Rafa Benitez has spoken out today about each and every one of his six summer signings, assessing their start to life at the club and explaining what they will bring to the table in the weeks and months to come.
As we all know, it was a disappointing summer for Rafa, with The Chronicle claiming that Florian Lejeune and Mikel Merino were the only first choice targets Benitez was able to secure.
Nevertheless, the meticulous Benitez worked with what he was given and found six new arrivals – with several of those likely to have been options D and E on his ‘wish-list’.
Rafa began by praising the quality of Merino, however insisted that each of his six summer arrivals will ‘give us something’ at some stage in this insightful chat with The Chronicle:
“Sometimes for players with quality like Mikel, it’s easier for the fans to see what they are bringing. But the other summer signings, each one is doing their job,”
“They will give us something at certain points. Some of them right now, some of them will need some more time, but they will give us something different and we will be a bit better when compared with last season.
Firstly he used the example of Javier Manquillo, believing he will keep on improving with time and prove he is better than some may have anticipated following unsuccessful spells at Liverpool and Sunderland:
“If you consider for example that people were criticising Manquillo because he was coming from Sunderland and Liverpool and saying he had not done well. But he was not coming to start the season, he was coming to stay on the bench and then, little by little, start playing more.
“But then [DeAndre] Yedlin was injured and he had to play at right-full-back, then the other day at left-full-back.
“He has given us a little bit and still he can give us much more. It’s a question of time that, over time, he will keep improving. I am happy with him and the other players who work very hard and want to improve, even if still they are not playing at the level that maybe they can play.
Benitez then discusses Jacob Murphy. Our most expensive signing at £12m, but a player we’ve seen very little of. Rafa insists he trains well and just needs time to develop:
“You go to Jacob Murphy for example. Another one who is a young player, who trains well, trains in another way, he has Atsu and [Matt] Ritchie playing well, so he needs some time to make sure he will be fine.”
“Joselu, obviously you know people were talking about him too. But we knew about the potential of Joselu,” Benitez continued.
“We know still he is a player that was not playing too much and he has to improve physically, and then he will improve in the other areas.
“His finishing, people say: ‘Oh no.’ He is a good finisher in training sessions, what we have to be sure is that we can replicate what he does in the training sessions in matches. It is a mixture of things though – sometimes it is the anxiety, the pressure, what you have to manage.
“He is someone who I think will do well and especially once he has competition, because remember we lost [Aleksandar] Mitrovic. You have to be sure that you have players available and that they can compete for the positions.”
Some interesting and insightful comments from Rafa. We may have been left underwhelmed by the lack of quality and lack of numbers brought in over the summer, but several of these will do a job in the squad if nothing else, whilst the likes of Merino, Atsu and Lejeune have already shown signs that they’re capable of making an impact in the first team.