During our disappointing summer transfer window, Benitez made landing a new, experienced goalkeeper a priority.
A lot of fans, myself included, questioned using a portion of what was a clearly tight budget on an area of the team we appeared well stocked in. However, events this season have showed it is a real weakness in the side.
Top targets missed
Benitez’s interest in Napoli’s Pepe Reina and ex-City stopper Willy Caballero was well documented over the summer.
He clearly wanted his own man brought in, and there’s been several stories revealing how he attempted to bring in one of the above – with him said to have been particularly perplexed as to why we didn’t pull off a deal to sign Caballero. We don’t know why either deal didn’t come off, but suggestions that we were unwilling to pay Caballero’s £40,000 wage packet perhaps says it all.
Rafa wanted an experienced stopper and one who was offer superior distribution than our current options. We failed to give him that and it’s costing us.
Elliot and Darlow flattering to deceive
After being injured for the most of last season with an ACL injury, Eliott has in the main been our number one this season. He form has been ok if not a little underwhelming, which led to Darlow being given the last four games or so. Darlow has had a wretched run of form and cost us the game against Everton in midweek with an error that is unacceptable at this level and for a team who are clearly desperate for points.
Neither goalkeeper has performed and Rafa’s search for a goalkeeper despite having five on his books now makes more sense than ever. We need reinforcements all over the field but make no mistake, a new keeper is certainly becoming a priority now too.
Shipping keepers out
Benitez had five keepers on the books in June and knew two needed to go; or perhaps three if you managed to bring in the likes of top target Pepe Reina. Matz Sels had an awful first season on Tyneside after starting the Championship as our number one. Errors cost him a place in the XI and after a loan to Anderlecht this season is very unlikely he will play for the club again. Some poor displays at the Belgian side this season don’t help his cause.
The more controversial decision was to move on former fans favourite Tim Krul. Krul at just 30, should have the best years ahead of him but an alarming decline in form following injuries led to an uncertain future at NUFC. He had been loaned to Alkmaar and Ajax and was either benched or offered no reassurances he was the same player when he did play.
A hastily arranged free transfer to relegation rivals Brighton was sealed on deadline day and he has not played since, despite a solitary cup appearance. With his Brighton contract up in the summer an uncertain future awaits Krul, which is a shame after offering so much earlier promise in his career. Either way, he wasn’t the solution to our keeper problems.
Woodman not ready
There was rightly some excitement in the summer as young Freddie Woodman starred in the England under 20’s famous world cup win. He is highly regarded at SJP and so much it was decided he was to stay at the club this season to be around the first team to aid his development, rather than being loaned out. At just 20, he is still very young for a goalkeeper and to add context, Pickford didn’t make his Sunderland first team debut until 22.
Woodman has time on his side but with the poor form of his counterparts, it is understandable that there is a clamour for him to be given a chance.
The goalkeeping situation has become a real problem area of the field recently for NUFC and I fully expect Rafa to make more attempts to address this in January.
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About Simon Riddlesden
Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.