What if Fulham and Newcastle United had swapped managers in summer 2018?
If we go back to summer 2018 and if Fulham and Newcastle United had swapped managers, where would the two clubs be now?
With Rafa Benitez’ future totally up in the air, it is a very pertinent question.
Just how valuable is having the right manager?
Going into Sunday’s game, Newcastle are on 42 points and Fulham with a bit of a small late rally are on 26 points. However, the real story of their season is that the Cottagers were relegated after 33 Premier League games with only 17 points on the board at the time.
So could/would Rafa Benitez have kept Fulham up?
Whilst more to the point for Newcastle fans, would Slavisa Jokanovic have relegated Newcastle United?
The Serbian manager was followed at Craven Cottage in November 2018 by Premier League winning boss Claudio Ranieri, then one-time Newcastle midfielder Scott Parker from February 2019.
We may well find out next season how this team/squad would get on without Rafa Benitez…
More interesting maybe though, is considering Rafa’s value as a manager elsewhere.
Fulham were promoted a year ago full of momentum and playing good football.
Over £100m was then spent on the squad plus a number of high profile loan signings.
The area to focus on for a number of reasons, is Fulham’s defending, or rather the lack of it.
In the opening 33 games that brought relegation, the West London club conceding a massive 76 goals. Would that have happened with Rafa Benitez?
Amongst the new recruits, when it came to defence, over £20m was spent on centre-back Alfie Mawson and left-back Joe Bryan. High profile loans for the backline were Callum Chambers (Arsenal), Sergio Rico (Sevilla) and Tim Fosu-Mensah (Man Utd).
Also, around £50m was spent on central midfielders Jean Michael Seri and Andre Zambo Anguissa.
Can you really imagine Rafa Benitez would have relegated Fulham with £100m to strengthen the team/squad?
The defence would have been cracked into shape but with decent money available, every reason to assume that they would also have recruited decent quality going forward.
Maybe the best way to look at it, is that a manager such as Rafa Benitez, all but ensures that you finish a number of positions higher up the league table than would otherwise happen.
It then comes down to the backing a manager of Rafa’s level gets.
Which brings us back to Newcastle United.
The Spaniard doesn’t want to be fighting relegation every season, finishing 10th-15th instead of possible/probable relegation if he wasn’t there.
Give Rafa a budget in line with the club’s revenue (7th/8th highest in the Premier League) and who knows where he can take NUFC?
It would be nice to find out.
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