Newcastle United will want to complete more transfer business this month, but Rafa Benitez has admitted that he is preparing for the first game against Tottenham with the players that he has.
The Spaniard is meticulous when preparing for a match and a player signed before the kick-off won’t have enough time to fully understand the role that the manager will want them to play.
When asked about the options for the Spurs match, the Magpies boss told the Chronicle:
“We more or less have the group in place. We have a few players with little knocks and we have to assess them and decide what we do.
“But we can’t change too much and must work with what we have.”
It is clear that the eleven players who will start against Tottenham are likely to be already at the club. The one position that there are a lot of question marks over is the ‘number ten’ role.
Benitez likes to use a 4-2-3-1 formation, with an advanced midfielder, who is expected to support the striker and provide the link in the final third.
There are three players at the club competing for the role, but none of them have managed to make it their own, thus far.
The favourite to start the season in the position is Ayoze Perez. The talented Spaniard has impressed before in the Premier League and could be one of the key figures for Newcastle this season if he performs to the best of his ability.
It was difficult in the Championship for him, as he struggled with the increased physicality. He managed to contribute eight goals and six assists, but a player with his ability should have fared better.
On his day, he can be incredible in the role and a joy to watch, as his agility and quick feet make him a nightmare to defend against. As a finisher, he is reliable in front of goal, but his lack of consistency makes him a risk.
His main competition last season was Mohamed Diame, who joined the club from Hull City. It was seen as a coup, due to the midfielder opting to drop a division to sign for the Magpies. However, he failed to have the desired impact and he was average at best in the ‘number ten role’ last term.
Some would argue that it isn’t his best position, as he struggled to influence the game with only three goals and three assists. That said, he ran himself into the ground every match and his work rate could appeal to Benitez, to begin with, as the manager will want his side to be solid defensively first and foremost.
During pre-season, one of the previously unwanted players has made a comeback and shown enough to be considered for the ‘number ten’ position. Siem de Jong has had a nightmare time since joining the club, as he has suffered various injuries and failed to pin down a first-team place due to them.
Last season, he went on loan to PSV Eindhoven and started to rebuild his fitness. Since returning, he has featured prominently during pre-season and displayed some excellent play in the final third. His eye for a pass is great and he links up the play well in the final third. However, he remains an injury risk and will have a lot to learn about Benitez’s style.
It is difficult to pick which one is the best fit, as all pose problems to Benitez. Perez is arguably the favourite to start the season in the role, but he is lightweight and alongside Dwight Gayle, it would be a risk to field him. Newcastle would be lacking in physicality in attack and rely on only one way of playing.
Diame works hard, but he doesn’t offer a great deal in the attacking half. If he struggled in the second tier, it is unlikely he will far better in the Premier League. De Jong is an interesting option, but he needs to prove himself before starting matches regularly.
The last two pre-season matches could determine who will start against Spurs. At this point, Perez is the safest option as he has performed in the Premier League before, but he has a long way to go before he is considered a guaranteed starter in Benitez’s first eleven.
Lewis who? Adam Wilson on a path to Newcastle United first-team
After losing Lewis Gibson to Everton, Newcastle United have unearthed another gem in Adam Wilson.
Last July Newcastle United fans were left bitterly disappointed in the decision of Lewis Gibson to swap St James’ Park for Goodison Park.
Everton convinced the teenager to leave Tyneside for Merseyside in a deal the Liverpool Echo reported could eventually be worth around £6 million.
It was a shame to see the left-sided defender go and Newcastle fans believe they lost a huge talent, but those feelings have been slightly improved by the form of Adam Wilson at Newcastle.
Reports today are suggesting that Newcastle United are lining up a first professional contract for the player.
The Chronicle report that the Magpies will offer Wilson a two-year deal at the club, in the same week he was called up to the England under-18 side.
It is a reward for a player who has emerged as a regular in the Newcastle under-18s this season and since made his breakthrough into the under-23s.
The left-back is a far more attacking option than Gibson, but still operates in the same areas and has undoubtedly done a lot to let Newcastle forget all about their departed potential star.
This week will see England’s under-18s take on Argentina and Belarus, after already beating Qatar 4-0 in the other international friendly at St George’s Park.
Interestingly both Wilson and Gibson are in the England squad for the fixtures. For the Qatar game, Wilson started and Gibson watched from the bench.
