Brilliant Benitez isn’t beyond constructive criticism: Rafa’s mistakes assessed

Before you proceed let me get one thing straight, this is not an attack on Rafa. The gaffer is the best thing that’s happened to us since the great Sir Bobby and I feel lucky to have such a prestigious figure at the helm of our beloved club.

Rafa has done an outstanding job, looking well on his way to completing the first step of the rebuild, getting Newcastle promoted back to the Premier League.

It is, however, only fair to say that even the godlike figure of Rafa Benitez is not above making mistakes.

Whilst fans are eternally grateful for him staying with the club following relegation, keeping faith in our club when others didn’t, I have made a few observations made regarding the Spaniard’s shortcomings this season.

In light of our recent slump, I’ve highlighted some of the mistakes Benitez has made, which he may benefit to learn from moving forward:



1. Home tactics

Benitez’s defensive approach has worked wonders on the road this season, however his cautious approach has contributed to some timid performances at St. James’ Park this season.

Rafa explained last summer that we were the ‘tail of the lion’ in the Premier League and now must cope with being the ‘head of the mouse’. With this in mind, we have rarely portrayed that ‘top dog’ mentality in the way we have went about home games in particular.

Away from home we’ve rarely dominated sides, but have, to our credit, sat in, defended well and grabbed the necessary goals. Our game plan has worked a treat on the road, however this master plan has not been replicated by Rafa at St.James’ Park.

Calls for 4-4-2 at home have always fallen on deaf ears. Benitez has every right to opt for his chosen formation, he knows the players better than anyone, but his failure to ever try two up top, given our stuttering home form, has been frustrating for the fans.

Benitez likes to have a man in the no.10 role and that’s fine, but Diame and Perez have been consistently ineffective in that position for a while now, leaving Murphy and Mitrovic chomping at the bit to partner Gayle up top.

We are still on course for promotion, so radical changes have not always been necessary, but our recent blip suggests a change may be needed to get us over the line in our push for promotion.

2. Subs too late?

A fairly minor complaint here, but one I and several surrounding season ticket holders have made reference to.

 Yes Benitez wants his plan A to work, so keeps faith with his chosen 11 for as long as possible, but there’s been times where 52.000 fans have seen things need to change while it appears Rafa hasn’t.

Monday’s game against Ipswich being a fair example. Despite Murphy’s goal, we never looked likely and struggled throughout. The game was crying for an offensive change, however, Aleksandar Mitrovic only entered the field with 8 minutes remaining and by this point we were 2-1 down.

This points towards Rafa’s stubbornness, a trait all top managers appear to carry, but one I feel he would benefit from adapting.

At times this season he’s made changes later than i’d have preferred and gotten away with it. It must be said, however, that if a player is visibly running on empty or things are clearly not working, we won’t be afforded the luxury to leave it so late should we be playing Premier League football next season.

3. Rotation not always necessary?

A season in the Championship makes for a hectic schedule, seeing several weeks consist of two fixtures, meaning Rafa’s fondness to rotate has often been justified. Sometimes, however, I feel rotation can do more harm than good.

Repetition builds consistency and with consistency comes performances and results. The core of our team has often remained the same, but there’s been times where players have been given their chance, grabbed it with both hands, yet found themselves benched for the following game.

For example, Mbemba and Mitrovic were brilliant in the unbearable 1-1 draw to Leeds last Friday, yet found themselves benched for Monday’s dismal defeat at Ipswich.

Sometimes it makes sense. Players can be fatigued and those waiting in reserve may deserve their chance, but i’d also argue that momentum and form are things of equal importance to consider, meaning rotation isn’t always the answer.

We’ve worshiped Rafa and rightly so, but maybe to the extent where some fans feel incapable of accepting his occasional error. Again, the above examples are just observations, not an attack on the brilliant Benitez.

Given Rafa has swapped magical night’s in Madrid for midweek battles in the Midlands, he’s adapted very well and I dread to think where we’d be without him, but hopefully the gaffer can learn from his mistakes and address some of these potential issues moving forward.

(Fancy having your say? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Olly Hawkins

Born in Gateshead, Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

18 thoughts on “Brilliant Benitez isn’t beyond constructive criticism: Rafa’s mistakes assessed

  1. There has been far to much chopping and changing instead of playing a settled team.
    To many players under performing or not good enough, Colback, Gouffran, Diame to name but three.
    Bad summer buys, Sels, Lazaar, Diame, Gamez.
    Clear out required in the summer.

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  2. Rafa did try 442 earlier n the season. t remember against who, but we got comprehensively out played from what I remember.

    I agree it looks like he has made the odd mistake, as any manager does from time to time.

    But, the rotation argument is a poor one. We don’t know how capable certain players are of playing 2 games in 3 or r days, don’t know what niggles players are carrying and don’t know how certain players are suited to certain pitches and opposition playing styles.

