Speaking as a pundit during last night’s game on Sky Sports, Jamie Carragher raised some valid points regarding Rafa Benitez’s main dilemma at Newcastle United, admitting that he will continue to better us defensively, but feels our offensive threat can only be improved if he is given funds to bring in higher quality players.
The former Liverpool defender started by praising Benitez’s defensive set up, believing he is the best manager he has ever worked with in that respect, however admits that there is little he can do about players ability on the ball, suggesting he will require superior players in the attacking third if he is to improve us offensively:
“He’s the best I’ve had in terms of setting up a defence and making you difficult to play against.
“There’s not a lot Rafa Benitez can do about passing accuracy and possession – until Mike Ashley gives him some money and he can buy a better quality of player. This manager is used to a better quality of player, he’s managed some of the biggest clubs in the world.
“The defence is him, the attack and offence won’t change until Mike Ashley gives him some money to spend.”
The Sky Sports pundit then discussed Benitez’s influence on what he believes to be a fairly average group of players – suggesting he is a ‘Champions League manager’ dealing with a squad that needs investment and the addition of more ‘quality players’ if we are to match his ambition of becoming a top 6 club:
“I think – no disrespect to the players they have – but NUFC could go sixth and that is the work of the manager. They’ve got Championship/Premier League players but they’ve got a Champions League manager and that is why they are where they are.
“Rafa Benitez needs help if they are going to push forward. They’re not a top six team, they won’t finish in the top six I have no doubt about that. If they can get in the top half it’d be a great achievement.
“Until Rafa gets better players he might not be able to improve them going forward. Jonjo Shelvey is of Premier League quality – he is the one player in there. He loses his head sometimes but he has that quality.”
Carragher then suggested that the NUFC fans will be hoping to compete for European places in the next 2 years or so, but admits that despite our huge potential, Benitez may struggle to see off teams on a regular basis until he is backed with some much needed cutting edge in the final third:
“When you see Rafa Benitez’s work, they are difficult to beat, they are going to win games 1-0, they are going to lose them 1-0.
“Until he gets better quality players at the top end of the pitch, they might struggle to push on and start scoring two, three, four goals in games.”
Hard to disagree with much of this from Carragher – a man who will know Rafa well from his time at Liverpool.
There is perhaps more quality in our squad than Jamie gives us credit for (Merino, Ritchie, Lejeune?), but it is very true that Rafa can only do so much for us. He has helped set us up superbly at the back, but he isn’t a miracle worker who can give average players a sudden surge of quality on the ball.
We’ve just been promoted, so it is a long process to get us where we and Benitez would like us to be, but yesterday’s defeat at Burnley was a real indicator of where we are offensively, with a striker and number 10 likely to be high on the Spaniard’s wish-list in January.
Here’s hoping these plans can be accelerated with the arrival of ambitious and wealthy new owners!