Rafa Benitez should walk away now to pressure Mike Ashley – I said this in the Summer and same still applies now
Newcastle’s 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on boxing day was the biggest loss under Rafa Benitez as manager of United. It has been well documented that during his managerial reign so far, Rafa Benitez has avoided the team being on the receiving end of the sort of whoopings which became all too frequent under the likes of Alan Pardew and Steve McClaren.
By keeping the scoreline down, so to speak, it has meant that fans have often taken this as a positive from games in which we never thought we would have a chance of winning anyway. It is a sad indictment of the club at the moment that the main positive we seem to be taking away from some games is, ‘oh well we didn’t get beat by too many and that may be beneficial come the end of the season.’
It also brings about a strange case in which we continue to praise Rafa Benitez for not losing games by too many, which quite frankly I find bizarre. You can’t criticise him for losing games we were always going to lose, but I have grown tired of some sections of the support portraying Rafa as some sort of genius for only losing 3-1 to Man City, 3-2 to Man United, 1-0 Tottenham etc. In a sense, it is almost patronising to a manager of his stature.
In his Liverpool post-match press conference, Benitez looked like a shadow of the man we have become used to. His usual defiant, ‘we go on to the next game’posture wasn’t there to be seen. He looked downtrodden, as he commented that no new signings were lined up in January, as he further insinuated that he doesn’t have a clue what is going on.
For those of you still gullible enough to believe that there is a takeover on the horizon, looking at you Steve Howey, it is important to compare Benitez’ posture to this time last year when similar takeover talk dominated in the press. He was happy, jovial and smiley when discussing Amanda Staveley. This time round it looks like Benitez has given up hope too.
Perhaps we are entering a period now that is make or break for Benitez, with his negative tactics proving once again to be a talking point amongst areas of the support and the national media. In most cases, Benitez’ team selection and tactics away to a big side [such as Liverpool] would not really cause much of a stir, but on the back of the horrific performance against Fulham, in which we didn’t manage a single shot on target against bottom of the league, we are getting into dangerous territory of pressure gradually increasing on Benitez from even a minority of the United support.
While in the previous season, fans have praised Rafa for being able to ‘keep the score down’, I can’t see him getting that luxury between now and the end of the season. Like it or not, I think that there is a growing pressure on Rafa Benitez to turn out better performances on the pitch, even if it is with a squad that we all know is the second cheapest in the league.
This wouldn’t be a problem if we had a kind fixture list coming up…but we do not. In the past, where I think Benitez may have got away with defeats against Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City, and Tottenham by simply keeping it respectable, it doesn’t feel like that is the case this time around. It leaves even more pressure on two games, away to Watford and at home to Cardiff. Failure to take a minimum of four points from those games would leave us in desperate need of picking up points against the aforementioned four better teams.
Alas, if we are to put our realistic hats on, rather than our blindly optimistic hats, you can’t help but predict that come the morning of the 3rd of February (a day after the Tottenham game), Newcastle will be languishing in the bottom three, there will be no takeover, the club will not have improved the squad in the transfer window, the manager’s contract will be close to expiry and things will look very bleak indeed.
For the moment, I think Benitez would benefit from putting out a side that looks to try and win football matches, rather than avoiding losing by too many. With that attitude you can only lose, it is just a case of by how many.
It is hard to say, but I have said it for a while, that the sad truth is that it doesn’t really matter what Rafa Benitez does, it doesn’t even matter if he is the manager here at Newcastle United, so long as Mike Ashley still owns the club then we are doomed to continue to fail.
I wrote an article in Ireland during pre-season summarising these sentiments [for which I was criticised].
If there is one thing that will persuade fans to vote with their feet, to restart the protest movement, to not go to the game, to not continue to support Mike Ashley, then it is if Rafa Benitez chucks in the towel now, sooner rather than later.
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