    What is obvious is that we have very little strength in depth and are forced to field certain players (Colback for example) more often than we would like. Yes it would be lovely to keep a winning side together but the games come thick and fast…Brighton rotate at least a couple of players almost every game. It works for them.

    I would like to see a more attacking Toon in home games though. I think the fans would feed off of a concerted effort to attack and their rapturous appreciation would give the players unbound energy and impetus to push on.

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  3. Olly: given your propensity for alliteration I thought you might have said Rafa had swapped Madrid for a wet Wednesday in West Bromwich.

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  4. Going back to Barton. He is a self serving little weasel. If you have ever seen his twitter stuff you will see that he is a total publicity seeker who even sees himself as some sort of working class hero pseudo intellectual. I don’t know if it was Joey who put out that bedside picture or the family but I wouldn’t put it past him. I applaud most charity work but there are some cases where it is also self serving and keeps a celebrity in the public eye beyond their sell-by-date. Jimmy Savile for example.

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  5. Barton was at the Hospice at the behest of Burnley. Saying that he is not such a bad guy because he went is like saying Ted Bundy wasn’t so bad after all because he was nice to his mother.

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  6. Rafa has a poor squad and has managed it quite well. I have said all along that we play boring but effective football, we’ve just been found out now, and despite tge rotation system are running out of speed.
    At the end of the day the constant injuries to Gayle has probably cost us the ChMpionship

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  7. Running out of steam…

    Preston has a draw written all over it… pity we are losing it after an excellent first three quarters of the season.

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  8. nufcblog.com are reporting:
    Ladbrokes have made Newcastle favourites to sign Chelsea’s 19 year-old striker Tammy Abraham for a season long loan in the Premier League

    I reckon he could be a great signing. may follow in Andy coles footsteps from Bristol City 😆

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  9. Gashley:
    nufcblog.com are reporting:
    Ladbrokes have made Newcastle favourites to sign Chelsea’s 19 year-old striker Tammy Abraham for a season long loan in the Premier League

    I reckon he could be a great signing. may follow in Andy coles footsteps from Bristol City

    That’ll go down like a turd in the pool with City fans, who would love to extend the loan another season.
    Ollie, didn’t we end up with two up front in the last 10 mins of Mondays game? sure the commentators said , ” well the fans have what they’ve been asking for now with two up top ” Trouble was he took off Ritchie thereby cutting out the supply line 🙄 Game was lost by then anyways. Think he’s done an admiral job considering he has no experience of the championship, he does need to get us up though without doubt.

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  10. You’re right about the stubbornness Olly. The guy just won’t change his approach, He should have learned that making five changes to a good team leads to disaster and defeat. The evidence is there. For Ipswich, was it necessary? I just can’t see why there was a need to do it.

    I’m twitchy about the PNE game as there’ll be an awful lot of tension about and they’ve nothing to play for. That often results in teams playing with a freedom they normally don’t. They just don’t fear defeat.
    I’d definitely start with Mitro – he’s already scored four against them this season. Mbemba instead of Hanley, bring Anita back. Perez instead of Diame.
    Someone needs to get a grip of McGeady. Nasty player but he can turn a game.

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  11. I am worried that when there are only 10 comments at the crux of our season after a very disappointing loss, and a pivotal game to come, who will be on when we play Hartlepool away in pre-season?

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  12. Did I scare everybody off? 🙂 I know I scared the Troysta off by pointing out his love for Arrogant Alan and the fact that he was 110% wrong 120% of the time.

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  13. georgio:
    You’re right about the stubbornness Olly. The guy just won’t change his approach, He should have learned that making five changes to a good team leads to disaster and defeat. The evidence is there. For Ipswich, was it necessary? I just can’t see why there was a need to do it.

    I’m twitchy about the PNE game as there’ll be an awful lot of tension about and they’ve nothing to play for. That often results in teams playing with a freedom they normally don’t. They just don’t fear defeat.
    I’d definitely start with Mitro – he’s already scored four against them this season. Mbemba instead of Hanley, bring Anita back. Perez instead of Diame.
    Someone needs to get a grip of McGeady. Nasty player but he can turn a game.

    They have their best first choice defenders out injured or suspended so really we have zero excuses this game.

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  14. Well it gets better and better. Not only do we kick off 2 days after our rivals , we have a nice impartial referee on the day too. Step forward Huddersfield born Andrew madley 🙄 😡

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  15. We’ve had him already this season. I’ll never forget his brother though sending off Colo at the SOS.
    Clark’s fit again but I bet Rafa doesn’t start him. I get what you’re saying Kim about them missing defenders but really we were well beaten by a shit Ipswich team. Not to mention we couldn’t get past Birmingham, Bristol C, QPR. They’re 4 crap teams.

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    yours is the greatest I’ve found out till now.
    But, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

    fotballdrakter barn

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