First, let’s not sugar coat anything, our start to the season has been nothing short of disastrous. In fact it is our worst start to the season since 1898.This means that relegation is a very strong possibility and if we did go down it would be our third relegation under Mike Ashley.
Proof that his way of running a football club like a discount high street store does not work, if the two previous relegations weren’t already enough to prove that. Rafa Benitez has been left exposed by a total lack of care from the men at the top of the football club.
Last season a tenth-place finish should have been a perfect time to invest and improve a decent squad but one which lacked quality in certain areas, namely a striker who could score 15 goals a season.Instead we made a 20-million-pound profit and shopped around in the bargain bin for free transfers, loans and players costing under 10 million. I personally don’t think the players we brought in are that bad and a lot of them have found themselves starting games, but the board did not get in any of Rafa’s top targets and would not even consider breaking the club’s 12-year-old transfer record from 2005.
The whole transfer window was one of negligence and incompetence from the NUFC board and has left us in the position we find ourselves in. All however, is not lost and Newcastle will in my eyes stay up. The main reason for this is Rafa Benitez. The man is a world class manager, who has won titles everywhere and managed some of the top club in the world.
Getting Newcastle to finish tenth last season was probably one of his greatest achievements as manager, he turned a championship team into a mid-table premier league team through excellent coaching and well drilled tactics. Despite our shocking start he has not panicked and continued to approach everything in a calm demeanor.
The players are still clearly behind him, as he has made so many of them better players in the time he has being at Newcastle. As well as this Rafa has a tactical plan for every game and with the return of Rondon from injury I believe that he will start to play Muto and Rondon up front as this will give us a physical presence up front and a poacher who can provide us with the goals we need to stay up.
Another reason why I believe we will stay up is that some of our key players, who are good players, have not quite reached the levels of last year, but I am confident that in the next few weeks they will find this form again.
Jamaal Lascelles for example was excellent last season and he deserved an England call-up, this season however, he has not been as imperious and has made a few mistakes, but as the proud captain of this football club he will turn himself around.He will know himself that he has not had a great season, but he is not the type of man to shy away when the going gets tough, so I expect him to return to his best very soon.
Shelvey and Diame are another two who have not started the season as well as they ended last. Outside of the top six it could be argued that Shelvey and Diame in the second half of the season were the best midfield partnership in the league. They were both excellent both in terms of work rate and quality passing. This season they have not quite hit these levels yet but Shelvey certainly in recent weeks has looked a lot better and if Diame can rediscover his form then we will have a formidable midfield duo.
The final player who if he rediscovers his form will keep us up is Ayoze Perez, in the second half of last season he was excellent and scored a lot of crucial goals which kept us up last season. This season though he looks a shadow of his former self, except against Manchester United, yet he still starts every game because there is no one to provide competition with him. This of course is not Perez’s fault and blame lies with the board on that one. Perez though does have premier league quality as he has proven on many occasions over the years, he has played for us. If he can rediscover some form, then he will be able to score or create enough goals to keep us up.
The final reason why I believe we will stay up is that Ashley must spend some money in January or we will be relegated. If we are indeed relegated Rafa will leave and the club will lose too much value, meaning Ashley will not be able to sell the club for anywhere near his asking price.
This for Ashley is surely too much of a risk to take. This means this transfer window significant funds must be given to Rafa to prevent relegation. Ashely has done this before when relegation threatened the club once in 2013 and once in 2016. One time it worked the other it did not.
This January will be no different and I believe we will see Ashley spend some money and bring in Rafa’s top targets which coupled with Rafa himself and key players rediscovering form will be enough to keep Newcastle United in the Premier League where it belongs.
By Jack Cunningham