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Rafa Explains What He’s Trying To Do With The Newcastle Squad

There are a number of things that Rafa has tried to do in the three years he has been the Newcastle manager.

One is to increase the competition for places by having more than one good player in any one position.

The other reason he wants players competing for the same position is that they tend to offer different alternatives to the manager – it gives Rafa more options.

By bringing in Almiron in late January, it has increased the competition among the forwards.

And if Rafa stays with us in the summer, he wants to bring in five new players and will also have a clearout of fringe players to make room for the new acquisitions.

Gone are the days when we said we don’t need another player in that position because we already have an excellent player playing there.

Rafa Benitez in training

Competition is the key to improved performances.

One problem Rafa has as the Newcastle squad continues to get better is that there are only 18 places in a matchday squad and there will be good players not even on the bench.

Rafa has talked about his in the Chronicle today:

“It’s one of the things I have said before.”

“We have one or two players who, sometimes, they are not even in the squad, and they are training really well.” 

“Bournemouth was an opportunity for Atsu, and for Muto, to give us something.”

“You can see them in training, where they are very professional and they are working very hard.”

“You have to make a decision sometimes to leave them out of the team, and sometimes even out of the squad.”

“But it’s what you have to do. Still they are ready, and when they come in they are ready.”

“We need at least 18 players, because when you play different competitions the level of the players is quite high and quite similar.”

“You need them to compete, and then that gives you more chances to be more consistent during the season.”

More sensible comments from the manager.

Wonder when Rafa will agree to a new contract to stay at Newcastle?

Comments welcome.

33 comments so far

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 21, 2019 at 9:17 AM

    Comment #1

    Ben Afri from previous

    Thank you for sharing, that’s exactly the reason I read this blog, because there’s always a snippet of info to glean. Great insight into Bobby’s tenure at NUFC and SJH.

    I do wish Bobby had come sooner – before Dalglish and Gullit destroyed the team. Bobby would almost certainly have won the league with Keegan’s team, IMO

  • Ben Afri

    Mar 21, 2019 at 9:33 AM

    Comment #2


    My pleasure, pal.

  • martoon

    Mar 21, 2019 at 9:52 AM

    Comment #3

    Jib & Ben Afri – I always thought the the 3 young players responsible were Jenas, Dyer and Bellamy – it’s rumoured they used to poke fun behind SBR’s back. I never understood why Shearer didn’t sort them out?

  • Ben Afri

    Mar 21, 2019 at 9:55 AM

    Comment #4


    I often look at Tottenham these days with envy, I must admit. Back then, Spurs were nowhere near the team and the club we were and had we followed on the vision set by Sir John Hall, I believe we’d still be challenging for 2nd and 3rd positions, even with City and Chelsea’s money.

    I watch Liverpool’s style of playing these days and I imagine a free flowing Newcastle Vs Liverpool 4- 3 classic!

    Yeah, I still live in the 90’s 😉

  • AncientC

    Mar 21, 2019 at 9:56 AM

    Comment #5

    Ron Knee: “Maybot gloats about stopping Freedom of Movement, but she never mentions the fact that she’s thrown away our right to live and work in the EU. For “balance”, I think the Labour front bench is equally complicit.”

    So people from the UK will not have a “right” to work and live in the EU should May’s withdrawal agreement go through, huh?.

    Labour front bench “equally”. “complicit”. huh?

    Anyway, to take a leaf out of Robleenio’s book. #NUFC

  • Ben Afri

    Mar 21, 2019 at 9:57 AM

    Comment #6


    I know that they were all scared of Shearer back then, and even Shearer feared Speed so it wasn’t like they were short of leaders. So I imagine Jenas, Dyer and Bellamy only did so behind Shearer and Speed’s backs too – especially considering how much Shearer loved Sir Bobby for rejuvenating his career.

  • Ben Afri

    Mar 21, 2019 at 9:58 AM

    Comment #7

    But to be fair, Dyer did publicly apologise for the part he played. Not sure the others ever did.

  • norfolknhope

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:00 AM

    Comment #8

    Of course dyer was one, he has even mentioned before how he regretted his behaviour, he bloody turned the team bus around once as he left a diamond earing in an away dressing room. Bellendemy is a shoe is as just look at his behaviour even under souness, and now at his last job Cardiff. Him with his cousin in tow were ment to always be bother, and right numpties. And jenas probably easily swayed, I think there was possibly too many for big al and Bobby to take any action on as just to many inflated egos at that point, they played well and what a team, but again won noubt.

  • Ben Afri

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:05 AM

    Comment #9


    I do recall him regretting his behaviour (Dyer). I’m not sure if it was in a book, or just after Sir Bobby’s passing.

    “My refusal to play in the position the manager asked me was wrong. I sincerely regret the whole incident. Certain players were injured and, for the good of the team and the club, I should have accepted what Sir Bobby said without question.

    “Ultimately, the manager picks the team, and I apologise to him and to our supporters wholeheartedly.”

  • Ben Afri

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:07 AM

    Comment #10

    On his relationship with Sir Bobby Robson
    I was closer than anyone to the great Sir Bobby Robson when he was Newcastle manager but no one outside the club knew that and I was typecast as the yob who let him down by refusing to play on the right wing before a crucial game against Middlesbrough.

    I did let him down. I know that and I wish to God that I hadn’t. There was context to what I did but that context got lost in the idea that I had mocked the grand old man of the game and when he was sacked soon afterwards, I was racked with guilt about it. Some years later, I was at a pre-season game with West Ham in Malaysia when it was announced that he had died and I stood there during the minute’s silence with tears streaming down my face.

    Sir Bobby was the best man-manager I ever worked for but he and I came together at a time when the great patriarchs of the English game were colliding head-on with the power of the new generation of millionaire players and their embolden agents.

