Rafa Benitez reveals where he is most desperate to bring in new signings
Rafa Benitez has four weeks to prepare for that first game of the season against Tottenham.
Currently training in Ireland ahead of the first friendly of pre-season on Tuesday, the manager is under no illusions as to how much work is still needed.
As well working with the players he has already got, the fact the transfer window closes in 26 days time is ever more preying on his mind.
When talking about where exactly his squad is now in terms of strength, Rafa Benitez points out that Newcastle at this point are just ‘more or less where they were at the end of last season.
Dubravka’s loan has become a permanent deal, whilst Kenedy is here on another loan arrangement with once again no buying clause/option.
Squad players Gamez and Haidara have been released, whilst the only other change has seen the promise of 22 year old Mikel Merino sold for £10m, and replaced with the experience of 29 year old free transfer Ki Sung-yueng.
I think at best you could say the squad is similar strength to end of last season but in reality, probably slightly weaker as you could have expected Merino to kick on from a first season in the Premier League.
No surprises where Rafa Benitez is desperate to strengthen in these remaining weeks of the window, when asked.
The manager says that as a minimum he needs ‘two or three more offensive players’, as well as ‘a back up in defence, or to improve the defence a little bit.’
Starting with his second point, with Gamez and Haidara leaving, plus Mbemba set to follow them, clearly at least one new signing is needed.
With Lejeune and Lascelles, Newcastle already have two big centre-backs, so the ideal new signing is probably a similar player to Ciaran Clark, in terms of being versatile and being able to play in the middle of the defence and at full-back. Interesting that Rafa does indicate that it isn’t necessarily just a back up that he wants, but potentially somebody who could come in and be in the first eleven.
The big emphasis though for Rafa Benitez, as it is for the fans, is players at the other end of the pitch.
Kenedy is a massive signing but that doesn’t take away from the fact that two new strikers, or a forward and a number 10, are essential.
When your top scorer ends the season on eight goals you know there are major problems.
As for a third new offensive player, there does indeed appear to be substance in Rafa wanting to bring in Andros Townsend. The Palace winger and Matt Ritchie are very different but certainly in terms of goal threat at Premier League level, you would have to say Townsend will give you more.
The big question of course is just how much, or how little, support Rafa Benitez has got from Mike Ashley.
Ashley is currently in profit on summer transfers and Mitrovic and Mbemba are set to bring in £25m+, as well as other players leaving, including potentially Ritchie for around the £15m mark.
That would put Rafa Benitez in credit to the tune of around £45m and so surely the manager has to be back with those three first team offensive signings and another defensive option, as a bare minimum.
Benitez has already pointed out that every club is spending money this summer and so if Newcastle don’t significantly strengthen their squad, they will be as they were at the end of last season, which essentially means going backwards if everybody else around Newcastle improves.
For supporters and manager it is very much black and white in terms of what needs to be done but will Mike Ashley see it that way?
“We have to improve the team and that means improve the squad.
“At the moment we have the same players (as at the end of last season), more or less, that we had before.
“We are in that starting position again (at the moment).
“There are (other) positions that we have to improve, not just a striker.
“Two or three more offensive players, also need a back up in defence, or to improve the defence a little bit.”
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