An interesting piece has emerged in the Chronicle today, revealing how Rafa Benitez has challenged Islam Slimani to make a big impact in the final six games of the season – refusing to rule out the chances of him winning a permanent deal if he was to impress.
The Algerian hitman arrived on loan from Leicester City on deadline day, however he’s been unable to make any sort of positive impression so far, having only played 15 minutes of football thanks to a reoccurring thigh problem.
His short cameo against Huddersfield was a quietly impressive one, with him looking mobile, making good runs, putting himself about and looking extremely keen to impress, but time is running out for him.
That being said, Benitez has challenged him to make the same sort of immediate impact Kenedy and Dubravka have in this NUFC team, with the Chronicle claiming that he could yet earn a permanent deal on Tyneside if he shines across our final six outings.
Here’s what Rafa’s had to say about his situation today, saying how he was raring to go and ready to play at Leicester last weekend, but couldn’t due to loan regulations:
“The timing was bad because he was getting better and getting fitter (ahead of the Leicester game).
“He could have easily played at Leicester but had to wait.
“We can’t change that but he has been training well.
“Hopefully, he will go on to prove a good addition for us this season still.”
Sounds to me like he could be in line to play against Arsenal – a team I really do feel would struggle to cope with his physical presence and aerial prowess.
Rafa then praised how Slimani’s arrival has already improved our attacking play due to the added competition he’s brung, challenging him to now step up and ‘give us something different’ like fellow loan signings Kenedy and Dubravka have done:
“Islam still has six games left.
“We’ve spoken about Kenedy and Martin Dubravka as good additions in January so hopefully Islam can also give us something different.
“He’s already improved the attack in terms of competition.
“It’s also quite positive.”
If full fit (which it sounds like he is now), I’d absolutely love to see him start against Arsenal.
This is a £29m striker who scored goals for fun at Sporting Lisbon and often did well when given a chance at Leicester. He’ll be desperate to impress and he’d be coming in for a striker woefully short on confidence.
Play to Slimani’s strengths over the final few weeks of the season and continue to play well as a team and I can see him scoring a few.
I’m not sure how realistic a permanent deal is for him in the summer given he’s turning 30 soon and will still demand a heft fee, but I’d love to see him give Rafa something to think about over these final 6 games.
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