The words of Rafa Benitez from eight months are now ringing true.
As Mike Ashley continued to break his ‘promises’ to help his manager in the summer 2017 transfer window, Rafa became increasingly animated about the situation.
Despite the Ashley statement that Rafa Benitez could have ‘every last penny’ to invest in the squad the Newcastle manager instead found himself having to shop for bargains.
As a promoted club this was crippling, with even Huddersfield and Brighton having tens of millions more net spend than Newcastle United.
A much hyped Mike Ashley interview was announced to be broadcast on Sky Sports after the opening game against Spurs, with it made clear this was the owner’s latest episode in trying to win a bizarre PR battle against his own manager, after Rafa had repeatedly gone public with his unhappiness on lack of transfer backing.
Getting his retaliation in early, the United boss did an interview ahead of that first game of the season, making clear what the reality was.
Rafa Benitez – 9 August 2017:
“The name of the manager doesn’t matter, it is about the team.
“If you have the right tools you can compete…
“When you have a very strong team, then it doesn’t matter if the manager isn’t good enough, because you can still win.
“I don’t like to talk too much about managers – the thing that matters most is the players.”
When January came around, just like the midway window a year earlier, Mike Ashley refused to allow Rafa Benitez to buy any players.
However, the Newcastle boss did identify better quality that he could bring in on loan.
To sum up how much better he thought his loan signings were, Rafa put Kenedy into his team as soon as he arrived starring in the 1-1 draw with Burnley. Newcastle’s best player and biggest threat throughout, United would surely have won if Joselu hadn’t fluffed the penalty that Kenedy won.
Then Dubravka was thrown right in the deep end, making his debut against Man Utd, a man of the match performance as Newcastle won all three points and kept a clean sheet.
These are the last eight games, with latest first, since Kenedy and then Dubravka (and Slimani) arrived:
Newcastle 1 Huddersfield 0
Newcastle 3 Southampton 0
Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0
Bournemouth 2 Newcastle 2
Newcastle 1 Man Utd 0
Crystal Palace 1 Newcastle 1
Newcastle 1 Burnley 1
Having added better quality (‘Right Tools’) in January, Kenedy and Dubravka have had a massive influence on performances and results.
The last eight Premier League games with Kenedy playing eight and Dubravka six, have produced 15 points.
The first 24 PL games this season had produced only 23 points.
Newcastle going from picking up on average one point per game, to suddenly picking up only a fraction under two points per match with the loan signings.
Also, up until the January additions, the only teams Newcastle had beat were relegation strugglers.
However, recent weeks have seen winds over both second placed Man Utd and eighth placed Leicester.
Rafa Benitez is a very talented coach/manager but as even he insists, he can only do so much when he has a certain level of player available.
Dubravka and Kenedy have made a massive difference at both the front and back, with it being an urgent job to tie them down to permanent moves in the summer.
With those two and another couple of ‘right tools’ added in the next transfer window, who knows where Rafa Benitez might take us…?