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Newcastle: Benitez wants improvement; Gayle work rate impresses boss; club target Serbian defender

Newcastle United enjoyed their return to competitive action after the international break with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Brentford. The goals were scored by Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle (two) as the Magpies continue their assault on the top of the table. Rafa Benitez will be pleased at how his side has adapted to the Championship, but the Spaniard still sees room for improvement.

“I’m pleased because after the international break it’s not easy,”

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“I’m not watching the table because it’s too soon. I said the other day I was convinced we could improve; I’m pleased but we can still improve.”

This season has required a change of mentality within the Newcastle squad and Benitez has been the correct man to oversee that. He has implemented a winning culture quickly and they do look like they are capable of running away at the top of the league. They have won their last three league matches and are beginning to build the momentum required to earn promotion. The comments from Benitez show that he is a perfectionist and it is difficult to see Newcastle growing complacent under his leadership.

Dwight Gayle had a lot to prove after dropping a division to join Newcastle and instantly increased the pressure on himself by taking the iconic number nine shirt. However, he has immediately found his scoring boots and is now the leading goalscorer in the Championship with nine goals. He scored a brace against Brentford, displaying his clinical finishing, intelligent movement and impressive work rate. He has displayed form that has vindicated the decision to give him the number nine shirt. Benitez is clearly a huge fan of his striker and spoke about him after the match at St James’ Park.

“It is not just because he is scoring goals, he is working hard and was also doing a great job today between the lines.

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“And you could see that the wingers and the midfielders are running more along with the defence.

“So the team as a team is doing a lot of things and then you have a striker that is good in front of goal so it’s much better.”

These quotes from the manager show how highly Dwight Gayle is thought of at the club and show how it is the striker’s work rate that has impressed Benitez most. He is always full of running for his side and that has allowed Newcastle to press high up the pitch. It is important to have a goal-scorer in your squad if promotion is to be achieved and the Magpies certainly have one of the best in Gayle.

One transfer line to emerge over the last 24 hours comes from the Chronicle, who report that Newcastle are monitoring Nikola Milenkovic. He is a 19-year-old Serbian centre back who currently plays for Partizan in his homeland. There is also interest from Anderlecht and Ajax, which shows the growing reputation of the teenage defender. He has already received a cap for the senior Serbia team and could be a smart signing with the asking price at around £3 million.

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Newcastle have four first team centre backs and Benitez’s rotation policy means that all have a role to play this season. In January, Chancel Mbemba will be going to play in the African Cup of Nations, which means that it is possible that Newcastle will be in the market for a centre back.

A young, promising defender would fit the bill for Benitez as they can provide cover for a month before continuing their development under the radar. There have been doubts cast over Grant Hanley this season and brining in Milenkovic, who has huge potential, could be a good move for the club.

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