There was panic at Newcastle United this morning, all stemming from a shock decision from one of the big nations at this summer’s World Cup. Spain boss Julen Lopetegui was named as the successor to Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid yesterday afternoon. However, he did not inform the Spanish football federation who, subsequently, sacked him.
It leaves Spain without a manager ahead of the World Cup, with their first game against European champions Portugal on Friday evening.
One name that was immediately mentioned as a potential replacement, temporary or permanent, was Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez.
The Spaniard has long been linked with the Spanish national team role and in the past has not hidden his desire to one day lead his nation. With continued rumblings over his future at Newcastle, the fear was he might be off to save his country in their hour of need.
That would have left Newcastle desperately short in pre-season preparation and concerned he would become the manager of Spain permanently.
However, as reported by The Chronicle, the Newcastle boss apparently has no interest in the Spain job right now. They report he is happy in the UK and is not yet ready to turn his back on club management.
Newcastle fans can now breathe a sigh of relief, as the Spaniard has worked wonders on a tight budget and with a limited squad at St James’ Park.
Losing him would be worse than losing many of their star players and the fact he is remaining has left Newcastle fans relieved…
— Matthew Milton (@LeafySeaDragon_) June 13, 2018
— Paul Lindsay (@1ChippyUK) June 13, 2018
Benitez might as well take over Spain for the next month. Nothings gonna happen at nufc anyway
— Daniel Webster (@Dan_Omegawebby) June 13, 2018
— Scott Wilson (@Scottwilsonecho) June 13, 2018
Mike Ashley gambled on the future of Newcastle United to get to the Premier league, and now what?
Would it not have been better to not put club at risk financially.
By not spending he is again risking relegation.
It’s a question of when, not if Rafa Benitez walks out of #NUFC
— Himanshu Dhingra (@HD_07) June 13, 2018
Wow something big must of gone down in the spanish camp for them to sack him couple days before the world cup! Benitez to take over and win the world cup then return to newcastle to win the prem?? ??? #spain #WorldCup2018 #skysportnews
— Gary (@garybcha) June 13, 2018
I agree completely. I think it would be a win win situation for NUFC and Rafa.
— Stephen Edward Graham (@StephenEdwardG4) June 13, 2018
— The Spectator’s View (@thespectoview) June 13, 2018
Newcastle United talent Liam Gibson returns to action after 2017-18 illness hell
The left-back missed all of last season with ulcerative colitis and a blood clot but is now back with Newcastle United’s under-23s.
Newcastle United fans had plenty to be pleased with from their opening day performance against Tottenham Hotspur. Whilst they may have lost the game, it was a performance that will give the Toon Army hope ahead of the new season.
But whilst the Newcastle first-team looks settled, there is one player in the under-23 field who will be hoping to force his way into Rafa Benitez’s thinking in the near future.
Liam Gibson started his first competitive game for Newcastle’s under-23s since May 2017 against West Brom yesterday evening.
Last May the left-back was looking ready to make the breakthrough at Newcastle. Former under-23 boss Peter Beardsley was saying he could make it to the top. He had just come off the back of an excellent 2016-17 campaign with the Newcastle youngsters and a first-team place seemed to be around the corner.
“If someone said you’d be back training a year today, I would have laughed at them. I was that depressed at the time, I didn’t even want to play football anymore. I was saying to my parents, my girlfriend and my brother, ‘that’s it – I’ll never be able to recover from this’.
“To be training and playing now is kind of surreal. I just feel dead lucky.”
However, last season was a nightmare for the youngster. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, the same condition that once afflicted Darren Fletcher so dramatically, Gibson underwent four operations last season and did not play a single game. A blood clot in his calf also laid him out for a period of time.
But he played 89 minutes yesterday as he continues his comeback. Newcastle fans will hope it is just the start and Gibson can push into the first-team one day.
Three things learnt as Newcastle’s lose at home to Tottenham: Ritchie stands out
Newcastle United were left without anything to show for a positive opening day performance against Tottenham. They fell behind early to a goal from Jan Vertonghen that was awarded by goal line technology. The Magpies quickly fought back thanks to a goal from Joselu, before a Dele Alli header won the points for the visitors.
It was another opening day defeat to Tottenham, but there were far more positives to take from this display compared to last season. The home side worked hard until the final whistle and were arguably the better team after half-time, hitting the woodwork twice.
