Newcastle United are returning to the Premier League after one season in the Championship and they should be a lot better under the stewardship of Rafa Benitez. Although the Spaniard isn’t completely happy with the board due to an underwhelming transfer window to date, he remains at the helm and that is a huge positive for the club. There is no doubting the size of the club, but they haven’t had a manager capable of delivering its full potential. If Benitez is backed and fans are patient, good things could be just around the corner.
That is a huge if though. Benitez decided to stay at the beginning of the summer after being given the assurances that he wanted, but the signs are that the board haven’t delivered on those promises. The Spaniard has spoken about his unhappiness in the media and it will be intriguing to see how this situation plays out. Mike Ashley would be foolish not to give his manager the tools to do the job, but he isn’t often on the right side of logic. The marriage between the two is fragile and supporters will be hoping for an improvement soon. Otherwise, it could be damaging to their season.
It isn’t all negative on Tyneside, as the supporters are completely behind Benitez and the players, which should make for a positive atmosphere at St James’ Park. There have had record season ticket sales, while the team should have momentum after winning the Championship. They start the season as a team many expect to stay in the division, but it would be a lot more comfortable for them if the board releases funds before the end of the summer transfer window.
How has their summer gone?
As suggested above, it hasn’t been as good as many expected it to be. Christian Atsu made his loan move permanent before Florian Lejeune arrived from Eibar. The French centre back has looked good during pre-season, but other first-team signings were slow to come in. Jacob Murphy and Javier Manquillo joined the squad midway through pre-season to provide more competition. However, neither have much of a track record at the highest level. They weren’t the eye-catching signings that many were expecting.
The final signing that the club have made so far is an exciting one in Mikel Merino. The midfielder joins on a loan with an obligation to buy from Borussia Dortmund. Although he failed to become a regular in Germany, he was given a handful of appearances and showed flashes of his ability. This is a deal that has a huge upside, but he will need to be managed correctly by Benitez.
Pre-season has been low key for Newcastle as they have avoided long journeys across the globe, instead opting to stay closer to home. There were impressive wins over Wolfsburg and Hellas Verona, which showed signs of a team capable of competing in the top flight. The Premier League will provide a step up in competition and it will be interesting to see if the players can make the adjustment.
Manager: Rafa Benitez
The former Real Madrid manager has a good pedigree and it was a surprise to see him drop into the Championship with Newcastle. However, he clearly has an affection for the club and believes in their potential to reach the top of the English game once again. The transfer business conducted this summer suggest that it will be a harder job than he initially thought, but he isn’t giving up and that is encouraging.
Benitez will look to be difficult to beat this season and concede possession in most matches, relying on his organisational skills to keep his team in matches. They will try to be good on the counter-attack with pacy options such as Jacob Murphy, Christian Atsu and Dwight Gayle in the squad. Jonjo Shelvey will be a key figure for the Magpies. If he has a strong season, they should be able to climb to mid-table safety with relative ease.
How could the Magpies line-up this season?
During his managerial career, Benitez has been known for relying on a 4-2-3-1 formation and Newcastle are likely to use one this season. He will be pragmatic at times, but this will be his primary formation. Rob Elliot looks favourite to start in goal, while DeAndre Yedlin and Ciaran Clark should both retain their places in the Premier League. A double-pivot of Isaac Hayden and Mikel Merino will provide freedom for Shelvey to roam in the attacking half. Dwight Gayle is going to be the one to lead the line unless a new striker arrives before the end of the month.
Who are Newcastle United’s best fantasy football options?
There will be many looking at Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle as fantasy options, based on their successes last season. However, there has been one player that has emerged during pre-season and he could be a great low-risk choice for your teams. Christian Atsu has been a constant threat in all of the friendlies he has featured in and his pace will be utilised by Newcastle. His final ball has improved over the last 12 months and he has a point to prove as he hasn’t established himself at Premier League level yet.
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Premier League Verdict
A lot depends on the final few weeks of the window. If Benitez is backed and given the funds to buy the striker that he desperately needs, Newcastle could be set for a strong season. However, the other scenario is another few weeks of discontent, which would anger the manager even more. The Spaniard is committed to the supporters and the players, but he could be forced out if he isn’t treated with respect from above. They should stay up, but they should be aiming for more than that with Benitez at the helm. Unfortunately, it seems that the board doesn’t share the same ambition.
Paul Dummett’s Wales snub will please Newcastle United fans
The Welshman turned down an international call-up this week.