  • Jib

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:12 AM

    Comment #11

    Ancient C
    great debating style
    Instead of arguing the points
    just go “huh” after each one
    ever thought of becoming an MP ?

  • Ron Knee

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:13 AM

    Comment #12



  • AncientC

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:17 AM

    Comment #13

    Jib, why do I need to argue something that is obviously untrue?

    You would know a thing or two about debating by now Jib, you are a walking/talking logical fallacy.

    Ron Knee, as you were—I just hope you haven’t put your house up for sale.

  • Ron Knee

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:20 AM

    Comment #14


    What happens to our right to Freedom of Movement once we leave the Single Market?

  • Jib

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:23 AM

    Comment #15

    People from the UK will not have a “right” to work and live in the EU
    should May’s withdrawal agreement go through

    Ancient C thinks this is untrue

    I worked in Spain before they joined the EC and works permits were a right pain

  • AncientC

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:25 AM

    Comment #16

    Ron Knee, is this true or false?
    Your own words…
    “Maybot gloats about stopping Freedom of Movement, but she never mentions the fact that she’s thrown away our right to live and work in the EU”

    I will drop the subject from here on out, in respect of football conversation.

  • Just a fan

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:36 AM

    Comment #17

    Ben afri.
    Not so sure that shearer loved Bobby.
    As I recall Bobby tried to sell him.

  • Ron Knee

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:36 AM

    Comment #18


    Peculiar rebuttal – if that’s what it was.


  • Jib

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:36 AM

    Comment #19

    Is correct
    Brits will still be able to work in Europe
    but not as a matter of right. They will be
    treated like any other foreigner

  • Jib

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:38 AM

    Comment #20

    I will drop the subject from here on out, in respect of football conversation.
    I will shut up as I’ve realised I dropped a bollock

  • Ron Knee

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:45 AM

    Comment #21


    I saw a report recently that said to get a non-EU work permit in Germany a person would need a minimum income of 48,000 euros. That will exclude a lot of Brits post-Brexshit!


  • Ben Afri

    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:48 AM

    Comment #22

    Just a fan

    I didn’t know that. I suppose I made that assumption because I’ve heard him praising Sir Bobby for rejuvenating his career.

  • Just a fan

    Mar 21, 2019 at 11:23 AM

    Comment #23

    Well I can’t be absolutely positive.selected memory etc.

  • G

    Mar 21, 2019 at 11:34 AM

    Comment #24

    I don’t remember Bobby wanting to sell Shearer? Not saying he didn’t, but I’m fairly certain I would have heard this before.

  • Lee Charnley Bunga Party

    Mar 21, 2019 at 12:05 PM

    Comment #25


    Interesting stats for Catchy!

    Seeing as he always has Rafa down as doing the most long passes etc!

    Personally I think we always look better when we are bit more direct and attacking rather than messing about with the ball at the back for ages

  • beermonkey

    Mar 21, 2019 at 12:16 PM

    Comment #27


    i wonder how much that will have have changed since almiron has come into the team our possession stats have gone up and shots on goal since he has come in

  • Optimistic Panda

    Mar 21, 2019 at 12:22 PM

    Comment #28

    I lost all respect for Shearer as a man during the Robson sacking and Sourpuss appointment.

    Not once did Shearer come out and publicly back Robson or condemn th younger players, soon as Sourpuss turned up Shearer starts condemning the young players attitudes and vows to help Sourpuss stop their trouble making.


  • martoon

    Mar 21, 2019 at 12:34 PM

    Comment #29

    To be fair to Shearer when you are a player it’s a bit difficult to speak out against the club owner/CEO and then go on to back the previous manager when the new one has just taken up post! However I would agree he could have done more about the younger players but you don’t know what goes on behind the scenes – he may have been ordered not to?

  • Just a fan

    Mar 21, 2019 at 12:41 PM

    Comment #30

    I don’t think shearer is a man to take orders

  • Rotonda heights

    Mar 21, 2019 at 12:46 PM

    Comment #31

    From what I remember SBR knew that at age 33/34, Shearer’s days were numbered and A.S allegedly went to see Shepherd behind Bobby’s back about it. Next thing SBR is gone. If ever the expression ”no one man is bigger than the club” then Shearer was allowed to come damn close to it. A.S publically championed Sourpuss and probably had a massive influence in his appointment.

  • Lee Charnley Bunga Party

    Mar 21, 2019 at 12:59 PM

    Comment #32


    We seem a lot more confident on the ball now as well players are making runs and coming to get the ball which wasn’t happening earlier in the season !

    Also think the wingbacks open up the pitch which creates space in midfield for players like Hayden and Longstaff to take a touch and make passes

    They done a stat when the Bournemouth game was on and we had done just as many passes as them in the game thought we had some nice to watch build up play despite the conditions (as did Bournemouth!)

  • RobLeenio

    Mar 21, 2019 at 1:31 PM

    Comment #33

    LCBP interesting stats you share there, I guess it almost backs up what catchy has argued all season. Except…

    Far more enlightening would actually be the proportion of long balls played compared to short passes. Or the number of those long balls which actually found their man. Or the number of long balls played against teams above us compared to teams below. Or – well, you get the message.

    You and Beermonkey make a number of interesting points above too, regarding early season form and possession stats vs more recent matches and the way we are playing now. I agree to take these long ball stats over a season doesn’t take account of how our tactics have developed over time.

    Finally, even if we did see the stats as a negative (2nd highest number of long balls played in the Prem this season), our total is only 56% higher than the total of the team with the lowest number of long balls (Man City). That’s not a huge difference, really – for every 10 long balls they play, we play 15.

    Anyway, not arguing, just debating, I know you’re not in any way trying to use the stats as a way to get at Rafa, as some do.



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