This week has seen a rash of headlines ‘quoting’ Rafa Benitez as being ‘happy’ now at Newcastle.
Well, there is ‘happy’ and then there is…’happy’.
When you read what the United boss has actually said, he is happy about the effort of his players, that’s it.
Rafa Benitez puts it into context, saying ‘you have to be pragmatic’, then adding that ‘this is the group of players that we have and we have to try and improve them’.
The context the manager is giving, is that he is having to make the best of a bad job, having been badly let down in both the January and summer windows this year by Mike Ashley.
His message was the same back at the start of February, showing his anger at the lack of investment in the squad but then declaring that he just had to get on with the job in hand, working with what he had.
The team obviously are working/playing for Rafa but he can’t go on pulling rabbits out of hats, at some time (soon, hopefully) better players, especially in the attacking positions have to arrive at St James Park.
Another thing that the manager has to be happy with, is the number of points (10 from seven games) that his team have accumulated so far.
Against West Ham the three points were definitely deserved, there was nothing in it when Newcastle edged it against Swansea, whilst United should have been out of sight in the first half against Stoke, only to then almost throw it away after the break when the Potters had a series of chances.
The point against Liverpool was invaluable but perfectly presented the current strengths and weaknesses.
The defence is solid and playing very well together, even with a makeshift left-back – Mbemba on this occasion.
Ritchie, Merino and Shelvey all look capable of holding their own in the top tier – but in the other three forward positions it is where Newcastle are struggling, especially through the middle.
Joselu tries but he had wasted that glorious chance until the Liverpool defender kicked it off him to get the point.
Against Stoke everybody laughed afterwards about the three sitters Joselu missed, only because the team still won.
In very difficult tight Premier League matches, Newcastle may only get one massive chance in the whole game, like that Liverpool one, and failing to take it could well be the difference between relegation trouble or not.
Rafa Benitez is clearly very happy with the fans and the attitude of (most of) the players but until things change in the running of the club, it will surely wear even his patience out.
Instead of all the daft PR stunts and using the media in some kind of war of words with his manager, Mike Ashley has to either sell (by far the biggest preference!) or change his ways (you live in hope…).
Give Rafa a realistic budget and let him get on with it, allow him to pick his transfer targets and then get the deals done, as was promised to the manager (and fans) last May.
To have a manager during a transfer window repeatedly saying that he hopes the owner will ‘keep his promises’ is just about as bad as it gets surely, in terms of the message it sends out, particularly when in the end, Ashley clearly didn’t keep the promises he’d made about the summer transfer window.
When Newcastle sign a new obvious first choice striker and number 10, we’ll know at last things have changed and we can all be ‘happy’ that things are moving on, whether that is capable of happening under Mike Ashley remains to be seen.
“You have to be pragmatic and I know that this is the group of players that we have and we have to try and improve them.
“We are working with them on the pitch – they are working really well.
“We can see some improvements but I still think that we can do better.
“You see how they approach every training session, every game, the commitment of the game and the team spirit.
“You have to be happy because that is what you expect from your players.
“It doesn’t matter what the level of the player, you have to work hard for the team and they’re doing that.”