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Opinion

Rafa Benitez trying to make best of bad job but claims by some Newcastle fans are embarrassing

4 months ago
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Newcastle fans haven’t had it easy.

A football club that is capable of being  far far better but rarely has been in most of our football supporting days.

It is all a bit worrying how quickly time flies by, when Baddiel and Skinner were ‘singing’ about 30 years of hate for England back in 1996, for Newcastle fans it had been 27 years (any trophy – Fairs Cup), 41 years (domestic silverware – FA Cup) and 69 years (top tier title).

You turn around one day and no suddenly those stats are 50 years, 64 years and 92 years.

All of those Newcastle fans looking to celebrate their 50th birthdays later this year and if they get any kind of a present that commemorates Newcastle winning something, it won’t have happened during their lifetime.

Not that I have much time/sympathy for the Mackems but it was a veritable silver laden trophy rush for north east football when the two clubs won trophies in 1969 and 1973.

Back to our own problems, which thankfully at least aren’t third tier ones…yet.

I get the feeling that for many Newcastle fans, they have become so downtrodden under this Mike Ashley regime, they have now lost all sense of perspective.

It is natural and indeed essential, that we rally round Rafa Benitez and his players, but all kinds of bizarre reasoning is now becoming common place amongst a significant number of fans.

Rafa Benitez has done/is doing an excellent job but it won’t be a miracle if Newcastle United stay up. I would say Cardiff and Huddersfield have clearly weaker squads than Newcastle, then there are a few others that are in the same kind of ball park, such as Brighton, Southampton and Burnley, possibly Fulham – although I think they overall have a better squad than NUFC thanks to the investment.

On that basis I think fourth bottom is pretty much where Rafa Benitez should have this Newcastle team/squad, with any higher a bonus. Obviously though the margins are tight and luck can/could play a major part.

For some Newcastle fans, as mentioned above, they find all kinds of weird and wonderful ways to try and prove Rafa Benitez is performing miracles.

Beating Manchester City was of course a superb result but does it really ‘prove’ that tactics this season used against the better sides have been the right ones? For me it was night when the Newcastle players all performed towards the upper end of what they are capable of, scored with the two shots on target, whilst Manchester City had a bit of an off night. It doesn’t mean that Newcastle’s players aren’t fully deserving of all the praise they got but it doesn’t prove anything else.

Newcastle have lost every one of their other nine matches against teams in the top six, which suggests/proves Man City was very much a one-off.

Some Newcastle fans even brag about the goal difference from these games, as though it is some great victory to ave generally kept the score down. With different tactics maybe, just maybe, Rafa’s team could have picked up the odd point from those other nine matches, one point counting more than any number on you goal difference.

I’m not saying Rafa Benitez is wrong for doing what he does with this group of generally very average to poor players but the results don’t really back up an idea that Newcastle have found some special route to (relative) success. Standing outside the relegation zone only on goal difference is maybe pretty much where this team/squad deserves to be.

Rafa is keeping things together and has prevented the kind of Huddersfield-like collapse that could have been possible due to Ashley’s greed, negligence and stupidity, but some of the claims of ‘proof’ from Newcastle fans as supposedly showing the Newcastle manager is definitely getting all decisions right, doesn’t really hold water.

One of those sees claims that Salomon Rondon is proving a massive success whilst Aleksandar Mitrovic is at the same time ‘proved’ to have been a failure.

I like Rondon and I think he has done pretty well in the circumstances but fact remains he has only scored six PL goals so far, not a massive surprise when he averaged eight goals a season over three years at West Brom. Personally, I wouldn’t swap Mitro for Rondon but to claim that the Serbian has been a big failure when he has scored 10 PL  goals in a struggling side is just silly. He has scored 40% (10 of 25) of Fulham’s goals.

Yes they have tried to generally play attacking football but to get double figures with still a third of the season left is pretty good going. It is certainly too early for Newcastle fans to be declaring that contest is over and the Venezuelan and Rafa definitely the winners/proved right. If Mitrovic continues at his scoring rate and ends up with 15 PL goals whilst Rondon continues his rate and ends up with nine and Newcastle go down, it wouldn’t have proved to be the greatest ‘victory’ ever.

It isn’t revolutionary what Rafa Benitez has done this season, relying on a strong disciplined defence, now a five man defence week in and week out, then hope for the odd goal on the break. The big plus is that Rafa is very good at organises his defences and has shown that over many year and at many clubs.

Will this prove to have been the right tactics at Newcastle this season? Only time and the eventual league table will tell.

Only Huddersfield have scored less than Newcastle’s 21 goals and only five clubs (all of them in the top seven) have conceded less than the 33 Rafa’s team have let in.

The end will have justified the means if Rafa Benitez keeps Newcastle in the Premier League but if you actually watch all/most of the matches, if you’re honest, it has been terrible to watch a lot of the time.

It is only worthwhile if it actually leads to something.

Survival on a budget watching mainly terrible football, apart from a handful of matches, was deemed acceptable by most supporters last season, on the understanding Mike Ashley would then be allowed to bring in much better creative players and goalscorers.

It didn’t happen and now we are doing the whole thing all over again, only difference is that thousands of Newcastle fans have said no to it and that is why only the Man Utd game has sold out so far at home.

Newcastle fans are still behind Rafa Benitez but even if he stayed for next season, if Mike Ashley continued to refuse the backing of enough quality to be brought in for the team to be looking up once again, both in terms of the quality of football and league placing, then many many more supporters would  still knock it on the head.

The fans want to see a club that tries, as well as a team that does so, allowing a decent product on the pitch where a team can be put out most weeks to try and win the game, rather than trying to make sure they don’t lose it.

It is still ‘In Rafa we trust’ but that also means keeping everything in perspective as well.

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