Press conference analysis: Benitez talks Bristol City, squad rotation and the transfer window
There was a collective sigh of relief on Tyneside after Newcastle’s victory over Reading. The 4-1 score-line may have flattered them, but it was crucial to get three points on the board and they did just that. Dwight Gayle scored twice, while both Matt Ritchie and Isaac Hayden opened their accounts at the club. It was only the first step in what will be a tough climb back to the Premier League and it is important that they don’t get complacent ahead of the weekend’s trip to Bristol City. Their away performances have been poor for over the year and that continued at Fulham on the opening day.
Facing the press on Friday, Benitez was happy about his side’s win during the week, but the focus is now fully on Bristol City and he knows that it won’t be an easy game. On Saturday’s opponents, he said ‘we know we will play versus teams who are extra motivated. Bristol City have confidence and are doing well so they be tough’.
Bristol City are going to have their largest ever attendance on Saturday as Ashton Gate has been redeveloped and it will be bouncing for the visit of Newcastle. Every single match in the Championship is tough in its own ways and Benitez recognises this. He is meticulous in his planning and that is shown by his comments about Saturday’s opposition. The part about teams being ‘extra motivated’ is interesting and gives an insight into the task that Newcastle face this season. The squad have gone from fighting relegation to being expected to win the league and as such a shift in mentality is required. This will take time and the opening three matches have shown that they aren’t quite there yet.
Against Reading, Benitez made the decision to drop his captain Jamaal Lascelles in a move that shocked many and he was asked about it in his pre-match press conference. His reply was fascinating: ‘Lascelles reacted really well. That’s the reason I gave him the armband. He knows his responsibility. We will see if he plays. I like to change players with two games in a week. All of them will be important. It’s obvious we will have squad rotation.’
Although the Championship requires rotation, Benitez has been known to do it throughout his career and that is why he has fleshed out the United squad this summer. Only five players have started in all three matches this season and the competition in the squad should lead to improved performances in the squad. Every player knows they have to play well or they will be dropped, even the captain. The part in Benitez’s response about Lascelles shows that the club captain responded exactly how his manager wanted him to. This will reassure Benitez that he made the correct decision in appointing Lascelles as the captain.
The transfer window is coming to a close and has under two weeks to run, but it is still the subject dominating press conferences up-and-down the country. It is no different at Newcastle, with Benitez being asked about the business Newcastle are hoping to do before the deadline and he answered with:
‘We have still got a lot of work to do…it’s not easy, though. As soon as Premier League clubs had more money, it was difficult because everybody is spending big money. We have targets and are working on them. Hopefully we will do something sooner rather than later.’
The influx on money in the Premier League is certainly having a crazy effect on the market and that has affected the work Newcastle are trying to do. It will be worrying for the other 23 clubs in the league that Newcastle are still looking to do ‘a lot of work’ before the window closes. They have already got a very good squad for the second tier and new signings will strengthen their cause further. They are the most attractive club in the second tier so the fact that they are finding it hard to do deals suggests they are targeting a different calibre of player than the other 23 teams. This was always likely to be the case and it will be interesting to see how the squad looks in September.
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