Are Newcastle United & Rafa Benitez Suffering From Mike Ashely Apathy?


It has been a very bleak start to the season for Newcastle United.

The Magpies are sitting in the relegation zone after the Premier League’s opening seven fixtures and not a lot is happening on Tyneside to get the fans, players or the manager excited.

The club endured a slow and disappointing summer transfer window and the squad isn’t really better than it was when the last campaign finished.

Now a lot of the issues at Newcastle Utd start and finish with the ownership of the club.

The fans really dislike Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley and the way he runs the Football Club. You get the feeling that Mike no longer cares about the day to day running (not sure he ever did) and he seems only interested in keeping The Toon in England’s top flight so he can cash the lucrative cheques that come from the huge TV contracts.

I’m worried that his apathy is now rubbing off on boss Rafa Benitez and his players.

There’s only so many times that Rafa can overachieve with a somewhat mediocre squad. Not having the full backing of the board, in terms of being allowed to go out and bring in a couple of blue chip signings must really grate on the Spaniard, who has the CV to go out and get a better job elsewhere in Europe.

The main reason he stays at St James’ Park is because he loves the support and can see that there’s a sleeping giant of a football club waiting to wake up with new investment.

Unfortunately I just don’t think Ashley is actively seeking to sell and that puts Rafa back to square one.

In the summer they spent roughly £34m on new recruits.

The biggest outlay has come with the £10m signing of Yoshimori Muto from Mainz. Unfortunately the Japanese forward has so far failed to adapt to the English style and he looks well off pace.

Federico Fernandez, Martin Dubravka, Fabian Schar and Ki Sung-Yueng are all much of a muchness and are adequate squad players but do they really improved the starting eleven? Fernandez  and Dubravka do but not to an extent that you think ‘Wow what great signings!’.

Loanees Kenedy and Salomon Rondon have also failed to make much of an impact, so far this term. More was expected but they’re struggling like the rest of the squad to break out of substandard.

Yet Newcastle United actually finished the transfer window in profit as they sold £43m worth of talent. I’m sure there has to be a decent amount in the coffers that Ashely could have given Benitez to spend on a strong defender, a creative midfielder and a potential goal getter. Newcomers Wolves spent around £73m on new faces and they’ve taken the league by storm thus far!

People might point to the fixtures and say that they’ve had a tough start to the season, having to face Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. But they’ve also come up against Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Leicester City and the Toon have failed to pick up a single win in any of those games too.

Two points from a possible twenty-one simply isn’t good enough. An average of 39% possession in those fixtures isn’t going to win you enough games, no team in the Premier League has been worse in terms of possession stats. Four goals in your opening seven matches is again very poor, no team has had a fewer shots per game percentage than The Magpies 7.4.

The club don’t have a real hero or a consistent top class performer within their ranks. They rely too heavily on the guile of their manager, hoping he can come up with a tactical masterplan that guides them away from relegation.

Now Rafa Benitez is a superb coach, finishing in tenth place in the league last term was a fantastic achievement for the Champions League winning Spaniard. But if you can’t inject new quality into the first team squad then the job automatically becomes harder. The pool of players struggle to stay motivated as they wanted new players to come in and make life easier. The fans become more despondent as they wanted new signing to come in and excite them. Ultimately the manager thinks to himself can I take this team any further?

At the moment, it seems like Rafa can’t take Newcastle Utd further. I believe he’s good enough to help them survive but I don’t think he’s a magician that can keep them out of a relegation battle. I just don’t think he has the personnel there to get points on the board regularly enough to secure another mid-table finish.

I don’t care what anyone says, Newcastle United are a massive club with strong potential but unfortunately they’re in yet another rut and I just don’t think the current owner has the willingness nor the ambition to take things forward and that usually means that another decline hits.

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