Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have been discussing Rafa Benitez.
The pair chatting on Sky Sports about the Newcastle manager following the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
Much said about the tactics used in Sunday’s game and the two former players coming up with some pretty strange conclusions.
Both Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher not liking the tactics used by Rafa, which is fair enough, but then using Sunday’s match as a basis for suggesting why ‘top’ clubs such as Arsenal wouldn’t want him as manager these days, which is not (fair enough).
The thing is, Manchester City last season was an extreme, not the norm for Rafa Benitez and Newcastle.
The game at St James Park which attracted so much attention last season because of the tactics, fell in the middle of a very busy Christmas/New Year period with four games over a nine day stretch.
As well as the change of tactics against Man City, Rafa made a number of changes, playing the likes of Aarons, Murphy and Mbemba, whilst resting players such as Ritchie.
Newcastle of course emerged from that home Man City match with just a 1-0 loss, almost grabbing a point late on.
However, the other three games in that festive nine day stretch saw Newcastle pick up seven points from nine against relegation rivals, winning at West Ham and Stoke, plus a draw at home to Brighton. With such a weak squad, no wonder Rafa Benitez chose to prioritise the other games. Also, Newcastle didn’t beat Stoke and West Ham via all out defence in those games, they scored four goals in total and had a combined 25 shots in these two away matches.
Also, if you look at games such as Man Utd and Chelsea last season, Rafa Benitez beat both of them by going on the offensive, playing a higher pressing game because he felt able to do so due to players he had available and what they could give at that point.
Gary Neville quotes the example of Bournemouth as an example of ‘more progressive’ football than the likes of Newcastle United.
It’s funny how people can still see, maybe subconsciously, Newcastle as a big club, but don’t recognise just how severely Mike Ashley is limiting the ambitions of Rafa and the fans.
I really like Eddie Howe but he has a very rich owner who is doing everything he can to make the club successful, including in the transfer market.
Last summer (2017) the Cherries spent £20m on defender Nathan Ake, this summer they have spent over £25m on defensive midfielder Jefferson Lerma.
In contrast, very rich Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has made a transfer profit this summer of around £25m and hasn’t allowed Rafa Benitez to spend more than £10m on any player in the three transfer windows since returning to the Premier League.
Rafa Benitez has wanted a new first choice centre-forward ever since promotion but last summer was restricted to £5m Stoke reserve Joselu and this time, despite selling Mitrovic for £22m (could rise to £7m) was only allowed to bring in £2m loan signing Rondon.
I like the look of Rondon as in I think he will hopefully do ok and looks strong BUT does anybody honestly think that if Benitez was allowed to shop in the £22m+ market, the West Brom striker would have been his choice?!!
Rafa Benitez isn’t the most attacking of managers but with the right personnel his teams can play good progressive football, as well as being built on a solid base at the back.
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher speaking on Sky Sports on Monday night:
“I keep hearing people say you’ve got to have a go. What does have a go mean? Having a go to me means pressing the ball and being aggressive.
“You may not have the quality when you get the ball and the runners might not make the right runs to cause a team problems, but that was my problem with Newcastle last season and the difference with Wolves [against Manchester City].
“It’s not a massive difference, just the mentality of how to press the ball and doing it a lot higher. If you do that you might have more opportunities to go forward.
“The thing about Rafa, who I had as a manager for six years and is probably my biggest influence in football, I actually look at where the game is going and how people perceive you as a coach.
“We spoke last week about how Unai Emery wants to play and it’s fine, that’s how the top teams play and the top coaches want to play. But someone like Rafael Benitez with his actual CV of what he has done, winning two La Liga titles, the European Cup, a European trophy with Chelsea and trophies pretty much everywhere.
“Why wasn’t he actually in the running or interviewed for the Arsenal job with his great experience of the Premier League? It may be along the lines of where the game’s going and how it’s perceived.”
“What I would say, and I’ve seen this now over the last six to 12 months, there is definitely an attitude change towards what would be the more pragmatic coaches, towards what would be the more progressive coaches.
“There is an attitude change from fans, who are paying more and I think they are demanding more progressive football. They realise the likes of say, Bournemouth, who are playing what you would describe as progressive football, can stay in the Premier League. You don’t need to be 4-4-2, you don’t need to be deep, you don’t need to be behind the ball, you don’t need to play long ball and direct.
“Owners are thinking more of their brand, sponsorship, social media and the way their club is presented. The younger coaches are now a lot more progressive and more often than not so are the players.
“We wouldn’t have minded sitting in a 4-4-2 and dogging a game out. Players are far less willing to do that nowadays. They want to play in a team that’s expansive and has more progressive football, more progressive ideas.”