Paul Dummett has been one of the standout players for Newcastle United this season and his performances haven’t passed Ryan Giggs by.
The new Wales National Team manager has admitted that he has spoken to the left-back with a view to a return to the squad. The Chronicle reported the following quotes:
“I had a conversation with Paul Dummett, because he hasn’t been in the last few squads, and he just felt that it wasn’t the right time to come back.
“He wanted to concentrate on his Newcastle career which I have to respect, and we move on.
“He (Dummett) said that he wanted to concentrate on Newcastle’s relegation fight so I have to respect that at the moment. In the future we will wait and see.”
That will be music to the ears of Newcastle supporters and Rafa Benitez, as Dummett has emerged as a key player for the team since his return from injury.
This season in the Premier League, the Magpies have conceded only 13 times in the 12 matches that the 26-year-old has started.
That underlines how effective he has been and his importance to the team’s chances of staying in the top-flight.
Although he may not be the most exciting player to watch, Dummett is very good at carrying out a role for the team and it is no surprise that he has become one of Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants.
The Spanish manager enjoys to coach players that listen and carry out his instructions to the letter and his left-back certainly fits under that description.
A quick look at the stats shows how rounded Dummett is as a defender.
He averages 2.83 ball recoveries, 0.78 blocks and 6.85 clearances per ninety minutes. Meanwhile, he is very good in the air as shown by his aerial duels win rate of 57.41%.
He was once a scapegoat for Newcastle supporters and the focus of anger when things weren’t going well. The reason for that was his lack of technical skill, which would make him stand out on the pitch.
However, that side of his game has developed and he is now serviceable in possession. Dummett isn’t going to be cutting sides open with his attacking threat down the left, but he understands his own limitations and that has seen him improve as a player.
The 26-year-old has been part of Wales squads in the past, but he has only played once for his country and his lack of game-time may be a reason why he stepped away from the international arena.
Last summer, Newcastle issued a statement to explain why Dummett withdrew from the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Serbia, which featured the following quote:
“After a gruelling campaign with the Magpies, in which he played through the pain barrier on several occasions, 25-year-old Dummett is keen to recharge his batteries and spend time with his family and friends in order to ensure he is at peak form and fitness for his hometown team’s return to the Premier League and what promises to be a big campaign for both him and the club.
“He has been supported in his decision by Newcastle boss Rafa Benítez.
“However, Dummett – who has represented his country from youth level all the way to the senior team – has not closed the door on his international career and hopes to represent the Dragons again in the future.”
It is clear that Newcastle is the priority for Dummett, but it is interesting that he refused to close the door on Wales last summer.
A managerial change since then may lead to further opportunities for the left-back and it is easy to see why Giggs has already reached out to him.
The Newcastle full-back has developed into a Premier League calibre player under Benitez and he will offer an upgrade on the options currently in the Wales squad.
For him, as a player, it may be beneficial to play international football and gain experience at the highest level. Although he didn’t agree to come back at this time, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t return to the fold in the near future. Both parties would benefit from that.
Newcastle United fans are livid at Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad
Newcastle fans cannot believe Jonjo Shelvey is not in the England squad.
Gareth Southgate announced his latest England squad earlier today and for Newcastle United fans it was not well received. Newcastle fans were left dumbfounded by the absence of Jonjo Shelvey and Jamaal Lascelles.
Both players have been in good form for Rafa Benitez’s side this season but obviously not enough to make the England team.
The main reason why Newcastle fans have been so frustrated at the omission of the pair revolves around the players who have actually been called up by Southgate.
In particular, not many fans can understand how Jake Livermore gets the nod ahead of the Shelvey. Livermore has had a poor season with Premier League basement club West Brom and recently made headlines for the wrong reasons. He was one of several West Brom players reprimanded for stealing a taxi in Barcelona last month. Shelvey has outperformed the West Brom player throughout the campaign.
Southgate also gave debut call-ups to Burnley defender James Tarkowski and Swansea City centre-back Alfie Mawson. Their inclusion ahead of Newcastle captain also baffled many fans at St James’ Park. Whilst Tarkowski and Mawson have both had good seasons, it is hard to see how either has bettered Lascelles throughout the campaign.
Southgate has decided to experiment with that pair entering the fray, but for many, the Newcastle players were far more deserving.
Such sentiment is not reserved for just Newcastle fans either, with the majority of fans believing both Newcastle players deserved a chance.
