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English Premier League

Premier League Team of the Week III, feat. Chelsea and Man United Stars



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This weekend’s games saw Manchester City pick up another solid victory and a clean sheet to partner it nicely. The Citizens look in ominous form so far, seeing off defending champions Chelsea and Europa League hopefuls Everton without conceding a goal. Speaking of Chelsea, The Blues got their title defence back on track with a hard-fought win at The Hawthorns and Bournemouth picked up their first Premier League points of the season, just emerging victorious in a seven goal thriller against West Ham United. With plenty of impressive displays to choose from, who has made it into my Premier League team of the week? Leave your opinions and alterations in the comments section, on the TBR forum, or on twitter @TBRFootball .

Team of the Week - Football tactics and formations


Jack Butland: The Stoke City goalkeeper; handed the number one spot after Begovic’s departure, appears in my Team of the Week for the second consecutive time, repeating his heroics this time against Norwich City. Once Russell Martin had squeezed a shot through Butland’s legs to equalise Diouf’s early opener, the England international became a brick wall between the sticks. He did not put a foot wrong during the ensuing onslaught from Alex Neil’s Canaries and was the defining reason for Stoke leaving East Anglia with a point to show for their efforts.

His saves arguably became increasingly impressive as the minutes ticked away. At the start of the series of wonderful individual moments, Butland produced a fabulous finger-tip save from a Dorrans drive to direct the ball onto the post and away from danger. This scenario was closely replicated a few minutes later in the game too, with the same result – the former Birmingham City goalkeeper coming out on top. When interviewed after the match, Butland claimed that his clawed stop of a Nathan Redmond side-footer was his personal favourite. He had to drop very low and did well to divert the ball away from onrushing attackers. In my view, he perhaps kept his best for last, pulling off a point blank save from Cameron Jerome as pressure on the Stoke City goal really intensified. Jack Butland achieved this scintillating Premier League showing with the hindrance of a broken finger, making his performance even more praiseworthy.

Seamus Coleman: Everton’s number 23 was their stand-out performer against Manchester City, using his powerful running and stamina to great effect around both penalty areas. After a solid showing in the first 45 minutes, Seamus Coleman really came into his own in the second half. The Irishman had to deal with a left side of Man City’s attack which seemed to pour forward at will and he often found himself overloaded when David Silva joined in on that flank too. As Tom Cleverley tired on the right of midfield, Coleman was afforded little protection against a rampant Sterling and Kolarov but was nonetheless more than impressive.

Although the crucial first goal for Pellegrini’s men came from some neat play on their left; with both Sterling and Kolarov involved, the blame cannot be placed at Coleman’s feet. He showed boundless energy to track back with the Jamaican-born winger, composure and strength to find an exit route from tricky situations, before frequently being the one to spring a counter-attack. Once a transfer target for Manchester United, Seamus Coleman showed once again why he would fit in at a truly elite club. Dangerous crosses and driving runs at the heart of The Citizens’ back line proved to be the most potent outlet for Everton and with Leighton Baines on the treatment table for the foreseeable future, Coleman can become a vital attacking force from the flanks.

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Chris Smalling: Partnering Daley Blind for the third consecutive match in this season’s Premier League, Chris Smalling put in his most complete display thus far. The England defender was fairly anonymous and could well have gone under the radar for some viewers, but this is only due to his efficiency throughout the game, completing the majority of his tasks with minimal fuss.

Newcastle’s target man through the middle; Aleksandar Mitrovic, applied himself well throughout the game in stark contrast to previously overly emotional and wholly ineffectual displays. However, Smalling marshalled his physical presence to great effect and also overcame the threat from another new Geordie recruit – Georginio Wijnaldum – who offered terrific pace and trickery. The 25 year old centre half made 9 clearances and won 5 of his aerial battles, forming a towering presence at the heart of The Red Devils’ back line.

Not only was the former Fulham man sound in defence, he also demonstrated a promising proficiency at taking the ball out from the back when a lack of options presented themselves in midfield. Smalling proved to be important to the flow of Manchester United’s attacks against the Tyneside outfit, injected a much needed urgency to proceedings at times. The question now is whether he can translate this trait to the international arena in order to aid England in an area which they frequently suffer from? It sowed the seeds of a vision of Rio Ferdinand in his pomp.

