Rafa Benitez has got some challenge on his hands.

It must be some time ago in his long career, since the Spaniard last had such a poor to average group of players at his disposal.

In between matches we have seen some real polar opposites in terms of views from Newcastle supporters.

Increasingly we have seen fans questioning the team selections, whilst on the other hand you get supporters who say fans should keep their opinions to themselves and Rafa Benitez knows best.

I think they are both right, in a certain kind of way.

Rafa Benitez, in his successful career, has earned the right to be seen as knowing more than the likes of us fans, but at the same time, supporters are surely able to say what they like about the manager’s team selection, or indeed anything else.

Fans can question Rafa’s choice of players but it doesn’t mean he is wrong.

He is really in an impossible position now with this current squad. With most clubs I would guess the manager approaches each match knowing nine or ten players he intends to play, with decisions/doubts on only one or two – at Newcastle I reckon it is probably just about the other way around.

Take the Everton game and what Rafa Benitez thinks after watching it, on that performance I would assume the manager will be pretty happy with Jamaal Lascelles’ return to the team but after that…?

Dwight Gayle didn’t play well but had next to no service or help, especially from the hopeless Mohamed Diame, and after three goals in the previous four matches he is a second easy choice for Saturday.

Scratching around after that, I think DeAndre Yedlin is maybe the only other sure pick, purely based on his determination in the second half to try and create something, simply by bulldozing his way through the opposition, as his teammates watched on.

If any of the other eight, or eleven if you include the substitutes, weren’t selected against Arsenal then they could have no complaints.

Of course Rafa Benitez can’t make eight changes even if he wanted to, with the alternatives just as bad or even worse, this being despite Paul Dummett the only one still out injured. Bear in mind Everton were missing seven first team squad players through injury.

So Wednesday night Rafa rang the changes and I think most fans were more than happy with the likes of Shelvey, Lascelles and Atsu getting a game once again, Diame maybe the exception.

However, this sums up Rafa’s problems, no matter how much he shakes up his team, he gets the same results, both in scoreline and in performances generally.

We all have our own ideas of what the starting 11 should be each game, which is at the heart of football and pre-match pub discussions, but there are no Rafa Benitez blunders as such.

We don’t know for sure what would have happened if he had chosen a different team against Everton, or anybody else, but we have a pretty good idea because none of our players are surprise packages waiting to be given their chance to impress and show us something we didn’t know.

Clark, Elliot, Murphy, Hayden, Aarons, Joselu and Perez were all on the bench but none of them deserve a starting place on what we have seen this season.

Then of course we have Aleksandar Mitrovic.

He looked poor even in the Championship and when coming off the bench the odd time this season he looks nowhere near fit.

For some supporters Mitro gets better and better every time he doesn’t play but I just don’t see it.

I think a weaker manager (Pardew, McClaren etc) would have bowed to the fans’ demands and thrown Mitrovic on from the start in a game or two, just to say I told you so afterwards.

We may not be getting the results but at least I think we can be sure that every game Rafa Benitez makes an honest choice of team of what he believes is best, regardless of what the experts on the sidelines are shouting.

If only he had been backed with the players he wanted in the summer we wouldn’t now be in this impossible position, where Newcastle United don’t even have anything close to a first eleven, never mind a squad.

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  • Paul Patterson

    On the subject of Mitro, how will we know he’s not up to it if he isn’t played?
    He needs to be played so he can either start getting goals or get sent off like many (including the manager) expect.
    Plus, I’m no fan of Joselu, but it’s very strange that after he finally scores (Leicester) he’s dropped immediately. Crazy!

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      he`s pure shyte & was replaced by pure shyte

  • Megatron1505

    At Forest the fans used to question why Billy Davies never played a certain “fan favourite “, turned out that Billy Davies knew that the bloke was a raging alcoholic who turned up to training half drunk most days. To allow the club to get some money back on this certain player the manager kept his mouth shut and took the flak from the fans.

