever win anything.

          • Ram Kishore

            Its cool pal ..when I type Newcastle united in the Google search all I see is articles of moaning and churners who do the same writing..

      • mentalman

        There’s no denying he’s the second most succesful manager we’ve had in the last 30 years and im happy that we have him but that doesn’t mean he’s above criticism. Yes he sets the team up not to lose but there was many games last season where opposition managers worked out how to nullify our tactics and beat us. Rafa didnt change anything before or during the game and this was against championship managers and teams. It doesnt matter what level of players we have in the team if the opposition work out how to beat us and we don’t chanfe anything we will be beat

        • hetonmag

          We can agree to disagree over the merits of Rafa and you are correct no manager is without criticism when it is deserved but he got us promoted at the first time of asking so that was job done as far as I’m concerned.

  • Paul Patterson

    A little easy to shoot this argument down.
    It’s all well and good having a striker with pace in Gayle, but if his mind won’t let him use it then it’s a moot point.
    Mitrovic being the ‘supposed strong option’ is a white elephant. He can’t hold the ball up, doesn’t bring others into play and is needlessly aggressive (currently banned).
    Joselu looks a canny enough player but would benefit from a run in the side or a partner.
    I don’t see the Shelvey ‘quarterback’ role working very often in the Premier league as defences just drop back and nullify any quick strikers these days and he has a dodgy tempremant (currently banned). Plus I’d prefer to see Shelvey as the No10.
    On paper Rafa has options, in reality they are a bit flimsy.

    • Jezza

      We are woefully desperately short of both quality and strength in depth up front. Goals or the lack of them are going to be a huge problem this season.

      • Rich Lawson

        Certainly if we stick with the loan striker option !

    • Cuh

      Mitrovic being the ‘supposed strong option’ is a white elephant. He can’t hold the ball up, doesn’t bring others into play… You can’t be serious

      How many minutes of Joselu have you ever watched? What has made you conclude he is ineffective as a lone striker?

      • Paul Patterson

        I’m not saying Joselu is the answer, but Mitrovic is too raw at the moment. I would’ve (tried at least) to loan/buy Peter Crouch.

  • Steve Pearce

    So what about Merino? You don’t mention him – I think that Shelvey could play in a more advanced position with Merino further back and the combination of the two of them could be devastating. But Rafa’s lack of flexibility concerning his system is a problem and could indeed be our Achilles heel.

    • Pozz Mozz

      Come on your constant sniping at Rafa is getting tiresome

  • Steve Smith

    Gayle’s anonymous performance was 100% down to him being crocked. Nothing to do with Shelvey missing.

    There were opportunities that he would have scored from last season that he was nowhere near.

  • Cuh

    What a ridiculous piece