Fabricio Collocini: After Newcastle United had experienced a pretty disappointing start to life in the Premier League under their new coach Steve Mclaren, they needed lion-hearted displays from their key men. Fabricio Collocini; club captain, certainly answered that call as he defended against the relentless onslaught from the Red Devils. His commitment to throw his body into challenges and in the way of shots was perhaps the most glaring facet that had been missing from Newcastle’s performances in the eyes of the Geordie faithful. With seven clearances in total and an additional two blocks, the Argentine frequently took matters into his own hands.

His overall display was top class but there are a few instances which spring to mind which really epitomise Collocini’s mentality during the game at Saturday lunchtime. The first came relatively early in the first period when Newcastle had yet to establish themselves on the game at all. Their captain was forced to sprint towards a poised Wayne Rooney in order to close down the space and then nick the ball off his toes just before the England captain unleashed a goal-bound shot. Then in the dying embers of the match, Collocini was there again to produce a last ditch block from close range to deny a vicious Antonio Valencia shot.

After some debatable performances over the course of the last couple of years, onlookers at St. James’ Park will hope that this marks the return of their captain to top form and even a turning point for the club as a whole.

Robbie Brady: Frequently deployed in his time at Hull City as a left wing-back or even a more offensive midfielder, Alex Neil has shown faith in the opening three matches to play Robbie Brady in an orthodox left-back role. His defensive qualities were occasionally called into question under Steve Bruce, but he performed admirably against a flying winger in the shape of Xherdan Shaqiri, making six tackles over the 90 minutes. The Swiss star would have been exceptionally keen to impress following his arrival from warmer climes, so Brady’s success at keeping his contribution fairly subdued should not be overlooked.

Undoubtedly the stronger aspect of his game, the Irishman was excellent going forward for Norwich City. He created seven chances for his team-mates and but for the brilliance of Jack Butland in the Stoke City goal, Norwich’s new number 12 could well have bagged a hatful of assists to add to his Premier League tally.

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James Morrison: West Bromwich Albion’s home game against Chelsea could well prove to be the most eventful of James Morrison’s career. After his side won a penalty in the early stages when Matic upended a weaving McManaman, Morrison insisted that he took the spot-kick, taking the ball away from the recognised man; Chris Brunt. Opting to go for power, Morrison blasted the penalty low and straight down the middle of the goal where Courtois’ outstretched leg was able to keep it out. It is testament to the character of the energetic midfielder that he did not let the situation weigh him down. Quite the opposite in fact, as it seemed to give him the inspiration to reach another level.

In an accomplished overall performance, the Scottish international had a 100% pass completion rate and ran his socks off for Tony Pulis’ side. The first of Morrison’s two goals on Sunday afternoon came from a position very near the penalty spot. The lashed first time strike into the back of the net followed by a poignant celebration suggested that West Brom’s number 7 was all too aware of the significance of the moment. A deft touch with his head to divert a scything McManaman cross into the top corner gave The Baggies hope of completing a memorable comeback. By the end of the game, you would have to say that a draw would have been a deserved result for the magnificent Morrison and hard-working West Brom.

Ross Barkley: Local hero and one of England’s great hopes in the years to come, Ross Barkley continued to show the best of his game as Everton ran out second best to an ominously efficient Manchester City. Intent on denying space, Martinez set his side up with an interesting formation and as such, Barkley had to manage his time between central and wide areas. Not always able to dedicate himself solely to creativity, the 21 year old completed one of the more mature performances that I have seen from him whilst still allowing his undoubted talent to flourish.

The Merseyside-born Barkley yet again demonstrated his effectiveness at picking up possession in a slightly deeper area of the field before turning and running at defenders. On several occasions, he produced surging bursts complete with equal amounts of power and skill to breeze past a hapless Touré or Fernandinho. Appearing in my Premier League team of the week on consecutive instances, Barkley looked to be the player that his team-mates most expected an end product from. Quite a weight of expectation at a tender age but if his performances so far this season are anything to go by, their faith is not at all misplaced.

Riyad Mahrez: The Algerian trickster is another player to have made his second appearance in the team of the week for a season that is only three games old. Riyad Mahrez continued his astoundingly brilliant start to Premier League life this season, scoring his fourth goal of the campaign to grab a point at home to Tottenham Hotspur. This record is in stark contrast to last term where he was only able to notch up the same number in 30 appearances.