It seems that Newcastle might already have their replacement for the £6 million man in their ranks.
In the end, the Magpies could even end up having the last laugh should Wilson continue on his current trajectory.
Will Newcastle United finally give Adam Armstrong his chance next season?
Adam Armstrong is currently in great form on loan at Blackburn Rovers.
Earlier this month, Blackburn Rovers forward Adam Armstrong was handed the League One Player of the Month award for February.
The England youth international, on loan from Newcastle United, thoroughly deserved the award, scoring four goals and bagging one assist in the same month he turned 21.
It was exactly the spell he needed to remind Toon supporters just how talented he is.
Armstrong, whose current record with Blackburn is seven goals in 12 games, was once considered the club’s most precocious talent.
It is now four years since Armstrong became the club’s second youngest player in Premier League history, when he replaced Luuk de Jong against Fulham.
However, the then 17-year-old has not progressed how he would have wanted at his parent club
Despite scoring 20 goals in 40 games for Coventry City in League One, back in 2015-16, he struggled to at subsequent loan spells with Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers.
Now, however, he looks back to his best. So should Newcastle finally pull the trigger on the striker next season?
Armstrong, who helped England to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup crown, is now 21 years of age and chomping at the bit to get first-team action at St James Park.
Newcastle United fans would love to see Armstrong feature in the first team. After all, the youngster is one of their own and clearly an immense talent.
If given the chance, and some playing time, he could hopefully translate his form with Blackburn to St James’ Park next season.
Not many youngsters have come through the ranks at Newcastle recently and Armstrong was always expected to be the next big star out the academy.
Hopefully, his excellent half of the season at Blackburn ends in promotion and further opportunities at the club he has supported since he was a little boy.
Victor Fernandez furthers Newcastle United first-team claims on Spain tour
The 19-year-old impressed as he featured against Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp.
Newcastle United recently travelled to Spain for a training camp as they attempted to deal with three weeks without a competitive fixture.
Rafa Benitez is an experienced manager and he will have realised the danger that such a gap could pose for his team, especially when it came to the fitness of the squad.
He arranged a training camp in his homeland, which culminated in a unique 135-minute match against Belgian side Royal Antwerp.
It consisted of three periods of 45-minutes, which allowed the manager to give playing time to the fringe players in his squad ahead of the run-in.
Although it gave the opportunity to experiment, only two youth players made the trip to Spain.
Nathan Harker was the back-up goalkeeper as both Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow were struggling with injuries.
The other, Victor Fernandez, caught the eye of Newcastle supporters watching.
Fernandez will be encouraged about further involvement with the first-team, as he was the only young outfield player to feature against Royal Antwerp.
That is a sign that Benitez considers the 19-year-old as one of the best prospects currently with the club.
The Spaniard joined the club just over a year ago from UE Cornella.
The signing went under the radar, but Benitez has an extensive scouting network and he obviously saw something in Fernandez.
Although he is predominantly a winger, he can play anywhere across the front-line is required.
Soon after joining the club, he spoke of not wanting to aim for too much too early when talking to the Newcastle United official club website:
“My purpose was not to make an impact really quickly, because I’m new and I have to get used to English football – it’s really different from Spain. I hope, little by little, I can keep doing good things here.”
Considering this was very quickly after his move to a new country, Fernandez’s words show maturity and show a glimpse into his character.
Benitez is a thorough manager who likes to know everything about the players that he brings to a football club.
There must have been something about the Spanish winger that made the Newcastle manager believe that he could adapt to English football.
There are no guarantees in football when it comes to young players fulfilling their potential.
However, the fact that Fernandez was taken on the mid-season tour to Spain suggests that he is on the right path.
He would have been offered guarantees about a route to the first-team squad and his involvement against Royal Antwerp will have been a reward for his progression since moving to St James’ Park.
He came on for the final 45-minutes and showed flashes of his ability.
There was some nice interplay with Dwight Gayle that resulted in the teenager having a shot on goal.
His trickery and direct style caused problems for his marker and he continued to excite those watching when the ball was his feet.
There is more developing for him to do before he is ready for the first-team in competitive action, but his performance against Antwerp was a positive one.
There is clearly talent there and he will be a player to follow over the coming seasons.
Newcastle are at the early stage of their development under Rafa Benitez and that will mean opportunities are there for young players.
Fernandez could have the ability to take his.
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