Newcastle are well placed in the Championship as they are just three points off the top of the table and they will be confident of building further momentum over the coming weeks. Rafa Benitez is a perfectionist and he won’t be happy until his side are leading the way in the Championship. Even after their 6-0 thrashing of QPR, the Spaniard saw room for improvement and he stated once again that he wants to see more from his side. The Shields Gazette carries these quotes from the manager:
“I am quite happy, although still not 100 per cent satisfied because we are not at the top of the table.
“In terms of how things are going, I think we are going in the right direction.
“I probably sound like a broken record because I am saying this all the time, but I can still see room for improvement.”
The difficulty for Newcastle this season is the expectation that is on them, as they are the favourites to win the league. Although they are in third place and playing well, they need to be at the top of the league and Benitez will see the next month as the perfect time to make their surge. Their fixtures over the next month look kind and provide a great opportunity to build momentum before the Christmas period.
One player that will be eager to play a part over the next month is Ayoze Perez, despite being left out of the match-day squad that travelled to Rotherham United before the international break. The Spaniard is seen as one of the most talented players in the squad, but he polarises opinion among supporters and he is no longer seen as a first-team regular. The Chronicle have run a fan poll on the 23-year-old and the results suggest that the supporters aren’t convinced that he is physically strong enough to deal with the Championship.
This is going to be a test of Benitez’s managerial ability, as Perez is undoubtedly good enough for the Premier League and should be a huge part of the future at St James’ Park. However, he hasn’t been able to make an impact this season with just one goal and one assist in eight league matches. His best position is just behind the striker, but he doesn’t suit playing alongside Dwight Gayle, as neither have any physical presence. If Aleksandar Mitrovic is given a run in the side, then it could also help Perez return to his best form and set the division alight. On his day, Perez is one of the best players in the Championship and he needs to show that consistently if he is to get a permanent place in the Newcastle side.
Finally, Rob Elliot is closing in on a return to first team action in the coming weeks and has been talking about his time out since his injury. He has told the Chronicle that felt like the world was against him when he suffered the injury on international duty. It forced him out of a crucial period of Newcastle’s relegation fight and he also missed Euro 2016. He could have been Ireland’s number one and it was a harsh way to miss the tournament.
“I got over it really quickly in mental terms. You have so many ups and downs as a footballer.
“I was really proud of everything that happened before that. I did my ACL while I was playing regularly for Newcastle in the Premier League and Ireland. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to be in.
“If it was going to happen, at least it did while I was showing everybody what I could do.”
The goalkeeper was the player of the season for Newcastle last year and stopped his side from being cut adrift at the foot of the table. It will be interesting whether he comes straight back into the team, as the goalkeeper situation is precarious. Benitez doesn’t seem convinced by either Karl Darlow or Matz Sels and the manager may be tempted to bring Elliot back as his number one.
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