The goal itself was a peach of a finish, representing great anticipation to initially collect the ball in space before curling a finessed strike past the clutches of Hugo Lloris. Mahrez could well have had a penalty in the first half too, dazzling his way past Jan Vertonghen before hitting the deck and rather unfortunately being told to get to his feet. Although his left foot is his primary asset, the mercurial talent showed his ability to cause a threat on his right side too. One of four successful take-ons resulted in him smashing a shot against the base of Lloris’ near post with his weaker foot being the driving force. Dangerous crosses a plenty, Mahrez is hitting unprecedented heights on a consistent basis this season and will surely continue to add both goals and assists as Leicester City attempt to maintain their position near the summit of the Premier League.

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Pedro: The name on everyone’s lips over the last week as his seemingly inevitable move to Old Trafford was scuppered at the final hurdle by José Mourinho, Pedro was quick to show his new benefactors exactly what they had shelled out for. The €30 million acquisition from Catalan giants Barcelona seems to have developed an instant understanding with Chelsea’s other attacking players, exchanging in several neat interchanges of possession throughout the game against West Brom. In addition to this, his work rate both in attack and when attempting to win the ball back for his team fits right into the Mourinho mould. This mentality has been honed while starring for the Spanish champions and is the kind of attitude which should result in a great deal of appearances under the Portuguese manager.

There was certainly an element of fortune surrounding Pedro’s debut goal for Chelsea, but he must be credited for his persistence that caused the uncertainty in West Brom’s defensive ranks in the first place. As mentioned earlier, his link-up play with the likes of Hazard and Costa seemed to come naturally, indeed he supplied an assist for the burly forward’s back-post finish. The diminutive Spaniard very nearly put another goal on Costa’s plate at a later stage in the game after whipping in a beautiful cross, only for Chelsea’s number 19 to blast agonisingly wide.

New to the west London club’s ranks, Pedro may well have had his induction process eased by the presence of fellow Iberians Fabregas and Azpilicueta. Nevertheless, to perform as he did on his debut in a foreign league after not having a great deal of minutes under his belt in pre-season is admirable, and should strike fear into the hearts of Premier League defences across the nation.

Bakary Sako: The revered trio for The Eagles of Bolasie, Zaha and Puncheon have a new member to add to one of the Premier League’s most feared attacking force. Bakary Sako was Crystal Palace’s greatest threat all afternoon as his side just managed to nick a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa, due in no small part to his personal endeavours.

The Mali international has attracted attention for at least a couple of seasons whilst at Wolves, proving to be too good for the lower divisions. Even so, you have to be surprised at the immediacy of his impact following the move from Molineux. Sako appeared extremely confident in his own ability from the early stages, representing the apparent lost art of a winger taking on his opposite number. The pacey left-footer impressed with his direct approach a keen eye for goal, attempting six shots in total with five forcing a save from Brad Guzan.

In what was already proving to be a promising debut, Sako added the icing on the cake with a goal to secure all three points for the south London outfit. He showed a willingness to close down and then capitalise on Amavi’s error by thundering a sweetly struck drive into the far corner. Despite this showing, I still wonder how frequently we will see him in the Premier League with Crystal Palace’s heralded riches in this position. However, if he continues in this vein, Pardew must find a way to accommodate him.

Callum Wilson: There was no way that Bournemouth’s hat-trick hero; incredibly his first as a professional, could be excluded from my Premier League team of the week. Callum Wilson demonstrated the difference that is required at this level of the game. Eddie Howe’s team had certainly played some attractive football in their opening two matches but; due to a combination of a lack of cutting edge and a helping of misfortune, they had notched neither a point nor a goal before their trip to the Boleyn Ground.

Step up Callum Wilson. After bagging 23 goals at a ratio just shy of one in two in all competitions last campaign, the young Englishman revived that poacher’s instinct this weekend. The former Coventry City striker lives on the shoulder of the last defender and seemed constantly keen to spin into space and stretch the opposition. This is all well and good, but the south coast outfit need him to stick the ball in the back of the net over anything else. Starved of service and chances somewhat in the previous 180 minutes of football, his confidence will now have sky-rocketed and Premier League defences will need to have their wits about them in the coming weeks.

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I am currently at university studying Mechanical Engineering, but in my spare time I'm into all things football. I'm an avid Liverpool fan but always try to remain impartial. My other interests include gaming and Formula One.

