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Opinion

The thing is…Newcastle United were only two new players away from an exciting team

1 month ago
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Newcastle United pretty much had it all.

I’m not talking world domination, or even dominating the game in England.

However, the signs were definitely there of a team coming together that could now quickly take Newcastle United forward, if the right players were added.

Of course, with the stupidity of the Mike Ashley regime, you are never on sure ground.

The 2018/19 season ended with Newcastle United picking up 21 points in the final 13 games, also scoring 21 goals.

The previous 25 games had brought a less impressive 24 points and 21 goals.

The first bit of minimal ambition shown by Mike Ashley since promotion, saw Rafa Benitez at last able to bring in a Premier League signing that cost more than £10m.

Miguel Almiron helped connect a lot of the dots at the club, an important piece added to the jigsaw.

His personal story is maybe the defining one in terms of how that promise of late last season has been trashed by Ashley and his people.

He left a resurgent Rafa Benitez led Newcastle United team, having established an excellent forward trio with Rondon and Perez, only to return to complete chaos thanks to stupidity from the NUFC owner.

A bit like leaving your pristine house to go on holiday and you return to find your teenager has advertised a house party on Facebook with predictable consequences.

Miguel Almiron is putting all the same effort in and bravery running with the ball but nobody in the team seems to know what they are supposed to be doing to try and win football matches. The only recognisable plan appears to be all out defence when playing the likes of Spurs and Liverpool.

When the season ended in May, Newcastle United had all of this…

Top class manager – Tick

Formation and tactics working like a dream – Tick

Quality goalkeeper – Tick

Excellent options (and strength in depth) to fill the three centre-back spots – Tick

Exciting young English central midfield pairing – Tick

Attacking trio able to score goals, entertain and help defend – Tick

Sadly, instead of fine tuning and making the small number of quality additions that were needed, the whole thing has been trashed.

Rafa Benitez, Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez all gone and everything a shambles now, certainly compared to what could/should have been.

All that was needed was to obviously convince and keep Rafa Benitez, pay the £16m release clause to retain Rondon, invest in two quality wing-backs, then anything else was a bonus.

Some people will point to most of last season’s team still being at the club but without other vital cogs in the machine they are all vastly devalued, especially when it comes to Steve Bruce trying to organise them.

With Dubravka in goal, then Lascelles, Schar and Lejeune (Dummett filling in until he got/gets fit) at centre-back, new quality wing-back on both sides, Longstaff and Hayden in the middle, then Almiron, Rondon and Perez up front. Or if Perez definitely wanted to leave, use that money to buy an equivalent.

That plan though went the distance and whilst Joelinton looks an ok player, I think afe to say we won’t be seeing the 11 goals and 7 assists that player of the year Rondon provided.

It is a total joke that Ashley only allowed buttons to be spent on the wing-back positions, £5m and a loan signing for these two absolutely key positions when you are playing with the three/five at the back formation. Krafth and Willems are nowhere near good enough. I’m sure that as well as securing Rondon, these would have been the two key signings, Rafa no doubt having identified quality wing-backs that could be signed. I’m guessing it would probably have been £30m at least to finance the pair of wing-backs but that’s what was needed. Selling players such a Shelvey who aren’t good enough could have subsidised the spending.

The thing is, Hayden and Longstaff are very good central midfielders but they are of a type, they need the right players around them, particularly ahead of them. They’re both 6ft and will more than hold their own in the air and putting the tackles in, plus both can move the ball around well BUT they are not going to be dribbling past the opposition.

The midfield pair need that quality attacking trio in front of them and then mainly sit in and set the wing-backs loose as well to get forward.

Instead we now have this totally disjointed team with players that don’t complement each other, presided over by Steve Bruce, who looks every inch the Championship manager he has been for most of the past decade.

Once again, on the surface pundits and clueless fans can look at it and say nothing much has changed but that is only if you don’t scratch the surface.

The low quality wing-backs make Newcastle weaker at the back, whilst going forward they give very little and the change in attacking personnel has added to the seriously diminished goal threat.

Rafa Benitez had a plan, he needed only realistic backing, then we could have had an exciting progressive team with plenty goals that would have been challenging for top eight and no chance of relegation.

So near and yet so far.

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