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Opinion

Is the Rafa Benitez ‘Short Blanket’ big enough to cover three centre-backs AND attacking football?

6 months ago
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Rafa Benitez has very clear ideas about managing football teams.

A career that now spans beyond two decades has given him the know how.

From managing in the second tiers of Spanish and English football, to winning the Champions League and managing Real Madrid amongst many other top clubs.

Rafa Benitez has long subscribed to a ‘short blanket’ explanation of how you need to manage team affairs and tactics.

This is his way of explaining of how you have to find the right balance between attack and defence.

He has regularly used the expression throughout his career but has also had to bring it back out in his time at Newcastle United.

The NUFC boss responding to criticism he is too negative…

“I have talked in the past about the ‘short blanket’…if you cover your head, you have your feet cold, but if you cover your feet, you have your head cold.

“Sometimes, when you attack so much, you are exposed in defence.

“To find the balance is key,”

This season, Rafa Benitez has settled on a three/five man defence.

At first it clearly looked to be a means of trying to halt the early flow of goals and defeats this season, which left Newcastle in the relegation zone.

However, recent matches, at least up until West Ham, had suggested that the formation could also accommodate a more attacking dimension.

So can the short blanket be big enough for a three/five man defence AND a real attacking threat?

As is often said, it is players who win matches, not formations. The tactics and team set-up can of course help but in the final analysis, you need players on the pitch to implement it.

Switching to three centre-backs was also recognition of strengths and weaknesses in his squad, Rafa having a surplus of very good central defenders, once the likes of Schar settled in and Lejeune came back from injury.

More pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place.

Matt Ritchie transformed into a very effective left wing-back, whilst Miguel Almiron is in the process of adding the pace and goal threat potential which the team was crying out for.

I think the three centre-back formation can help produce a team that ticks all the boxes of the short blanket problem. However, Rafa Benitez needs to be backed with the right signings in the summer to do so.

Two specialist wing-backs need to be brought in to compete with Yedlin and Ritchie.

Whilst a right footed attacking pacey player in the mould of Miguel Almiron, can ensure a very good attacking trio, if Rondon is tied down to a permanent deal as well.

Obviously always room for improvement everywhere in the team/squad but those four signings could really see Rafa’s team come alive.

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