Stoke City

Three things Paul Lambert must address to ensure Stoke City’s survival

Martyn Cooke



Paul Lambert
Photo: Reuters

Stoke City have announced that Paul Lambert has been appointed as the club’s new manager after signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Premier League strugglers.

The 48-year-old succeeds Mark Hughes, who was dismissed after The Potters were knocked out of the FA Cup by fourth-tier side Coventry City earlier this month, and must now shoulder the responsibility of guiding the club away from the relegation zone.

Stoke are currently eighteenth in the Premier League table and are facing up to the realistic possibility of dropping out of the top flight for the first time in almost a decade.

Lambert’s appointment has brought an end to Stoke’s prolonged search for a new manager that has reportedly seen the position turned down by a number of high profile candidates.

The club hierarchy were initially keen on securing Gary Rowett, prior to him agreeing new contract with Derby County, and have also been snubbed by Espanyol manager Quique Sanchez Flores and Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill.

Essentially Stoke have had to be content with securing their fourth-choice managerial candidate and there is a considerable amount of uncertainty and frustration among supporters that the club were unable to attract a more prestigious figure.

However, with time running short prior to the transfer window closing at the end of the month The Potters have elected to hand the job to Lambert, who has been out of work since leaving Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer.

The former Scotland international faces an uphill task to convince Stoke supporters that he is the right figure to rally behind and must now take on the challenge of saving the club from the drop.

Here The Boot Room looks at three things that Lambert needs to do in order to retain Stoke’s Premier League status.

Organise the defence

Mark Hughes’ position as manager was made untenable by his inability to organise an effective defensive unit.

The Potters currently have the worst defensive record in any of Europe’s top-flight divisions and have conceded 47 goals in 22 league games so far this season – that is an average of over two a game.

Furthermore, the last eighteen months of Hughes’ reign was characterised by heavy defeats, especially against the so-called ‘top teams’, on a regular basis. Stoke have already been hammered at the hands of Tottenham (5-1), Chelsea (4-0 and 5-0) and Manchester City to name just a few.

So Paul Lambert’s immediate concern is to plug the leaky sieve that is Stoke’s defence.

The 48-year-old needs to get back to basics by making The Potters organised, fitter and harder to beat. That might mean taking a more conservative or pragmatic approach and that may result in having to side-line some of the club’s more enigmatic and creative players in order to create a team that is more defensively solid and robust.

If Lambert can close the floodgates and stop Stoke leaking goals then he will have already have solved the team’s most prominent issue.

Find a system that suits the players available

Stoke City’s issues this campaign can be largely attributed to the formations and systems deployed by Mark Hughes that simply did not suit the players that he had available. This is exemplified by the Welshman’s decision to play 3-4-3 despite having no natural wing-backs – eventually being forced to shoe-horn Mame Biram Diouf, a forward by trade, into a right-wing back role.

The current squad is not short of talent, but rather it has been widely misused in the past eighteen months, and it is now Paul Lambert’s responsibility to find a way of maximising the potential of players such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Ramadam Sobhi, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and, maybe even, Saido Berahino.

The most obvious solution would be to revert to a back-four, yet it is what the 48-year-old does with the midfield and attacking units that will define his career at the club.

He has plenty of questions to answer: does he use Shaqiri as a winger or a number 10? Does he play with a lone striker? Does he play with a front two? What system will get the most out of Darren Fletcher and Joe Allen in the central of midfield? Which wingers does he place his faith in?

At this stage, Stoke supporters will be willing to buy into whatever decisions that Lambert makes as long as they are logical and appear to be part of a clear, definitive game plan. As long as they do not have to see a striker being forced to play as a right-back they will back into their new manager’s decisions

Get supporters onside

There is no secret that Paul Lambert was far from being top of the managerial wish-list for Stoke City supporters and it is no surprise that the fanbase has been left feeling underwhelmed by his appointment.

However, the club’s failure to secure a more high-profile appointment now leaves The Potters with little option other than to rally behind what was effectively the hierarchy’s fourth choice option to succeed Mark Hughes.

Lambert faces a difficult challenge to steer the club away from the relegation zone and he needs to get the supporters onside as soon as possible.

