The year in the Championship went relatively smoothly for Rafa Benitez.
With a lot of rats desperate to leave a sinking ship, massive money was generated by sales of the likes of Sissoko, Janmaat, Townsend and Wijanaldum. In addition, the wage bill was also slashed as others such as Coloccini, Obertan, Steven Taylor, Marveaux etc finally left as their contracts ended.
This allowed Rafa Benitez to spend around £50m on remodelling his squad for the Championship challenge AS WELL AS delivering Mike Ashley a £40m profit on transfers in summer 2016.
Able to wheel and deal and bring in players quickly, Benitez got rapidly on with his preparations and the net result was going straight back up as champions.
However, this time around, Rafa Benitez has had a more ‘interesting’ season as manager of Newcastle United.
Undermined by the club’s owner in both transfer windows, as well as very unhelpful media use by Ashley to try and ‘win’ a PR battle against his own manager [after Rafa went public about transfer ‘promises not being kept] – especially the infamous Sky Sports interview.
This was then topped, when after Rafa had delivered an excellent opening two months of results and a place in the top eight, Mike Ashley then put Newcastle United up for sale mid-season.
A circus then followed week after week of press coverage over whether a takeover would go ahead, this then coincided with a shocking run of results. A nine game run seeing Newcastle lose eight of them and only pick up one point from 27 – putting Newcastle in the relegation zone in December.
Jamaal Lascelles this weeks said [see below] that the potential takeover was a distraction for some players and potentially did affect form/results.
Rafa Benitez has now said that he was surprised by his captain’s comments but accepts that maybe there is truth in what he has said.
However, the United boss says that the takeover distraction can’t be used as an ‘excuse’ by anybody.
That those defeats were down to mistakes or the opposition being the better team, or a combination of the two things.
Certainly Newcastle did have some tough matches such as Chelsea and Arsenal away in that shocking run of nine games – but at the same time, to lose to Bournemouth, Watford, Everton and Leicester, four home matches in a row, was totally unacceptable.
What is for sure, is that any club has a better chance of success when everybody is pushing in the same direction.
We have that now with manager, players and fans, new owners is the only box left to tick.
“Maybe the takeover talk was a distraction for him (Jamaal Lascelles).
“Maybe for some other players, but for me, it is not an excuse.
“The reason we were not doing well [late October to late December] is because we made mistakes…
“Or because the other team were better than us.
“I was surprised [Jamaal Lascelles] he said this.
“But maybe it was for some players. “
The Mag Thursday 29 March 2018 – Jamaal Lascelles speaking to The Telegraph:
“Newcastle United does feel like a stable club at the minute.
“We have got a manager who trusts us and he wants to be here, the fans are with him, so that is really important for the players.
“Now that the stuff with the owner and the takeover has died down, that helps.
“Whether it was going to happen or it wasn’t going to happen, it is less to think about as a player.
“We now know we are in a stable environment at a stable club.
“You might not really think about it much, but it [takeover talk] probably did have an effect on some individuals.
“Of course, as a player you don’t want to be in a team where there is loads of paper talk about stuff not related to us.
“You don’t want anything negative coming out.
“Everything is running smooth now, everything is positive, and I think it is just down to us to make sure we keep the fans happy.”