Rafa Benitez wasn’t a happy man on Saturday night.
The Newcastle boss having watched his team fail to really get going throughout the ninety minutes and indeed, the United boss said that from the first minute he could tell that things were not right.
However, as usual, he isn’t one to either milk it when Newcastle win, or go overboard when they lose.
He will of course be no doubt going over and over in his head as to what did go wrong and in particular what he could have done better/differently.
With the intention of learning from that when the players go back to the training ground this week.
Whilst it is disappointing to lose games like Saturday’s and last Monday at Everton, it isn’t the end of the world is it?
With relegation no longer in the equation, this run-in to the end of the season was simply a chance to see if Newcastle could finish as high as eighth potentially.
Of course we have the odd drama queen, both at the match and on social media/online.
No doubt the same people who were calling this Newcastle team the new Real Madrid/Brazil after beating Leicester and Arsenal, are the same ones saying the entire NUFC side is rubbish after losing to Everton and West Brom.
The truth for normal people is that Rafa’s current team is somewhere in between and that was reflected at the game yesterday.
There was talk of booing at the final whistle but if there was it can’t have been many people, as I didn’t hear anything. I did hear plenty of moans and groans during the game, particularly during the later stages, which is just the usual frustration any set of football fans show when their team don’t have a clue how to break down the opposition. Jacob Murphy was a little unfortunate to get a decent number of the moans/groans, a late sub and guilty of probably trying too hard, meaning he ended up losing/wasting the ball a few times.
Apart from pride and a few extra quid in the club coffers (and player bonuses), these last five or six games are surely only really useful in terms of helping the club prepare for next season.
Games where Rafa Benitez can look at players and formations, to decide what he wants to go with in August, Islam Slimani somebody he looked to have already made a decision on when dropping him to the bench after only one start. Doing nothing then as a sub, apart from kicking out at West Brom’s Dawson and looking sure to now get a retrospective ban ruling him out of the last three games, will only help Rafa’s decision.
Losing these last couple of battles on the pitch, could actually though be a long-term blessing in disguise, helping Rafa Benitez and the Newcastle fans to win the longer game ‘war’.
Repeatedly in the past, we have seen the bizarre policy of Mike Ashley spending less when the team are doing well and then more when really struggling.
That fifth place in 2011/12 not being built on as only Vurnon Anita came in and even that was paid for by selling off the likes of Fraser Forster.
Whereas then significant money was spent in January 2013 with relegation threatened. As was the case to even greater effect, when all the club’s cash Ashley had stockpiled over numerous windows of allowing the squad to get weaker and weaker, was then all blown on the 2015/16 relegation season. Graham Carr and Mike Ashley bringing in the wrong players and then handing them over to Steve McClaren to mismanage – some £80m was spent/wasted in the summer 2015 and January 2016 windows.
It is just a total joke when you then see how Ashley has treated Rafa Benitez, the Spaniard actually having made the owner/club a profit in the transfer market, whilst building a promotion team AND getting a top half position currently in the Premier League.
Just like our daft extreme of fans though, no doubt with each extra win masterminded by Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley has been thinking increasingly how little he can get away with in terms of transfer budget for next season.
The truth is that without some new better quality signings, Newcastle will once again be in a relegation battle next season. I bet Rafa has made that clear already to Ashley/Charnley but this winning run simply helps to convince themselves that the manager is exaggerating.
I actually don’t think any of our starting eleven against West Brom are total write-offs, it is more a case of thinking that apart from a very small group of players, which includes Kenedy and Dubravka who aren’t even ours yet, that pretty much every position could be improved on significantly.
That isn’t to say we have to have say seven new first team starters next season but Newcastle can’t blindly walk into next season thinking this eleven who produced four wins in a row recently, can automatically reproduce that form over an extended period next season.
West Brom fans could go the same way if only looking at their last four games, wins at Newcastle and Man Utd, plus coming back to draw 2-2 against Liverpool, as well as drawing with Swansea.
It is sadly the case that with Mike Ashley, Rafa Benitez will have a massively stronger chance of proper investment if the owner is convinced that money needs to be spent to avoid likely relegation, rather than as a means to build on a promising second half of the season.
Even more importantly, losing a few matches towards the end of this season, should surely help convince even Mike Ashley that Rafa Benitez has performed a minor miracle with this group of players.
The defeat to West Brom surely rubber stamping that, as the truth to me is that the Baggies probably have a squad that is of a similar quality to Newcastle’s but it is one that has been massively mismanaged, by Alan Pardew in particular. Rondon and Rodriguez being prime examples, clearly West Brom having better striking options than what Rafa has had with such limited transfer backing.
We all knew that once safety was assured, the biggest battles for Newcastle United would, as usual, be taking place off the pitch.
Good luck Rafa.