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Difficult opening fixtures underline need for Newcastle to strengthen

Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United

Difficult opening fixtures underline need for Newcastle to strengthen

Newcastle United’s summer hasn’t really started yet and the need for reinforcements was underlined on Friday when the 2018/19 fixtures were announced.

They have been given a tough start to the Premier League campaign and it is important that Rafa Benitez gets as much time as possible to prepare the team. Therefore, they need to sharpen up in the market and provide the funds required to appease their manager.

Earlier this month, the Shields Gazette reported that there was a standoff between manager and board regarding the transfer window.

Benitez wants the club to commit to a spending plan before agreeing to sign a new contract. Meanwhile, Mike Ashley wants the Spaniard to agree to a new deal before he releases the funds. It is becoming a game of cat and mouse, which isn’t helpful to Newcastle in the slightest.

This has been allowed to bubble away in the background, but it has been brought back into focus by the release of the fixtures. They serve as a reminder that the Premier League season will be back before long and periods of inactivity will be hurtful to their chances of a successful season.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Newcastle will open their campaign at home to Tottenham for a second successive season. Last year, they lost 2-0 in the corresponding fixture and a similar result wouldn’t be a surprise.

Four of their first five fixtures are against teams that finished in the top-six last season. Although supporters will be hopeful that their team can earn some points, they will realise the size of their task.

The other three top-six sides that they are due to play are Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. There is an argument that it can be beneficial to play the big teams early and the fact that three of the matches are at home should be encouraging. After all, Newcastle managed to beat both Chelsea and Arsenal at St James’ Park last season.

The only team outside of the current top six that Newcastle are due to play in their opening five matches is Cardiff City. It will be the Welsh club’s first home match back in the Premier League and that is an occasion that could be difficult for the visiting team.

Based on the fixtures, it is a game the Magpies will be targeting for three points, but the atmosphere might make that difficult to achieve.

The coming weeks are crucial for Newcastle. There needs to be an agreement reached between board and manager, with funds being made available for transfer activity.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

A manager like Benitez will already have deals in place and will just need to go ahead from above and the mood on Tyneside would change significantly with two or three signings, especially if they have the quality to push the team on to the next level.

This summer could be looked back on as another opportunity missed under Mike Ashley. After overachieving to finish 10th, Benitez should have been given the freedom to capitalise on that and maintain the positive momentum.

Sadly, that hasn’t happened and the opening fixtures make for unpleasant reading. If they aren’t careful, Newcastle could be building the wrong sort of momentum heading into the 2018/19 season.

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Jake Jackman

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

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