    Does anyone here honestly believe that Rafa is not playing Mitrovic out of spite for the player or the club? There’s something going on with that lad that we are not privy to I reckon.

    Also, it’s a fair assessment that fans always think a player who isn’t playing is better than the ones who are during a bad run.

    • Damon Horner

      Memory serves me right Roger Johnson was similar at Wolves with the alcohol. Everybody seems to “know” Mitrovic is effective on the pitch, hard working in training and doesn’t speak or act out of place.

  • goggsy

    It’s not really any different to last season.from game 1 the Fulham match,people questioned Rafas team selection and substitutions. The difference is we outspent the rest off the championship on wages and fees so we excelled,and we have a great manager of course,who’s decisions we may not agree with sometimes but I don’t doubt his ability and the alternative is unthinkable. Personaly I’d happily go down with Rafa and the takeover,than attempt to stay up with Pullis or the any of the other list of Useless dead wood premier league merry go round jobsworths. We’ll be in the bottom 3 wage spends and fee spends so we’ll go down.

    • Jezza

      We didn’t out spend one single Championship club last season. We had a net spend of MINUS £40 million which was the lowest of any of the 24 clubs in that division.

      • Toon Fan

        Net spend doesn’t mean much. Every club can only spend what it generates, whether through player sales, tv, or commercial revenue. Most clubs spend the bulk of tv money on wages, therefore it leaves player sales and commercial to pay for everything else, including transfers. We’ve spent £102m in two seasons (and will probably spend more in January). Think it’s pushing it to suggest that the money has been well spent. It hasn’t. Not necessarily blaming Rafa for it, but we’ve essentially spent £102m building a championship team. Huddersfield got promoted last season with a squad built for just £11m. Perspective…

        • Leazes Ender

          Since Rafa arrived he has spent minus £12.5 million.

          • Toon Fan

            Like it or not, he’s spent £102m on players (according to transfermarkt). The amount recouped in player sales doesn’t change how much has been spent.

          • Jezza

            The amount recouped in player sales may not change how much Rafa has spent but it most certainly has changed the level of quality of the squad he’s got to work with.

          • Toon Fan

            Of course, but somebody decided to buy those players who have made the squad weaker. We’ve spent £102m on largely championship level players. I’d like to think we could have achieved promotion on a third of that. Half of the players bought last summer weren’t needed and some were subsequently sold on for a loss. Maybe if we hadn’t signed them in the first place we would have had more cash available for transfers this summer… Pretty sure we got promoted at the first time of asking in 09/10 having spent zero on a championship squad. This time we chose to buy our way out of it. Fine. But we are now left with championship level players who will be very difficult to shift.

          • Tomb

            But what about the net spend???

          • Toon Fan

            What about it?

        • goggsy

          No, the only point I’m making is that we spent enough to get out of the championship and no where near enough to stay in the premier.please don’t confuse me with a happy clapping Ashley sympathizer,um far from it.

      • goggsy

        Yes jezza,net spend. But our outlay in comparison to other clubs and most importantly ou wage bill,was one of the too in the championship. It’s always the closest correlation to success. We could of addressed that in the summer,or january,we didn’t and now we’ll suffer the consequence.

        • Jezza

          It’s no good being able to spend £50 million if you have to lose £90 million worth of playing talent in the process.

        • Tomb

          This net spend argument is nonsense. The squad value was the highest comfortably in the championship last year. Lascelles himself said we were the Man City of the championship last year. There are teams in the Pl who have a minus net spend this year. It doesn’t mean their squads are worse than ours. It was aknowledged by pundits players managers that we had the best squad last year. If Hughton had took that squad people would have said it was down to the players

        • Tomb

          Because we had a squad that should have been good enough to stay up we recouped a lot of money and were able to sign good players. Not one side in the championship had a better squad than ours. Wolves this year would have been. Our wage bill was 6 times that of Huddersfield. Let’s stop painting promotion as a miracle when it clearly wasn’t.

