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Opinion

The two glaring problems that Newcastle United have to address very soon

3 months ago
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As the revival of Newcastle United continues at precisely the same time of year as it did last season, I can’t help but think that sooner or later, NUFC are going to have to address a number of problems.

The obvious one is Rafa Benitez’ contract and once that is sorted everything else should fall into place.

However, the other glaringly obvious problem is our striker, Solomon Rondon.

I’ve read in some quarters that we should be aiming higher than him, that we should go out and throw megabucks at some forward. Whilst splashing a sizeable amount of cash will be required in the summer, it need not be to REPLACE Rondon, but merely add to him. I can’t accept that we should (even if we could) aim for a better player, it’s simply not necessary.

Any striker that costs say £40m+, won’t be coming to Newcastle for two reasons.

Number one is the restrictive budget that the owner imposes, prevents us from paying anywhere near that anyway.

Number two is that any such player will be snapped up by any of the current top six club, that’s reality.

We have to look at the next rung of quality down and for the reported value of £16m, Solomon Rondon represents a bargain we’d be mad to pass up, a no-brainer.

We could go out and spend double his value and it might not work, so I’d be very happy if we went out and signed him this summer permanently. Get it out of your heads that scoring 20+ goals is the norm, it isn’t. Seven league goals (eight in total) in a struggling side is bloody good going so far.

Rondon has been great for this team with the limited service he has been afforded and will certainly benefit from Miguel Almiron’s nippy running and pacey forward play.

I’m not a big fan of Ayoze Perez but nor do I subscribe to his constant critics, he is what he is and he’s popped up with vital goals. The arrival of Almiron will hugely benefit Perez as he now has competition and both he and Rondon will profit from Almiron pulling opposition players around the field. Creating space, I think it’s called.

As St James Park becomes the fortress it should always be and as Newcastle United haul themselves out of relegation trouble, it’s vital to continue the acknowledgement of one player in our revival. Let’s all say it with pride and confidence…What a revelation Sean Longstaff has been. “He’s one of our own”, “Local Lad” or whatever you want to call him, let’s just revel in what we’ve found, because he simply hasn’t put a foot wrong so far. I couldn’t have been happier on Tuesday night when he popped up with the killer second goal against Burnley, a just reward for some stellar displays.

The second he has a duffer (which he will) pull him out, drop him and let him observe from the bench, he will improve as a player because of it. It’s called good man-management and I’d expect that of Rafa Benitez.

From now until the end of the season we just need to keep picking up a few points here and there and we will finish well away from the relegation fodder that has fermented at the bottom of the table. Huddersfield have been awful, Fulham no better. Southampton and Cardiff have lacked any real quality and I’m confident that it will be one of those two that will complete the relegated trio this season.

As for us, mid-table mediocrity beckons unfortunately. Until Mike Ashley decides to either sell the club or run it properly we will forever be in this cycle of struggle and saviour. Trying to do just enough season on season to survive and keep his pockets lined with the TV money and with the team that finishes bottom banking £100m+, wouldn’t it be nice if Rafa was allowed to spend 60% of the TV revenue? It would certainly avoid the relegation dodging that has occurred for most of Ashley’s ownership.

As for Rafa, his reputation gets enhanced with every passing window. Working miracles on a budget only serves to highlight his tactical ability.

The second Almiron was brought into the team we instantly saw improvement.

The same happened last season when Martin Dubravka and Kenedy came in and boosted an ailing side. Funny that.

Get the side set before a ball is kicked and under Benitez we could go far, without that required promise of investment he simply won’t be here beyond the summer. To lose the best manager we could possibly hope for would be insanity.

Back to the here and now, let’s enjoy the run of form, praise Rafa, Longstaff and the team’s efforts until the summer. In fact, I tell you what, here’s a target, let’s aim for 45 points. It shouldn’t be too unrealistic.

Totting up, I think we’ll get around 10-12 points from the remaining 10 games. I feel quietly confident that we will collectively get three points from the next three matches against West Ham, Everton and Bournemouth and I think we will beat Crystal Palace and Southampton at St James Park. We’re more than capable of getting something from Leicester, Brighton and Fulham and this points return will offset usually expected defeats at Liverpool and Arsenal, so we could be poised for a good end to the season.

Let’s hope it’s something to build on for next season and not a final hurrah for Rafa. Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

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