Can this dynamic duo make the difference at Newcastle United?
In this instance, the pair in question are Salomon Rondon and Yoshinori Muto.
We don’t need to regurgitate all the reasons, but Rafa Benitez ended up not having his new striking options available for any part of pre-season, due to Mike Ashley insistence on making signjng targets as difficult as possible.
The net result being that Newcastle have started their opening two Premier League matches with the more familiar Ayoze Perez and Joselu up front.
Rondon got the final 31 minutes against Spurs, whilst Muto has had 34 minutes in total – nine in the Tottenham game and 25 minutes at Cardiff.
Obviously 65 minutes isn’t a lot to go on so far but fair to say that all eyes are on these two players.
If you have a reasonably functional team, then a dynamic front pair can transform that into a positive situation.
Always hard to judge when playing one of the better clubs such as Spurs, but when you are up against the relegation favourites, you can make some kind of judgement on the likes of Joselu and Perez.
Last season Newcastle struggled for goals and this time it looks as though that is guaranteed once again, unless Muto and Rondon can make the difference.
Against Cardiff, Newcastle had next to no threat up front, Cardiff’s defence were hardly troubled. The Welsh side looked incredibly average and with Newcastle having picked up most of their points last season from fellow strugglers, it doesn’t bode well.
When we asked Newcastle fans pre-Cardiff who they would have in their team, the results showed 94% selecting Rondon in their team and only 9% Joselu.
That doesn’t mean Rafa was wrong with his team selection and fans were necessarily proved correct BUT for supporters to overwhelmingly give that reaction even though Joselu scored in the previous match, it does tell you how little faith there is in the goalscoring options of last season.
In that Cardiff match Newcastle looked incredibly poor, taking into account the opposition. The score wasn’t a complete disaster but the massive worry is that at no stage of the game were Rafa’s team in control. The home side dominated for spells whilst the rest of the game was largely made up of aimless hoofs up the pitch, from both sides.
Without quality up front it makes it so difficult (impossible?) for the rest of the team and very likely this was a key factor at Cardiff.
Both players have shown varying degrees of promise in their brief sub appearances and indeed Muto looked to have won the game on Saturday when winning that last gasp penalty.
The only question now is how quickly Rafa Benitez presses the button, judges the time is right to play both Rondon and Muto, even though he is likely to stagger it initially, starting with one and then eventually pairing the two of the new signings.
Only at that point will we get a firmer idea of what lies ahead this season and whether Rafa has worked some transfer magic on such a desperately low/non-existent budget.
With Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal up next, no decision looks easy for the Newcastle manager.
When people dismiss concerns about not landing transfer targets early in a window, maybe now they will appreciate just how crucial it can prove to be.
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