After England played The Netherlands at Wembley on Tuesday night and the football world paid its respects to Dutch master Johan Cruyff, Rafa Benitez has been evaluating the Newcastle set up from top to bottom.
With Newcastle’s season being so catastrophic and their performances so lacklustre it is quite easy to blame the squad.
Graham Carr has been scrutinised for his seemingly sizeable influence on recruitment and Charnley for his decisions on which players (and managers) Newcastle have signed.
It’s easy to forget though that Newcastle have a massive squad with plenty of talented players.
The Chronicle reported at the start of the week that Newcastle have fielded 30 players this season, the second highest in the Premier League.
Much of this has been down to Newcastle’s injury woes, a problem which plagues the club year on year. Would Newcastle be in their current predicament if they had been able to field a more settled side?
Some of it though has been down to McClaren desperately struggling to find the right mix of players when results have gone wrong.
And that is now Benitez’s major task. How do you fit United’s best players together in a formation which works?
McClaren was unable to figure it out. Benitez has had, what could be, an invaluable international break to assess his assets and crack the enigma.
You can’t help but wonder how Newcastle have managed to find themselves with so many midfielders to choose from and so few quality defenders.
We have been so shockingly short of goals despite having a squad containing five senior strikers and two young ones out on loan. Reports out in Italy suggest that the deal which brought Seydou Doumbia to Newcastle has a clause which demands Newcastle pay a rather sizeable fee if the striker makes 10 appearances…he currently has 3.
It will be very interesting to see if he gets much more pitch time with six games to go.
For me though Newcastle’s survival will be down to how Benitez is able to use Newcastle’s Dutch contingent.
Wijnaldum is possibly Newcastle’s most technically gifted player, Rafa must get him back to his sizzling best.
Whether that is in a deeper midfield role or in a more attacking position, if he finds his form Newcastle will be a better team for it. Janmaat is one of the league’s best right backs, Benitez is the perfect manager to make sure he is defensively tight but effective going forward.
And De Jong, an elegant, technical player who is renowned for his leadership qualities and calming influence on his teammates. His ability to retain possession and bring others into play could be a significant feature that fans have been itching to see since his arrival. He is our number 10, let’s play him there and see what the lad can do…starting at Norwich.