        • Tomb

          Arsenals net spend is less than ours this year in fact it’s in the minus so by this logic they should be bottom

          • goggsy

            It’s jezza who mentions net spend.not me,my comment on net spend,is to confirm that Jezza is talking about net spend. The spends in terms off fees has some relevance,but as I’ve said the main correlation between money and success comes with wage spend.the point is,we paid high last year in comparison to the other clubs and the exact opposite this year.hence why barring a miracle we will be relegated. And also the fact that fans criticised Rafa on team selection throughout the whole of last season, So nothing has changed in that respect. What is different is that we weren’t prepared to pay higher wages,even for loan players and that’s why we will get relegated.its just my opinion.of course he won’t be blameless but knowing the situation he should have walked and I think we’re lucky he stayed.

          • Tomb

            Yeah I agree rafa has not been properly supported with cash this season but it’s irritating when the net spend argument is used when it suits. We are 12th in the net spend league this season there’s another fact that proves nothing. There’s no doubt we needed more players this summer but we bought our way out of the championship last year.

    • Kneebotherm8

      Did we outspend Villa? who struggled to finish mid table,don’t underestimate Rafa’s achievements last season,and as Jezza says,Rafa’s nett spend WAS minus £40 million.

  • Leicester Mag

    Regards Mitro difficult to see the outcome would be worse, we lost every game. I’m not sure this makes him a stronger manager only stubborn

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    We saw at the start of the season that if he gets the balance right we can be a match for anyone and the squad is not as bad as people make out. When we went to Burnley and Southampton we could have drawn and won those games easily
    and looked good. There is only one player who did not try last night he did not even move most of the time and that is totally unacceptable. I do not mind that he is useless but do mind him watching Everton players without attempting to run after them or tackle never seen anyone like him before in midfield.

  • tony brotherton

    Rafa knows we are playing in the third tier sub league of the premiership (bottom eight ). We just need to survive that this season. looking at the table anyone in the bottom half could be relegated . There are three points between us and 10th !!. We have to beat all the teams in the third tier ,( bottom eight )to survive. points anywhere else will be a big bonus. We had enough in the team last night to beat Everton and were unlucky not to score at least one. Mitrovic is not the answer and Rafa knows this . He has shown investors how threadbare this squad is and i am sure he will be looking to move deadwood out asap. The takeover will release sizeable funds , if he spends them wisely i think we will be ok. we are not the only PL club going through a very bad patch, they will all have them. keep the faith and support the manager and the team who ever he choses to select, they need us behind them.

  • ash1001

    In the last 20 minutes of the game Yedlin took matters into his own hands, and played with more spirit than the rest of them put together, all right it did not come off, but credit the lad with trying to change things and I dare bet Benitiz had not nothing to do with it. Sorry Rafa but you got it wrong again.
    Heres another chilling fact, we only have 3 players who are out of contract at the end of the season Haidara, Gamez, and Good, if the others cannot be moved on and we are restricted to squad of 25, there’s going to be a few picking up good wages for mucking out the dressing rooms

    • Kneebotherm8

      Add Joselu and Manquillo to that list,why we didn’t go for the loan options that Rafa wanted,instead of those two,is down to Ashley and Penfold.
      They actually thought permanent signings would be able to be sold on at a profit at a later date,when in fact we’ve got yet another two who we’ll never be able to move on in a month of Sundays.

  • Leazes Ender

    …’ Mitro gets better and better every time he doesn’t play’….. in the minds of supporters.