This was seemingly both players last chance to make the England squad for the World Cup in the summer.
Here is some of the best reaction to the news on Twitter…
How on earth does Jake Livermore get in the England squad ahead of Jonjo Shelvey?
— Luke Edwards (@LukeEdwardsTele) March 15, 2018
Lewis Cook and Jake Livermore over Jonjo Shelvey. What’s Southgate smoking?
— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) March 15, 2018
Cudnt care less about England and never have done for years now,livermore over shelvey just confirms why!
— Paul Wardle (@paulwallsend) March 15, 2018
Jonjo Shelvey is such an under-rated footballer and the fact Jake Livermore gets England caps ahead of him is mind blowing.
— David (@DTweeting101) March 10, 2018
Bad call from Southgate with the @England squad…Cook and Livermore over Shelvey?… Very disappointing
— camerongalloway_ (@djcgall) March 15, 2018
— Steven Lynn (@StevenLynn87) March 15, 2018
Livermore but no Shelvey? Whuuuuuut? #England
— Jack Bridgeman ? (@bridgeman_jack) March 15, 2018
— Matty (@m_atty90) March 15, 2018
Livermore in and not shelvey. Wtf ?????
— Craig Allen (@goobs9) March 15, 2018
Jonjo Shelvey getting overlooked for Jake Livermore ?? https://t.co/MC0t9kgxXX
— Leeming (@I_Leeming) March 15, 2018
Think Lascelles over Mawson any day but the criminal pick here is Livermore over Shelvey
— Myles (@MylesG_9) March 15, 2018
— CompleteNUFC (@CompleteNUFC) March 15, 2018
Livermore ahead of shelvey is an absolute JOKE. No lascelles is an even bigger joke.
— Stacy Young (@Stacyluvmusic) March 15, 2018
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley must release funds to Kenedy this summer
The forward scored twice in the Magpie’s weekend victory over Southampton.
Newcastle United took a huge step to safety this past weekend thanks to on-loan winger Kenedy who scored a brace against Southampton. The rest of the results at the bottom went for the Magpies and optimism about their chances increased significantly.
There will be nobody on Tyneside getting too complacent, not least Rafael Benitez, but the manager could be forgiven for having one eye on the summer.
It promises to be a crucial one for the club as it remains on the market, while there will be more rumours about the future of Benitez. There has been friction between the board and the manager in recent windows, which will come into focus again this summer.
Regardless of his desire to sell the club, Mike Ashley needs to appreciate the worth of his manager and make sure that his biggest asset remains at St James’ Park.
A quick way to do that this summer will be to sign Kenedy on a permanent deal from Chelsea. The Mirror report that the winger will be available for £15 million and that would be a great price for a player with his quality. He has immediately improved Newcastle since joining and provided some much-needed quality in the final third.
During his first six matches, he has scored twice and got one assist. Considering Newcastle’s struggles in the final third throughout this season, Kenedy has provided end product that had previously been lacking. It is too soon to judge him fully, but he has come in and made an impact straight away in a team fighting relegation. That shows both talent and a good mentality.
The Magpies have been a working progress under Benitez this season. Their underlying numbers are good, but they have lacked the quality to produce the results required. Since Kenedy arrived, they have lost only one of their six Premier League matches and that came against an in-form Liverpool team.
As stated above, it is early days for the Brazilian at St James’ Park, but his attacking contributions have been impressive. The 22-year-old is currently averaging 1.02 chances created and 2.86 attempted shots per ninety minutes.
He hasn’t been perfect, with his decision making being questionable at times. However, he has stood out as one of the more talented players in the team and for that reason, he needs to be signed on a permanent deal.
Throughout his tenure as Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley has been reluctant to spend big money and his penny pinching has only got worse as his desire to sell has increased. Since promotion to the Premier League, the club has spent just under £40 million, which isn’t enough to compete with the majority of clubs in the top-flight.
That needs to change as he needs to make sure Benitez doesn’t leave the club this summer, as it would derail any potential takeover. It is clear that the Newcastle manager would like to bring Kenedy to the club on a permanent basis and if Ashley can make that happen, it will go a long way to protecting his investment.
At the age of 22, there is potential for a big profit in the future, as Kenedy would surely develop on Tyneside under Benitez. The money in the modern game has become silly, but at £15 million, Kenedy would represent value.
He has already emerged as a key player for Newcastle and his importance will increase with game-time. This is a deal that Mike Ashley simply must make happen.
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