The Bet365 Stadium was once renowned for its loud, raucous and passionate atmosphere after Stoke first achieved promotion in 2008. The crowd often had a key influence on matches and a trip to The Potteries was something that opposition players feared.

However, that atmosphere has dissipated in recent seasons following the club’s steady decline under Hughes and if Lambert can give supporters cause to rally around him then they can play a crucial role in the relegation battle as the metaphorical ‘twelfth man’.

The only way that Lambert can do this is by inspiring some fight, drive and determination on the pitch, which is something that has been sorely lacking in recent months.

The supporters will give the manager and the team their full support if they see their side putting everything into the cause that they can – it is now down to Lambert to show that he can stimulate a dramatic improvement in performances.

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Why Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson was one of the signings of the summer

Jake Jackman



Photo: Reuters

Andrew Robertson isn’t a household name, but he established himself as one of the best young players in the Premier League performance with an excellent performance against Manchester City.

Few expected Liverpool would be able to topple the runaway league leaders, especially after the departure of Philippe Coutinho. However, the Reds delivered one of their best performances since the appointment of Jurgen Klopp and took the three points to consolidate their own position in the top four.

It was a nervy end to the match as the visitors fought back to grab two consolation goals, but given the incredible energy that the home side showed since the first whistle, a stuttering end can be forgiven.

The 23-year-old was a signing that went under the radar during the summer and those football fans that don’t have their finger on the pulse may not have known that he had moved to Anfield. Despite a good season with Hull City, it is rare to see a player move from a relegated side to one in the Champions League.

There aren’t a lot of quality full-back options in the Premier League and Robertson showed enough to justify a transfer. It was a risk, but at the price of an initial £8 million, it was one worth taking.

The club’s official site reported the following quotes from Klopp upon the deal being announced:

“For Andrew, this is another big step on what has been a quite incredible personal journey in a very short space of time.

“I know our environment will benefit him and help him push himself even more than he has already. This is a player who does not limit his ambition.”

Klopp can’t be faulted for his record in the transfer market since arriving at Liverpool. His big money purchases have all been successes, but his decision to bring Robertson could represent the best value for money. The Reds’ boss clearly saw something in his character that suggested he would develop quickly at Anfield and his emergence in recent weeks has proven him correct.

The left-back was eased into life at a top-six club and made only three appearances for the club before December, two of which came in the Premier League. For Klopp, he needs to fully trust that a new player understands his style of play.

Those already at a high level, such as Mohamed Salah, can be expected to step straight in as they have a lot of experience of playing different systems. However, Robertson had been playing a more traditionally British system at Hull City and likely lacked the tactical knowledge of the rest of the squad.

Since the start of December, he has made the left-back position his own and his efforts against Manchester City showed that he can stand out against the very best. He was given a difficult task of marking Raheem Sterling, the former Liverpool player.

The City winger has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season and is among the top scorers. He would have been relishing the opportunity to return to Anfield and shine, but he was kept quiet by Robertson.

The former Hull City player was keen to go forward and support the Liverpool attacks. His distribution and decision making were both superb against Manchester City. In the past, we have seen Liverpool full-backs get caught upfield as they try to stick to Klopp’s strict tactical instructions.

It is difficult to master playing the position in this system, but Robertson is showing maturity beyond his years. He completed 79% of his passes, which is a good accuracy given they were playing an opposition that press high up the pitch.

Talking of pressing, Robertson was relentless in this area of his game and regularly put pressure on the Manchester City attackers. He was directly responsible for a number of turnovers as he didn’t stop running from the first minute to the last.

There was one incredible moment when he chased a ball back to Ederson and followed it until he eventually fouled Nicolas Otamendi. The Kop responded with a cheer fitting of a goal. They could see his effort and responded to it. Although he didn’t win possession, his manager would have been delighted with that phase of play.

His aggression was shown through his tackling. Robertson completed seven tackles and was only beaten twice on the dribble. Considering he was coming up against the likes of Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero, this is a very impressive return.

In addition to his tackling, the Scottish international made seven clearances to relieve the pressure on his team. The last few minutes were nerve-wracking for the home side, but the left-back remained assured in his defensive work.

Although he has a lot of areas to improve, Robertson is getting better with every game and he is establishing himself as a top-six full-back. Liverpool gambled on his potential and Klopp’s ability to develop it. His slow introduction to the first-team coupled with some excellent performances during the last six weeks show that the German manager knows what he is doing.

