With Rafa Benitez essentially building a new team at Newcastle, it may take a few games for things to settle down and after two shock defeats in the first two games, we looked a lot better on Wednesday night in beating Reading 4-1.
And the play in the second half was more to the manager’s liking, as the attacks came quickly and Newcastle even looked like a decent attacking side.
Rafa Benitez with Jamaal Lascelles
Matt Ritchie showed he is a more than an adequate replacement for Andros Townsend and could become a big star on Tyneside and the new number 9, Dwight Gayle, scored a fabulous goal and showed he will knock them in if he gets the service.
So the result was great and the performance was improved from the first two games.
The big shock was that Rafa dropped captain Jamaal Lascelles for the game, but the 22 year-old took it well.
This is what Rafa Benitez has told the Chronicle:
“It’s important for me to pass this message to everyone. We want to keep the team as fit as possible for the whole season, and want to be sure the team is ready for every game.”
“You will get knocks and people who are tired. If we have to change players I have no problem. “
“They know what they have to do. It isn’t easy to explain that when you lose games and people will ask why.”
“But at the same time I could change players in the first two games because we lost. Now people we will try to use the squad as much as we can.”
“It’s important to give people the feeling they must be on their toes. They have to work hard just in case.”
“It’s impossible for them to be fit for the whole season and stay at the 100% level. For us it’s really important they compete between each other and approach every game knowing it’s an opportunity to show my level.”
“Then they can keep their position and then be ready for the next one.”
This is a communication from Rafa to all of his players that the manager will pick the team based on football merit alone and not on how much you cost in the transfer market or even if you are the captain and not playing at your best.
He is telling every player he must be ready to play in every game, if and when he is selected, so be on your toes.
Compare how Rafa handles the players with Steve McClaren last season.
Steve would have played Coloccini at center-back even when the Argentine was very poor in games and we saw that too often last term.
To a large extent in the week before the first league game when Steve made Coloccini the captain and gave him a one year extension to his contract and then give up on trying to bring in a top center-back doomed McClaren’s tenure at Newcastle.
Steve wouldn’t bring in another center-back even when Lamine Kone was offered to Newcastle in January for a measly £5M.
Steve didn’t want him because he was transfixed on playing Mbemba (or Steven Taylor) and Coloccini at the back.
But that’s only one difference between a manager who is mediocre and one who is one of the world’s best – and has the trophies to prove it.
Rafa is the boss at Newcastle and he knows exactly what he is doing – and the players know that all too well.
Howay The Lads!!