Rafa Benitez has been reflecting on what might have been this summer…
The Newcastle Manager saying he had planned to have all of his major targets signed early in the summer transfer window and then be able to train with them for a month or more, ensuring they were integrated and team was ready to hit the ground running on Saturday, when Spurs visit St James Park.
Instead…Rafa once again was left with little option to start with a team of players who were with him in the Championship, the exception being Joselu, which tells its own story.
Even by Mike Ashley standards, this transfer window has hit real rock bottom in terms of failure to support the manager.
Whether Rafa has managed to conjure up some gems from such a meagre budget (only Florian Lejeune was a regular in the second half of last season, from the six summer 2017 signings) remains to be seen – but little doubt he has been left shopping for bargains as per last season.
This is the third window where Rafa Benitez has been desperate for a new first choice centre-forward and the manager has already said that for all positions he has had to go some way down his list of preferences.
Salomon Rondon was pictured in a Tyneside hotel on Sunday and is reported to have had a medical already. This is more positive news but still an absolute joke in terms of the fact that it has taken until this point for a deal to happen, meaning the striker has taken no part at all in pre-season games and training.
As for the fact that Newcastle have sold a striker for £22m (could rise to £27m) and yet the manager isn’t allowed to shop at that same level for a replacement, is soul destroying for both manager and fans.
When asked whether what has happened in this transfer window has been what was needed, Rafa Benitez doesn’t hold back: ‘Is it enough? I don’t think so.’
The United boss makes clear that his message for Mike Ashley was that whilst Newcastle did finish 10th last season, ‘the margin was very narrow.’
Even on the last day of the season, if results had gone differently then Newcastle could have ended up 15th.
Plus, I don’t think any fan will pretend that it wasn’t a season of relegation struggle until the last couple of wins in that February to April run of five victories in seven games, which was massively built on the fact/luck that loan signings Kenedy and Dubravka were so good, despite having hardly any time with their new teammates before in desperation, Rafa had to throw them into the starting eleven.
Can Rondon, Muto and hopefully a couple of more signings yet to be made, manage to do a similar job, be able to make a more or less instant impact?
With a team who have looked so poor to average in the friendlies and not managed a goal in the last four and a half hours of match action, Rafa has some work to do this week with both established players and new signings.
It remains to be seen whether he has been dealt a situation which turns out to be mission impossible. If the likes of Pardew, McClaren or Carver were in charge then the situation would be truly desperate, at least with Rafa in the final year of his Newcastle contract there is still hope.
“We (Rafa and his coaching staff) are trying to improve what we have at the moment, we are trying now but maybe it is a little bit late.
“I will try to be realistic and not optimistic or pessimistic,
“My idea was that at this stage of pre-season, everything would be completed, the team would be ready and you will have been working with your players for one month or whatever.
“That is not the case but we are (still) trying to improve the squad.
“Is it enough?
“I don’t think so.
“Is it enough to compete and try to win games?
“We will do it. With this team, we finished 10th, but the margin was very narrow.
“That was my point and we were ready (at the start of last season), we were working hard to do things the right way.
“We are where we are and will try to do our best to bring in the best players we can get (in these last few days) to improve the competition.
“Will it be more difficult than last year?
“I think so. Fulham, Wolves and Cardiff are spending money…everybody has spent some money.”