It has been an upward trajectory for Newcastle United these past two seasons under Rafa Benitez.
Instant promotion as champions in the Championship season, then a tenth place finish last time on the return to the Premier League.
It was though in reality a season long struggle against relegation, no sensible fan could argue it wasn’t.
The 44 points was the lowest ever to get a top half finish in the Premier League. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a successful season but it did distort the end table slightly.
There was some decent football as well at times, a couple of decent runs of form from end of August to mid-October and February to April sealed survival, plus hinted at times of the possibility of maybe better to come – if the squad was strengthened in the right places.
Overall, I think everybody agreed that it had been a good season, due to Rafa Benitez overachieving with the group of players and resources he had available to him.
However, survival can’t be the aim in this coming season.
Survival can’t be seen as equalling success.
Newcastle do of course need to stay in the Premier League but that should be seen as just a by-product that will happen as the club tries to move forward under Rafa Benitez.
Last year was enjoyable, up to a point. A group of players all trying their best and doing as well as anybody could have possibly imagined.
However, we can’t approach things the same this time.
I don’t want to go to games with the only ambition being to get 40 points and avoid relegation.
What is the point in that?
I have no doubt that Rafa Benitez feels the same, he has said it plenty of times in the past.
He wants realistic investment, and the freedom to operate, so that he can get Newcastle competing higher and higher.
A player such as Kenedy sums things up, he won’t get a game for Chelsea but is seen by some fans as the kind of player that is beyond our reach. If Newcastle offered over £15m or so then I think we could/would sign him, if he was being honest when he said he was up for staying/signing permanently.
Whilst there were high points last season, if we are honest there were some real worrying lows, until Kenedy and Dubravka came in and helped with that late run.
Not winning a home game between 21 October 2017 and 11 February 2018 was pure torture, plus really struggling to score goals.
Without better creative players and goalscorers next season, such as Kenedy etc, it would almost certainly be another tough watch.
It doesn’t have to be this way, even just two or three key signings could totally change expectations and have everybody looking froward to the new season.
Mike Ashley clearly sees PL survival as success, as it ticks the boxes of Premier League revenue and PL worldwide TV exposure, but it (survival) can’t be enough for our club and fans.
Next May we could still end up grateful that Newcastle stayed up but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aiming for something far better ahead of the season.
Without everybody pulling in the same direction at NUFC and sharing the same dreams, there is no chance of success. The fans and Rafa Benitez share those same dreams/aspirations but as usual, Mike Ashley is on a different page.