Rafa Benitez could challenge next season as Newcastle United in transition
A manager and team making the transition?
Newcastle United turning defence into attack going forward?
The Magpies have 29 goals after 30 Premier League matches.
Not exactly great but there have been encouraging signs in recent weeks, seven goals in the last four matches meaning that at least Newcastle have scored more goals than each of the bottom three clubs.
That followed only 22 goals in the opening 26 games, which wasn’t great at all.
No great secret that Rafa Benitez was planning this season’s survival based on a solid defence, the fact he had so many good options at centre-back giving him extra encouragement to go with the three centre-backs.
That formation was widely seen as negative by the media.
However, Rafa Benitez is simply pragmatic, the NUFC manager regularly explaining that he was/is playing to the strengths of the players he has available.
Now he has Miguel Almiron available to him as a starter in these past four games and suddenly plenty of people want to talk about Newcastle’s attacking threat.
Can one player really make such a difference?
Back in 2000/01 Newcastle ended up eleventh and scored 44 goals.
The next season Sir Bobby had them fourth having scored 74 goals.
A quite incredible transformation.
Sir Bobby had bought Laurent Robert and Craig Bellamy, together they prompted that massive change.
They scored a decent 17 goals between them, Bellamy scoring one more than the French winger, but it was even more about the impact they had on the team as a whole, making other players better and more of a goal threat.
Newcastle scored 56 goals when fifth in 2011/12, since then in the Premier League it has been 45, 43, 40, 44 and 39 in the following PL seasons.
Looking back at these last seven years, no club has finished top four scoring less than 62 goals.
Whilst for top six you generally need to get mid-50s or better. The lowest two totals these past seven seasons were both Man Utd, getting sixth in 2016/17 with 54 goals and fifth with only 49 goals in 2015/16. That though was a bit of a freak season all round for goals, as Leicester won the title scoring only 68 and Man City in fourth were top scorers with only 71.
When Newcastle managed fifth in 2011/12 with 56 goals, the top scorers were Ba (16), Cisse (13) and Ben Arfa (5). However, that was achieved despite Cisse only starting 13 PL games and Ben Arfa 16 that season.
It might appear a bit of a leap of faith at the minute but if Rafa Benitez was backed and willing to stay, with the right signings, is it totally impossible for Newcastle to threaten the top six?
With the defence he has built, if Rafa could find the extra goals, why not?
Buy Rondon in the summer, maybe two new wing-backs as well, plus another striker to go in the mix with Almiron, Perez and Rondon…
If Newcastle had an attacking trio who could get around that 34 goal total achieved by Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa and help others score more (noticeable that midfielders Longstaff and Hayden got into the box and scored their first goals of the season in recent games), why would you think Newcastle couldn’t get up to 55 goals or more next season?
Having built a very good defence and the basis of a team/squad on a tight budget, the time is right for Rafa Benitez to be backed with three or more signings along the lines of Miguel Almiron, who can really raise the quality of the first team and give extra attacking edge.
It really is the hope that kills you, when you think about what could be possible if given the chance.
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