Rafa Benitez conducted yet another press conference on Friday afternoon, where he had to field numerous questions on signings, or rather the lack of them.
The January transfer window ends on Wednesday and still we only have the inexperienced Kenedy who has arrived, that is only on a short-term loan and he has only ever started four Premier League matches in his career so far, with only 90 minutes of league football in the last 21 months.
Yes there is still time for Mike Ashley to ‘back’ Rafa Benitez but you do have to question why it has been left so late, if indeed anything of substance is to happen.
Whilst Mike Ashley’s PR people were leaking to the press that Newcastle were making moves to sign a ‘£20m striker’, their relegation rivals have just been getting on and actually signing players.
Both Brighton (£14m Locadia) and Huddersfield (£12m Pritchard) have once again broken their transfer records with deals this month, Huddersfield also bringing in Terence Kongolo in on loan from Monaco.
Stoke have also now brought in two players, whilst Crystal Palace have done the same this week. Southampton have completed a deal for around £20m to bring attacking player Guido Carrillo to St Mary’s, whilst West Ham have brought in Joao Mario on loan, a midfielder who cost Inter Milan £35m only 18 months ago.
As a promoted club the situation was particularly important in the Summer for Newcastle, yet Mike Ashley refused to properly back the manager, as Huddersfield and Brighton had net spends far higher than NUFC.
So for Rafa Benitez, after doing a remarkable job of keeping Newcastle relatively competitive in the first half of the season with what is basically a Championship team, he wanted to leave nobody under any illusions about what had to happen this month.
This is what Rafa Benitez had to say on 22 December 2017:
“I have confidence that Mike Ashley will deliver what we need to stay in the Premier League before January 20, to be sure that we have time to work with the new players.
“I don’t know the budget that I have, so we don’t know how much we can spend…
“…we have to do things as quickly as possible.
“I have the belief and the confidence in Mike Ashley, that by January 15 or 20, we have to be there with everything done.”
The bottom line is that Rafa Benitez has already been let down by Mike Ashley, yet again, it is now only a question of how badly he has been undermined by the owner.
When the January transfer window opened, there were still 17 Premier League games remaining, by next Sunday night (4 February) there will only be 12 matches for Rafa Benitez to save us from relegation.
If any play is bought in (or on loan) in the next few days there is no way he will be involved on Wednesday night against Burnley, whilst I think the best you could hope for Palace away next Sunday is that any such signing would potentially make the bench.
Rafa didn’t just pluck those dates of 15 January and 20 January out of the air. As we all know, he is a very methodical manager who uses tried and tested ways of doing things thanks to his vast experience. He will always be planning ahead and assessing the best way of doing things, what is possible and what is not.
In the Summer Mike Ashley made very clear that he was unhappy with Rafa Benitez going public and criticising the lack of action of transfers.
If we still hold out hope of decent transfer action this month from Mike Ashley, it is hard not to believe that Ashley has deliberately punished Benitez by making him sweat, after Rafa had the audacity to give him those deadlines of when signings had to be made by.
The thing is as well, matches such as these next two against Burnley and Palace are massive for Newcastle, Burnley because it is such a winnable game with their results having fallen off a cliff (two points from last 18) after reaching relative safety so early, whilst Palace are a big relegation rival and at least avoiding defeat is essential to avoid them potentially pulling themselves out of it.
Imagine unleashing a new record transfer striker (and other buys…) against those two, with the new players having had the benefit of two or three weeks settling in and gradually getting game time?
It would have given everybody a huge lift, rather than the position we are now left with.
As always, Rafa Benitez having to make the best of a bad job.
I saw there was a poll on The Mag asking Newcastle fans if they though a signing would come in for £15m or more this month, a massive 83% saying they didn’t think it would happen.
I was one of that 83%, lets hope we are all proved wrong and very belatedly Rafa gets some assistance from the Fat Controller.