Rafa Benitez believes that what his Newcastle players have done this season is ‘massive’ but the United manager is keen to spell out the reality.
The record books will show a top half finish for Newcastle United in 2017/18 and the supporters are understandably ecstatic with that.
A promoted team, a manager forced to shop in the bargain basement, ends up higher in the Premier League than eight established PL clubs and the two who were promoted alongside NUFC, but managers who received massive backing in the transfer market compared to Rafa Benitez.
The Newcastle boss is not fooled and knows he needs proper support in the transfer market and not just PR statements from the owner once again promising ‘every penny’.
Rafa Benitez knows that his squad have been very fortunate with injuries this season and the squad needs significant strengthening, the last few months of the season saw Rafa relying on the same 11 players week in week out, with nobody capable of coming in and matching what they could give. Plus that 11 players included two (Kenedy and Dubravka) who were only on loan.
The table can be deceptive as well, last season Southampton finished eighth but still sacked Claude Puel, on the surface that appeared bizarre as they had only dropped from 6th to 8th but they had actually dropped 17 points from that previous 2015/16 season. The table last season (2016/17) ended up with only six points separating Southampton in eighth and Watford who ended up 17th, one place off relegation.
Rafa Benitez points out the reality: ‘It is not enough just to finish tenth with four or five teams around you. What I would like is to be sure that the team is able to compete to finish above tenth.’
If things had worked out differently on Sunday, Newcastle could have ended the season as low as 15th. Indeed they finished ahead of Palace and Bournemouth only on goal difference, whilst only four points separated NUFC in 10th and Brighton in 15th.
That is not to say the fans can’t enjoy the 10th place finish but Rafa Benitez is clearly warning Mike Ashley that the top half finish also includes an element of luck, both in terms of staying free from injuries and a few vital results that tipped the balance.
Plenty of room for optimism BUT only if Rafa Benitez stays AND is backed properly.
“It is not enough just to finish tenth with four or five teams around you.
“What I would like is to be sure that the team is able to compete to finish above tenth.
“That means having the right quality, the right mentality, the right level throughout the whole season, not just for some performances.
“This group of players have done so well, so it would be easy to say, ‘OK, you are already in the top ten’…we have to do something more to make sure that the group is stronger and more competitive.
“That we can go to any stadium and think about going to win, rather than thinking that a draw might be a good result.
“We have to have the confidence in our team, to be able to go anywhere thinking that we can win.
“It is clear what we need.
“We have a couple of players on loan who are leaving and a couple of players who have finished their contract as well (Jesus Gamez and Massadio Haidara), you need to sign players to be sure you have a good squad with competition.
“You need competition and enough levels within the squad, to make sure you can approach any game thinking you can win.
“It can’t be the case that when you miss one or two players the team is not the same, we need a squad that has to be capable of competing in the Premier League.
“What the players did last season and what they have done this season is massive, and the fans appreciate this togetherness, that relationship we have created.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 3 Chelsea 0
Newcastle: Gayle 23, Perez 59, 63
Possession was Chelsea 58% Newcastle 48%
Total shots were Chelsea 6 Newcastle 16
Shots on target were Chelsea 2 Newcastle 6
Corners were Chelsea 2 Newcastle 4
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie (Hayden 72), Shelvey, Diame (Haidara 87), Murphy, Perez, Gayle (Joselu 48)
Darlow, Manquillo, Gamez, Merino
Crowd: 52,294 (3,000 Chelsea)
(Alan Shearer reacts after end of season 3-0 hammering of Chelsea – Read HERE)
(Sunday night’s Match of the Day Running order is HERE)
(Read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the victory HERE)
(Kenedy post emotional farewell message to Newcastle United – Read it HERE)
(Breaking News: Mike Ashley releases statement asking Rafa Benitez to stay at Newcastle United – Read it HERE)