Rafa Benitez has warned Islam Slimani that he won’t be walking straight into the NUFC team once he’s back from international duty with Algeria, saying he must show he is ‘better than’ our current options – with Dwight Gayle having ‘done well’ in his absence.
As most frustrate fans know, the Leicester loanee having failed to feature in a single game since making the move to Newcastle on deadline day, Benitez will be hoping he can make an impact on his side sooner rather than later.
That being said, Rafa rightfully points out here that he won’t be able to walk into the team once fit, with Dwight Gayle’s form being quietly impressive in his absence.
He has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last four appearances and could and should have had a few more – showing that he’s regaining his sharpness and getting into good positions again after being largely anonymous for the first half of the season.
Here’s what Rafa’s had to say about Slimani in light of this, admitting that the Algerian must compete and show he’s ‘better than them’ to earn a place in his side:
“If he’s fine (for Algeria), it means he will have more chances to compete against the others,”
“If they are doing well, he has to be better than them. It’s not as if he will come and go straight [into our team] and make the difference.
“The others are doing well, and he has to compete with them. It’s positive, because we have more competition in one position.”
Benitez then touched on Slimani’s trip away with the national team, admitting that it is a ‘risk’, but one that could benefit Newcastle if he regains his fitness and is able to play:
“What we have to do and what we want to do is be sure that he’s fit, And if he can play with the national team a little bit, that is a risk, because he’s not playing for us,”
“Bu if they decide to play him, it is because he will be fit. Hopefully, he won’t have any problems. It is something we know we cannot control.”
Hopefully Slimani’s spell away with Algeria is a positive one, seeing him come back that bit closer to first-team action ahead of next Saturday’s visit of Huddersfield.
I am almost certain that we’ll see Dwight Gayle lead the line once again in that one, but I am also confident Slimani will make an immediate impact one fit enough to feature. We’ve got a good striker in Slimani, – just one that happened to be injured when we signed him!