Each summer I look at Newcastle United.
The players that come and go and what we end up with.
To me it is simple, it’s essential you keep all of your best players, then if you can do that, the challenge is to bring in better quality to improve your first team.
Hopefully then keeping those that drop out of the first eleven, so you improve your bench and knock the weaker subs off that, and so on.
Losing any of your best players is usually catastrophic.
It is like starting a match by kicking the ball in your own net from kick-off, plus it instantly sends a big negative message out to any decent players who you might be trying to convince to come in.
Even Newcastle United couldn’t get the Martin Dubravka deal wrong. They had to activate the £4m buying clause by the end of May and there was never really any doubt he would be staying.
As for Kenedy, we ended last season with high hopes that a major move would be made to buy him, the Brazilian having given the team that attacking wildcard they’d lacked.
Those hopes of buying Kenedy basically fell off a cliff and that looked to be that.
Luckily, the player enjoyed it here and we have Rafa Benitez, those two factors enough to get him on loan again. I still think it is rubbish we didn’t even try to buy, especially when you then see Fulham spending £30m on Jean Michael Seri, but at least we have Kenedy for what is going to be a massive challenge this coming season.
Obviously they have only played 12 or 13 games each and we can’t say for sure they will keep it up but fair to say Dubravka was outstanding when he arrived on loan, whilst Kenedy was easily our best attacking player.
I think both of them set a standard as to what we have to aim for in the rest of the first eleven. They aren’t superstars (yet) but what they are, is very good quality Premier League players, based on what we’ve seen so far. Two players that I am more than happy with and can’t see Newcastle able to attract/afford better, certainly at the minute.
I think we then have another four who fall into that category, based on last season.
I believe the Lejeune and Lascelles partnership could be developing into an absolutely cracking one.
Lascelles is commanding and a very good leader, whilst the Frenchman looked more and more assured and is very good on the ball. If they carry on this season as they ended the last, then no way could we bring in better than them.
The other two of my six are another partnership.
Shelvey and Diame have more Premier League experience than any others in that team who played so well from February onwards.
It was a strange one because the opening half of the season saw Jonjo Shelvey struggling for form and Mohamed Diame nowhere really. When the former Senegal international did get the odd game he looked even worse than he had in the Championship.
However, something just clicked. The reality was that these two were players who Rafa Benitez should have been able to rely on as key men on the return to the Premier League.
They had both did the business in the top tier previously and when they eventually clicked, they never looked back.
Always dangerous to assume that anything will carry on from one season to the next but in their case, there really shouldn’t be any doubts.
It was also a massive bonus (for Newcastle) that Southgate ignored Shelvey, whilst Diame retired from international football to concentrate on Newcastle. They should be in great condition for when the Premier League kicks off and ready to get revenge on Spurs for last season, their entire first team have had full on World Cup campaigns, no reason why Shelvey & Diame can’t do the same job as they did against Kante and co. on the final day of last season – when hammering Chelsea 3-0.
As for the rest of Newcastle’s best eleven, as it stands, I don’t think any of them are bad players, but there is a desperate need to still do upgrades on at least two or three of them this summer.
Dummett, Yedlin, Perez, Ritchie and Gayle are all decent but we need better quality in two or three of those positions. The other six (Lascelles, Kenedy etc) set the standard and we need to end this transfer window with at least eight or nine of their quality.
At the same time we need to still keep whoever drops out of the first eleven, as undoubtedly there is a desperate need for a better squad, as well as the team that starts.
This is a crucial time for both the club and Rafa, if he gets the right backing now, he can really take this team places.