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Opinion

A big thank you to Rafa Benitez as Newcastle United get summer transfer window up and running

2 weeks ago
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First signing of the season – Matt Targett.

It was one we all knew had to happen.

Matt Targett improved our team as soon as he stepped into it and was a shrewd bit of business in January, poaching him on loan after his first team spot at Aston Villa was taken by Digne.

A big thank you to Rafa Benitez for that one.

Our defence went from calamitous, error prone…to a really tough and hard to break down unit. Not saying it was all down to Matt Targett, but he certainly played a part. We all knew as soon as this season ended that it was a no-brainer to try and get him on a permanent deal this summer – but I thought I’d dig into the reasons why.

Absolute bargain

Even with it including a £2 million loan fee, a total of £15 million for a defender of Targett’s calibre is a steal, any way you look at it. Considering we were also linked with Renan Lodi for £40 million, that’s a lot of spare change we can be investing in other areas of the squad now.

Defensive monster

The simple fact of the matter is, he is a far better defender than anything else we had at the time.

Obviously a lot of blame can be placed on the previous (non-)management and training, but even so, left-back was a blatant weakness.

Lewis was out of form, short on confidence and had very little experience, Manquillo was primarily a right back doing a job, and Ritchie – for all of his footballing experience and quality – wasn’t even a defender.

Matt Targett coming in showed the difference.

With Matt Targett, NUFC gained ten wins and a draw from sixteen games, with five defeats. Even including those away games at Spurs and Man City where Newcastle conceded five in each, there were only 19 goals conceded in Targett’s 16 PL matches.

In the other twenty two Premier League matches last season, it was three wins and nine draws, with ten defeats. Without Matt Targett in the team, 43 goals conceded in 22 PL games.

The defensive shape and work rate was much improved as well, far fewer shots on target for the opposition and more NUFC blocks and interceptions. Again, lots of credit has to go to Eddie Howe for changing the mindset and style and to the left-back’s teammates for their contributions, but Targett was a massive part of that change.

Keep a winning squad together

When a team changes in such a way as ours did in the second half of last season, you have to do everything you can to keep the players together who helped make that difference.

By keeping Matt Targett, Newcastle United have ensured a solid presence in the backline, and avoided having to train / integrate another new defender to work with the rest of the backline. With what appears to be at least one new centre-back coming in, positive continuity where we can get it, is key.

In conclusion, I think there will be more incoming deals to come, signings that will be arguably more show-stopping.

However, sometimes the understated transfers are the ones that can make all the difference, I think this could be definitely one of them.

As I said above, thank you Rafa Benitez for selling Lucas Digne to Aston Villa. Without that, Newcastle United and Matt Targett may have never discovered each other.

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