With any ambitious plans blocked by Mike Ashley in the summer, Rafa Benitez was forced to put his hopes for goals on the shoulders of loan striker Salomon Rondon.
Despite selling Mitrovic for £22m (rising to £27m), the Newcastle manager wasn’t backed with cash to bring in a similar priced signing, or indeed anybody that would cost a fee of even half that.
To then compound the problems of lack of investment, arguments over cash for even the loan deal, meant that Rondon arrived so late he took no part in pre-season and didn’t play a single minute in pre-season friendlies for his new temporary club.
Quite ridiculous when this was the striker Newcastle would be mainly relying on to avert disaster, particularly with Rafa forced to allow Dwight Gayle to go the other way if he was indeed to land even Salomon Rondon.
Clearly unfit in his early sparse appearances, Rafa Benitez confirming also this after the striker’s injury at Crystal Palace, Rondon is now working his way back to full fitness.
Rafa threw the 29 year old back into action last weekend, seeing little option but to do anything else, Newcastle looking so poor up front that even an obviously not fully fit Salomon Rondon was worth a try – Perez dropped.
The Newcastle manager admits the plan was to only play Rondon for 70 minutes maximum but with all three subs used by the 52nd minute due to injury, he had to play the full 90.
Newcastle somehow still secured the win and now Rafa is hoping to get the added bonus of Salomon Rondon stripping fitter on Saturday, due to the extra work he had to put in against Watford.
Whilst he struggled to get involved a lot against Watford, failing with his one good chance when putting a header tamely wide, Newcastle desperately need Rondon to show more of the glimpses he has sown in certain matches, particularly the strength and ability to hold the ball up which he displayed in a lone role against Manchester City, including helping to make Yedlin’s goal.
A big team effort needed tomorrow and with Salomon Rondon at the sharp end, Newcastle desperately need him to start hitting top form.
Rafa Benitez on Salomon Rondon:
“I think it will benefit him to have played for 90 minutes.
“Even if it isn’t what we were planning…
“His match fitness is still not ideal, and we were maybe expecting him to play just 70 minutes or something like that, against Watford.
“He (instead) had to play 90 minutes after the injuries we had.
“He was working very hard and giving us something different.
“Then, during this week, he has been training and,even though we thought he would be tired, he has been doing really, really well.
“With all that, I think it was only a good thing for him to have played 90 minutes last week.
“Hopefully we will see that on Saturday.”