The 23-year-old’s performance against Manchester City captured the nation’s attention. He now needs to push on and consistency deliver at that high level.

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Newcastle United

Takeover developments suggest troubling times ahead at Newcastle United

Jake Jackman



Photo: Reuters

Newcastle United are entering into a tense period of their history and the stakes have never been greater. News broke on Tuesday that the takeover talks between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley had broken down. Sky Sports were the first to report the story, publishing the following quotes from a source close to the Magpies’ owner:

“It is only right to let the fans know that there is no deal on the table or even under discussion with Amanda Staveley and PCP.”

The source went on to say that the talks had ‘proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time’. The reaction on social media was predictably a bad one, as many supporters stated that the same description could be used to discuss Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club.

It could be that the story is a cleverly released one by the Newcastle owner’s camp and brinkmanship on his part, but this is the latest of a long string of disappointing events for the club’s supporters. For them, it feels like the Sports Direct tycoon will never release his hold on the club.

A source close to PCP Capital Partners and Amanda Staveley was quick to address the story. Their side of the talks were keen to make it clear that the consortium had made a bid for Newcastle and that remains on the table.

“PCP Capital Partners made a carefully considered bid in November and it remains on the table.”

It is impossible to completely believe any story that has been leaked to the press during these takeover talks, as the media is a tool used to increase pressure on the opposite side. The takeover of Newcastle United was always likely to be a complex business deal that wouldn’t take place over night, despite Ashley’s optimistic Christmas deadline.

It could be that there are more twists and turns to come where the PCP bid is concerned. However, this story has to be taken at face value and supporters should be prepared for the worst-case scenario, which is Ashley remaining at the helm for the foreseeable future.

Why would no takeover be devastating for Newcastle?

Mike Ashley has been owner of the football club for over ten years and the club have been in the Premier League for the majority of those. Why would another few months of his ownership be a bad thing for Newcastle United?

Well, for Newcastle supporters and those that closely follow the club, that is a simple question to answer. Ashley suggested, during his interview with Sky Sports in August, that he was unable to compete with the rest of the Premier League financially and that, concerningly, the club bank was running on empty.

“So people outside of football looking in sometimes think that’s how much you have in the bank, I must make it crystal clear that I am not wealthy enough in football now to compete with the likes of Man City etcetera, not just Man City. It’s basically a wealthy individual taking on the equivalent of a country. I cannot, and will not. “

The namedrop of Manchester City was interesting at the time, as nobody was expecting Mike Ashley to compete with the club funded by oligarchs. However, the sobering fact for Newcastle fans is that their club (£38.07 million) have spent less than both Huddersfield Town (£51.08 million) and Brighton (£42.84 million) since the three clubs were promoted last season.

Against Swansea City at the weekend, the Magpies started the match with eleven of the players that had been at the club last season in the Championship. Mike Ashley has refused to provide the finances required to grow the team to the next level and their precarious position in the Premier League is a reflection of that.

A third relegation in the Ashley tenure is a real possibility without investment this month. As yet, that hasn’t been forthcoming and, judging by his actions during the last 12 months, few supporters are expecting it.

That could lead to further conflict with manager Rafa Benitez. The Newcastle boss has been very public about his desire for more players. The Spaniard is aware of his very powerful position at the club as he is the one person preventing the supporters from directing their anger at Mike Ashley.

If he isn’t given what he wants, he may consider walking away and that is a situation that the owner must avoid.

Benitez is both Ashley’s best asset and biggest threat. The manager has improved the atmosphere around the club and as long as he is in post, the supporters will believe that better times are ahead.

In addition to that, he is a world-class coach and capable of producing better results with an average squad. Newcastle are currently out of the relegation zone and considering the talent at his disposal, that is a huge achievement. However, if he was to leave his post, a crisis would quickly follow and it would be difficult to see the club maintaining their Premier League status.

The next few weeks and months promise to be crucial in determining the future of Newcastle United. There is nothing wrong with Mike Ashley walking away from talks with PCP and Amanda Staveley. If the deal wasn’t right and little progress was being made, his decision is understandable.

However, as the current owner of the club, it would be unforgivable not to invest before the transfer deadline. The squad isn’t good enough and needs an injection of quality. If that isn’t given, Benitez’s future would be cast into fresh doubt.

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