    • Charlie Dickens

      Nice line. Wonder which recent article he stole it from. Was originally applied to Dummett, traditionally our weakest link in defence. Benitez shouldn’t be free of criticism simply because he was outstanding at Valencia and Liverpool. Playing Diame and Gayle up front by himself needs questioning, particularly as it didn’t work. And never will.
      That’s the point of the recent criticism, such a respected manager should know better, irrespective of options or transfer spend. There are alternatives to playing Diame. And Gayle can’t do enough for the team in a 451. He’ll always get rebounds and tap-ins from set-pieces, scrappy goals, but Joselu is more effective linking play, does more for the team, moves them up the pitch. And he’s not good enough. Mitro would’ve bullied Williams. Particularly when we went long ball and didn’t bother passing.
      I don’t want Benitez out. Just think it’s cringeworthy how much we worship him when he hasn’t even surpassed Chris Hughton’s achievements, maybe even the odious Pardew, never mind Sir Bobby or Keegan. We’re lucky to have Rafa, we can’t get anybody better right now, but it doesn’t mean he gets to act with impunity, particularly when we’re on such a torrid run.
      Yesterday was an improvement, though. Perhaps without Diame, with Mitro playing, with Aarons coming on when we were still fit enough to pass and move rather than exhausted and hoofing, we’d have got a result.
      The sheep can isolate any one factor, Shelvey, etc. who was lacking match fitness and perhaps should have gone off instead of Merino, but all these things work in concert. It’s a team sport, not tennis. Thought this article said nothing new, lacked insight, and follows the blind faith, the Messiah complex, that many seem to have.

    • Jezza

      Ha ha, yes he is by far and away our most improved player this season. He’s gone from a carthorse who was out of his depth against third division Oxford to a guranteed 30 Premiership goals a season striker if only Rafa would play him.

  • Mrkgw

    Problem is that Rafa just keeps on getting things wrong at the moment. Joselu, Diame, Murphy, Darlow. Meanwhile, Mitrovic continues to score goals for Serbia albeit, I get the fact that he alone, cant win games for us. Somethings not right and I cant decide whether Rafa has lost the plot, whether he is angling for dismissal or, whether he is trying to oust the odious regime. That said, the club are in grave danger of going down is this continues and that would be an absolute disaster – be assured of that.

    • ghostrider

      Something’s definitely not right.
      It could be that he’s trying to get sacked.
      It could that he wants to fans to hound him out so he can take the West Ham job without much fuss.

      Something is badly wrong because there’s no way in hell a manager of Rafa’s calibre can lead us to destruction like he seems to be doing.

      • Mrkgw

        Quite – for he was better at managing the situation in the Championship. Yes, there is a gulf in class but as you say, he is leading us to destruction at the moment. The players just look devoid of confidence. As I mentioned in another post today – and this will divide opinion- but Krul, Gouffran and Anita would for me, walk into this team. He was mistaken to have released them.

        • ghostrider

          Yep. Rafa, for whatever reasons, has took on some kind of god stance.
          I’m willing to bet that when he goes, players will breathe a sigh of relief.
          I hope that some come out and tell their story on him but there’ll most likely be some kind of gagging order on them, or whatever.

          I’m fuming that he’s still in charge.
          I just hope it’s not going to be another McClaren where we leave it too late.

          I mean, think about it. What kind of money is he wanting?
          He seems to be shouting ” I need to know what money I’ve got.”
          Is he after 50 million or something or is 20 enough?
          What’s he going to buy?
          Most likely he will bring in someone like Torres on 150 grand a week, telling the club that he is the missing link, then isolating what little there is of his efforts, before he gets injured and does a Owen.

          It wouldn’t surprise me.
          The club need to arrest this right now before it’s too late.
          This mercenary needs to have an antidote to his poison before we really do have to go back to square one.

          • NoelBlack

            Get a grip, ffs. And, in case you REALLY missed it, West Ham have a new manager in place.

  • GeordieReeva

    Good article! I just wish I was at home and not on a train as I would proceed to slap myself silly with my keyboard and heavy based lamp… I can’t believe the nonsense some people put on here. You know who you are. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to breed, vote and have the necessary skills to knuckle bash keyboards. Of course that’s only my opinion and it sure doesn’t make it right.

