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Rafa Benitez admits major challenge trying to survive with Championship team in Premier League

4 years ago

Rafa Benitez watched on as once again Newcastle United didn’t have the quality to win a vital home match.

Visitors Swansea are rock bottom of the Premier League and had lost more games (14 of 22) than any other, yet it took a 68th minute goal from substitute Joselu to rescue a point.

When I was sitting inside St James Park on Saturday I mentioned a few times to the bloke next to me, that this was just like watching two Championship teams, playing a Championship level match.

I didn’t realise at the time just how correct I was in a literal sense..

Whilst these Swansea players are surely destined to be Championship ones next season after relegation, the 11 players who started the game for Newcastle, were quite literally a Championship team only seven months ago.

The entire side Rafa Benitez picked on Saturday, were also playing in the second tier for Newcastle last season.

Rafa said after the game that opposing manager Carlos Carvalhal had pointed this fact out before kick-off and the Newcastle boss says that this fact ‘tells everybody where we are’.

Which is basically, a Championship team trying to survive in the Premier League.

It is already well documented how Brighton and Huddersfield were backed with far higher net spends than Rafa Benitez was allowed by Mike Ashley in the summer.

Those two clubs at the weekend played nine new (Mooy was on loan then signed permanently) players between them who signed after promotion.

Huddersfield starting with Lössl, Ince, Jorgensen, Depoitr and Malone.

Brighton with Ryan, Pröpper, Izquierdo and Gross.

Interesting to see that both promoted clubs upgraded on their goalkeepers, something Rafa was also desperate to do.

Whilst also, three of Brighton’s new players and two of Huddersfield’s are attacking players – midfielders and strikers. Newcastle are looking woeful at times in terms of creativity and quality up front.

Whilst Rafa Benitez is being messed about yet again by Ashley, Brighton are pushing for new signings and Huddersfield have now already in January spent £12m on Alex Pritchard and brought defender Kongolo in on loan from Monaco.

One or two of you may make the comment that Rafa Benitez did bring in new players in the summer but chose not to start them on Saturday.

That is fair comment up to a point but apart from the injured Lejeune all four new players were included on the bench against Swansea – but simple fact is that Rafa had to fill gaps in the squad in the summer or we wouldn’t have had a squad, and that with the level he was shopping at, it was all but impossible to get players significantly better than what Newcastle already had.

Rafa Benitez asked about fact his team that started against Swansea all played for Newcastle in Championship last season:

“Carvalhal told me that before the game and it tells everybody where we are.

“I have been saying it all season and yet some people say ‘You have to do this and you have to do that’…but this is the reality.

“We are in the Premier League and we have a lot of players giving everything…but it is still sometimes not enough.

“The amazing thing, and the positive thing, is that they are working so hard.

“You could see in the first half we had chances and then when we conceded the goal, after that we were reacting, we were pushing, working even harder.

“After scoring our goal we were on top of them and pushing all the time – that is the positive that we can take from this game.

(Asked whether league position is decent considering the (lack of) strength of the squad?) “Yes.

(Asked whether expected in April when won promotion, to be fielding such a team now?)“No.

(Does it make a challenge when having to compete using last season’s Championship team?) “It’s not easy.

“Sometimes you know that there are things you can improve and things you cannot.

“The main thing and positive thing is the attitude of the players, even in training sessions, always trying to improve, that is quite good…

“Even when they come off the bench the majority of them give everything.

“We are in a position which is not easy, which we maybe deserve to be in because of the quality of the teams around us too.

“I think we can stay up if we can keep continue working…obviously now is the transfer window so next question will be – ‘Do you need help.’

“The answer is ‘Yes, we do need help…but we will try to do our best.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Swansea 1


Newcastle: Joselu 68

Swansea: Ayew 60

Possession was Swansea 58% Newcastle 42%

Total shots were  Swansea 8 Newcastle 12

Shots on target were Swansea 5 Newcastle 4

Corners were  Swansea 5 Newcastle 4

Referee: Graham Scott

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey (Merino 82), Atsu, Gayle (Joselu 64), Perez

Unused Subs:

Elliot, Haidara, Manquillo, Hayden, Murphy

Crowd: 51,444 (Swansea 1,100)

(Alan Shearer spells it out after watching Newcastle 1 Swansea 1 – Read it HERE)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Swansea draw HERE)

(Swansea boss says Newcastle lucky to avoid red card, penalty and defeat – Read it HERE)

(Read what Rafa Benitez had to say after the game HERE)


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