The signing of Chelsea’s Brazilian winger Kenedy gives Newcastle United more than just the benefit of a fast-paced attacking presence. On loan from Chelsea, just as he was from January last season when he provided two goals and two assists in 13 games, Kenedy’s quick-feet and dynamism have proven to be a hit with fans who are clearly pleased to see the young South American return to Tyneside.
Rafa Benitez was obviously keen to reacquire the player for 2018-2019 following the team’s excellent run between February and April corresponding with Kenedy’s introduction to the starting line-up. He’s an addition that helped the Magpies avoid being tagged as relegation fodder during pre-season Premier League betting, and gives the manager two clear advantages. He provides Benitez flexibility in team selection and tactics, and complements Newcastle’s forward line with creativity and, importantly, the X-factor it was previously lacking.
Kenedy’s pace is a great asset. Giving full-backs a headache is part of what he does best and he’s shown a willingness to drive at the opposition defence. That has delivered end product – his assists and goals adding a new dimension to the Magpies’ attack. Even when it doesn’t come off – the exuberance and, perhaps, over-confidence of youth – fans have recognised Kenedy’s work rate.
Of course, that confidence means he’s not afraid to take the ball. He’s always looking to make himself available. One of the ways Kenedy has complemented Newcastle United, in addition to proving width and pace, is to make the team more assured when they have the ball. He definitely gets them up the pitch, his first thought to drive at defenders.
Benitez also sees Kenedy as a dead-ball specialist. His debut saw him provide an assist from a free kick. Benitez has commented saying Kenedy has an eye for spotting “runners and a pass” as well as commending his set-piece deliveries.
Importantly, Kenedy also offers tactical flexibility, something Benitez clearly welcomes. Newcastle United’s run to Championship promotion saw the manager stick mainly to a 4-2-3-1 formation but with the Brazilian winger on the books, Benitez has juggled with that formation, sometimes during games. Indeed, Kenedy has played on both wings and operated as a wing-back at times. It gives the manager more options and reduces the predictability of the Magpies attack.
He’s not the complete player yet, and there will be performances to forget about. But he has already proven he has the talent to emerge as a consistent creative performer on football’s biggest stage, even if lessons are still to be learned. The 22-year-old has shown potential and Benitez is obviously willing to give him time to improve this season.
The manager will want to see a couple of things from Kenedy. He’ll need to show he’s capable of completing 90 minutes on a consistent basis. Last season, his inability to retain his energy in the latter stages of matches could be down to his lack of first-team football in 2017. With proper pre-season conditioning in readiness for 2018-2019, you’d expect this problem to be resolved. Benitez will also want to see better performances from Kenedy when he’s away from St. James Park but that should come with experience. Yet, regardless of his flaws, the young Brazilian is an exciting talent and gives Newcastle United fans plenty to look forward to this year.