    • Mrkgw

      You said it -opinion will always be divided and cause for debate. Unless abusive, everyone has the right to voice their thoughts on these forums. As for our club, Rafa has disappointed me. Yes, he deserves more time to turn it around. That said, he is making hard work of it and is clearly losing faith of many supporters. I don’t necessarily want him to go but, if he is incapable of making decisions in terms of team selection for the good of everyone then the exit door will always loom.

  • hetonmag

    John this goes back long before Rafa took over we needed to replace Dummett and get a striker in, now people are wanting Dummett back in the team, we signed a 21 year old striker with no experience of the EPL. It’s an accumulation of 10years of miss management and lack of investment that’s finally caught up with us.

  • Mitros gotta start

    Still doesnt explain why a striker that despite not getting a sniff for his club and is knocking goals in for fun for his country is continually not given a chance in a team that is desperate for goals…..its not like we have anybody else….give the lad a try…what have you got to lose…..mitro up front and gayle or aarons or richie running off him…..rafas pig headedness might just get him the sack or us relegated….and i am sick of it.

    • thewildchimp

      I’ve seen some footage on Serbia vs. Wales and Ireland. Basically, Mitro has at best 2-3 decent chances per game and usually manages to convert at least one. The only other decent players (apart from some defenders) are Tadic and Matic, both playing in PL. The wingers were abysmal. Nowhere near Ritchie’s level. If they knew how to cross properly, Mitro would’ve scored at least 3 per game.

  • fistsofsteel2

    ….of course Rafa’s team selections ARE WRONG. 1pt from 8 games. What a joke!


    • thewildchimp

      The problem is that he has a vision, and his vision is good. Unfortunately, he is too far-sighted, so he doesn’t see what’s in front of his nose. That’s why it might happen that he never gets us where we belong.

    • GeordieReeva

      Plonker…Just my opinion!

  • fistsofsteel2

    I hope Rafa gets no money to spend – he is after all the idiot who signed and plays the absolutely abysmal Joselu.

    Why trust him with cash EVER again.

    • NoelBlack


  • 1968 Magpie

    I’ve just watched the worst full back I have ever seen in Manquillo, a player who is petrified of a football. Benitez bought him, along with all the other duds , I would not trust him to spend any more money.
    At what point do we say enough is enough ? , when we have. 1 point out of 45

    • Tomb

      Rafa is a proven manager who has been let down by Ashley. What’s annoying me though is people saying he has a squad that by rights should struggle in the championship which is lies and that we have spent less than the other prem teams when we are 12th net spenders. How much did Hughton spend or Pardew after selling Carrol to finish 5th the following season. Benitez like Wenger has a good record but it doesn’t stop either manager either being past it or underperforming

  • fistsofsteel2

    quote: I think a weaker manager (Pardew, McClaren

    …..how are they weaker managers – neither had a run of results as bad as this by Benitez.

    • GeordieReeva

      So you’d want one of those incompetent clowns back over Rafael would you? Or are you “just saying”?

  • Tomb

    Benitez is a better manager than McLaren Pardew his record proves that but he has to take some of the blame along with Ashley. Rafas hands have been tied but he has still bought poorly. Using leicesters title winning team as an example, Mahrez cost 400k Vardy 1 million Drinkwater 1 million schmeichel 2 mill I believe Huth Morgan Kante didn’t break the bank either. If rafa was there people would say he’s worked miracles not to get relegated with that outlay.

    • NoelBlack

      Rafa’s bought the players he was allowed to buy – that is, the ones that would come for the money the club was offering in WAGES. He couldn’t even bring in a loan signing of any worth because other clubs offered the wages the players were asking. How can you not get that!?

  • Andy Mac

    I’m sorry but that’s just BS. Rafa hasnt picked the best team on numerous occasions because he has “issues” with several players who, while not world class, would be a better option than his “favourites”.

    A manager has to be bigger than having personal prejudices especially when his team are on the slide, performing poorly and looking clueless on the field ?