Predictably, Rafa Benitez has found himself in the spotlight this season.
No wonder, a Champions League winning, double La Liga and twice Europa League successful, now managing a team that currently sits 19th in the Premier League.
I have seen ‘experts’ suggesting that Rafa’s tactics are ‘outdated’ now.
I have seen a growing number of journalists claiming that Newcastle’s problems so far with results this season, may be a lot down to the tactics employed by the NUFC boss.
I have even noticed a very small minority of Newcastle fans also going down this line, whether easily influenced by what they read, or just trying to stand out by saying something that gets attention.
I agree that there is a debate to be had about Rafa’s tactics BUT not in terms of how they influence results.
Personally, I would like Newcastle to come out and play more on the front foot, to try and give me a bit more entertainment.
However, Rafa Benitez is tasked with trying to keep Newcastle United in the Premier League, rather than trying to keep me amused.
In these games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Tottenham, whatever tactics had been used, I doubt very much whether we would have had a single point more.
I would have had relatively more attacking formations/tactics if it had been my choice, and Newcastle might have created a few more chances and scored one or two more goals, but the opposition would have scored even more and it would have still been four defeats.
If Newcastle United are relegated, it won’t be Rafa’s tactics to blame, it will be down to the quality of player he had available to put on the pitch.
Obviously I expect Newcastle to be a bit more attacking against Crystal Palace this afternoon but we don’t magically have top quality players suddenly available. Hopefully the likes of Shelvey, Lascelles and Rondon will all start but they aren’t top class stars who can transform our team into something it isn’t.
It says something when it is such a disappointment that £9.5m signing Muto has done nothing so far, a bit like Murphy last summer, expectations are unrealistic of our ‘big’ signing, only ‘big’ because so little has been spent. Huddersfield spent almost twice as much (as the Muto fee) on a defender this summer, Bournemouth spent three times as much (as Muto fee) on a defensive midfielder.
Apart from Muto, Newcastle’s six other signings cost £15m, that is why NUFC may well be relegated.
To say that somebody else could come in and do better with different tactics, using the same players, is laughable.
It is like saying the Titanic wouldn’t have sank if it had employed a different captain who’d turned the deckchairs around.
Cardiff City are expected to go down because they have a squad that isn’t great quality and didn’t cost a lot to put together.
They finished above Fulham last season in the Championship but because of their relative spending, the places where the two managers were allowed to shop, it is Fulham who are expected to stay up.
Why are Newcastle United any different?
A massive number of players left NUFC after relegation and Rafa Benitez was forced to recruit 12 new players that (2016) summer, players bought specifically to get out of the Championship. Taking away the money spent on Ritchie and Gayle, the other 10 players brought in that summer cost a little over £30m. Not much more than £3m per player, what do you get for that these days?
At the time Rafa said specifically that that was a team to get out of the Championship, with then a very different team needed to deal with the Championship.
If the manager had been backed with three Premier League quality players, as well as a few squad signings last (2017) summer, then the same in this latest (2018 summer) window, then we would have the basis of a team that could start progressing in the top tier.
Instead, the manager has had to sign cheap/cheaper players just to make sure Newcastle had a squad, with things getting really ridiculous this summer, as a £20m+ profit was made and Rafa Benitez forced to heavily rely on loans, free transfers, and next to nothing spent on buys.
Tactics only go so far, the team who have the best players invariably win games, not the ones with the best tactics. Occasionally you get the odd better result and the manager CAN make a difference – but he can’t score and create the goals – you need the quality on the pitch to do that.