Their opening run of fixtures mean that they may find themselves near the bottom for the first couple of months. However, this performance showed that they should have more than enough to stay in the division. Below, we discuss three things learnt from Saturday’s game.
It is a positive that Matt Ritchie stayed during the summer
There was a lot of speculation regarding the future of Matt Ritchie over the summer. Stoke City and Middlesbrough were both heavily linked with the midfielder, but a transfer didn’t materialise, and he remained a Newcastle United player.
It was no surprise that he started against Tottenham, as he is a crucial first-team player for Newcastle and he proved that he has the quality to influence games in the Premier League. He rarely gave the ball away with an 86% pass completion and he managed to deliver a superb cross to set-up Joselu for the equaliser.
Ritchie’s work rate and quality on the ball mean that he is integral to Newcastle down the right side. At the age of 28, he will be looking to have his most productive Premier League season and Saturday was the perfect start.
The defence needs to tighten up
Last season, Newcastle’s success was built on a strong back four. They conceded 47 times and that ranked them as the 7th best defence in the Premier League. That wasn’t a huge surprise as they are coached by Rafa Benitez, who pays close attention to the organisation of the back four.
However, they were more open than he would have liked against Tottenham. Dele Alli regularly caused problems with his movement, while the marking for the first goal was poor. Benitez will believe that set pieces are heavily influenced by the tactical side of the game, therefore he won’t be wanting his team to conceded often from them.
Jamaal Lascelles was the standout defender in the Newcastle back four and he will have a huge part to play this season, both as a player and as captain. He was partnered by Ciaran Clark against Tottenham, but it is likely that either Fabian Schar or Federico Fernandez will be the one chosen to partner the club captain.
Kenedy is set for a breakout season
The Brazilian was the most important signing made by Newcastle during the summer. He arrived last season and made a huge contribution as the side climbed to safety. Many supporters were disappointed that the club didn’t sign him on a permanent deal, but another loan spell is better than not having him at all.
Kenedy showed his technical ability against Tottenham as he caused problems with his direct running and distribution in the final third. The Brazilian completed six dribbles and that created a lot of space for Newcastle to attack. His decision making was mixed, but that will get better as the season develops.
The one disappointment will be his poor first touch when he was played through on goal in the second-half. He will know that it was a golden chance to score and he should have done better. Despite this, his performance was a positive one.
One winner, one loser as Newcastle were narrowly beaten by Tottenham
Newcastle United were unfortunate to come away with nothing after a spirited performance against Tottenham on the opening day of the Premier League season. There was much focus on the lack of transfer business completed by both clubs, but they each delivered good displays on Saturday.
Rafa Benitez was frustrated by the lack of money given to him in the transfer market, despite the addition of seven new players. The Magpies ended the window with a profit of over £20 million and the manager was left wondering why he wasn’t given those funds to strengthen the squad.
Only Martin Dubravka and Kenedy started the game on Saturday from the new signings, but both were on the books of the club during the second half of last season. Newcastle showed good fighting spirit, but they couldn’t make the most of the chances that were created. Below, we discuss one winner and one loser from their opening day match.
Winner – Joselu
There was disappointment among supporters when the team was announced as Joselu was selected to lead the line over Salomon Rondon or Yoshinori Muto. The Spaniard joined last summer and was chosen due to the fact he played throughout pre-season. However, he scored only four Premier League goals during his first campaign with the club.
This was an opportunity for Joselu and one that he had to take. He managed to do just that as he scored the equalising goal in the first-half with a nice header. It got Newcastle back in the game and showed the quality that he does have in the final third.
The 28-year-old caused problems throughout, winning seven aerial duels and completing two key passes. He came close to creating a second equaliser as his superb outside of the boot pass found Kenedy in space, but the Brazilian’s touch let him down. Joselu is unlikely to be a regular starter, but he has given Benitez food for thought.
Loser – DeAndre Yedlin
The USA International was set to have an important season with Newcastle after a year of development under Benitez. It was thought that he would be the undisputed first-choice at right-back and his experience over the last year would see him deliver an increased level of performance.
However, he looked shaky at the back throughout the game with the winning goal partly his fault as he didn’t pick up Dele Alli. His positioning was questionable as he often relied on his pace to get him out of tricky situations.
His afternoon was made even worse late on as he was forced off with what looked like a bad knee injury. It appeared that he hyperextended his knee while sprinting and he had to leave the field before the end of play. The details haven’t been released yet, but it could be that Yedlin misses a significant period of the season, which would be a blow to both player and club.
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