We need to talk about Rafa…

My thoughts on Sunday’s game are similar ones to those I have had over the past year watching Rafa Benitez’s team. We lack depth, we lack width and we lack movement off the ball whilst in possession. Pretty much the absolute basics of attacking play. Rafa may (rightfully) moan about missing out on specific transfer targets earlier in the window but this does not explain his needlessly negative strategy, line-ups and substitutions.

Before I go off on a possible rant I would like to make one thing perfectly clear, we are not a bad team. Don’t buy into the mainstream football media’s avalanche of misery they insist on piling onto our club whenever things don’t seem 100% right from the outside looking in. We were not outplayed by Huddersfield, much like we weren’t outplayed by Spurs last week when 11v11, and apart from their goal, the newly-promoted side hardly made a dent in terms of hurting our back line.

Out of both sides, it was us that had the biggest chance of the game when Ayoze Perez blasted over when completely unmarked from about 8 yards out. Substitutes Joselu & Murphy had opportunities to have a clear shot on goal but failed to make the most of them. Out of both goalkeepers, it was Huddersfield’s Jossl that had to pull off a fingertip save to keep out Ritchie’s effort in the first half. If that chance, or any of these chances, go in then it’s a different game and likely different result.

Mooy

Now that the positives are out of the way, yes, they were positives honest, there is a big elephant in everyone’s room on Tyneside that nobody wants or is prepared to talk about. Some refuse to even acknowledge its very existence under any circumstances mainly due to bigger worries and concerns. However, at some stage, this has to be discussed and looked at. At some point, we need to talk about Rafa.

Amongst all the lack of transfers stuff & the Mike Ashley stuff and whatever other stuff fans want to talk or moan about, there has been one massively concerning issue that has been staring us all in the face over the past year. Rafa Benitez’s overly cautious and needlessly negative approach to our games. More specifically his tactics and use of the personnel he has at his disposal. Do we lack some quality? Yes. Do we have any quality? Yes. Is that quality being used in its capacity? No.

How we managed to win the Championship was quite remarkable to be perfectly honest. You can count on one hand the amount of games where we actually looked impressive and destroyed teams that were below our level. No one can say our Championship season wasn’t one hell of a long struggle. Some say, ‘well that’s the Championship’, maybe.

Ritchie

The more accurate thing to say, however, is that we caused our own frustrations by not going about our business on the pitch anywhere near as positively and ambitiously as we should have. Wingers dropping deep and always coming short. Full-backs chained to the halfway line and unable to get forward. Both centre midfielders dropping deep right in front of our centre-backs. It’s needless and it’s wrong.

Against Huddersfield, these demons in Rafa’s philosophy raised their ugly head once again. 99% will put this down to ‘lack of quality’ or ‘they need more players’. I am telling you now, even with new and/or better players that won’t dispel the demons. The football club needs to change its philosophy when it comes to being cheap in the transfer market. But Rafa also needs to change his philosophy with the players he has. Neither are good enough at the moment.

Follow on Twitter @ToonBano

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The truth behind tactical Transfer Requests: They don’t always come from players!

“On most occasions transfer requests don’t come from the player, they are instigated either directly or indirectly by the player’s club”

We live in an age where players look to demand transfers and force their way out of their current football club to go to another, as player power rules all and contracts aren’t worth the paper they are written on. They do this by issuing a transfer request to the shock and dismay of their club. Right?

Wrong. On most occasions transfer requests don’t come from the player, they are instigated either directly or indirectly by the player’s club for a couple of reasons. The main one being when a player signs a contract with a club they (somehow) have a ‘loyalty bonus’ within that which is paid out to them if they were to leave the club before the contract expires. Mental, I know.

Now for a club to get out of paying such ‘loyalty bonus’ the player himself needs to show a distinct lack of ‘loyalty’ by doing something like issuing a transfer request to enforce a transfer away from the club. Once this is in place the club don’t have to pay him squat in any ‘loyalty bonus’ and save themselves millions of pounds.

The other reason a club will want their superstar, or not, player to hand in an official transfer request is accountability. We all here fans & pundits criticise their clubs when they sell a big player as they wanted them to stay.

Remember Liverpool making a huge mistake selling Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid? Fans and experts alike will still tell you today that it was. The fact is, the only mistake Liverpool made was to not get Xabi Alonso to make his desire to join Madrid public and officially request a transfer. If they had, then this myth that Alonso had any remote chance of staying at Anfield wouldn’t exist.

We sit here as I type with Philippe Coutinho and Virgil Van Dyke wanting to move to bigger football clubs but both of their respective clubs have issued unwavering statements categorically stating ‘he ain’t leaving, no matter what’. Since both statements were released to the media, sure enough, the player’s agent have released their own ‘statement’ of sorts with official transfer requests.

Now, if and when Coutinho and Van Dijk make their moves before 1st September, not only will Liverpool and Southampton have made an eye-watering amount of transfer money, they will have saved a few million by not having to pay the player his ‘loyalty bonus and also NOBODY can criticise the club for not trying to keep the player. It seems to be a win-win for everyone involved, although that isn’t necessarily true.

The party which will have a cloud hanging over them will be the player. Liverpool fans are already burning their Coutinho shirts as we speak and Southampton fans will never name their child Virgil if they were for some reason thinking about it. Plus, they also miss out on a few million of a loyalty bonus but the dent in reputation will hurt more than in their hefty pockets.

Have a look at the criticism Chelsea have received by selling Nemanja Matic to Man Utd and the constant questions Antonio Conte has to answer for his clubs ‘strange’ behaviour. The fact is, Matic wanted to work with Jose Mourinho and Chelsea had already replaced Matic with a younger player in Bakayoko weeks previous.

Now if Matic had handed in an official transfer request, would Chelsea be receiving any criticism? Doubtful. Would Conte be needing to defend his clubs actions in selling Matic to a rival? No. With all this in mind, it makes you actually wonder why the club didn’t go down the tactical transfer route to save them the trouble. Perhaps they did but the player refused.

Gary Neville has questioned Chelsea’s decision to allow midfielder Nemanja Matic to join title rivals Manchester United this summer.

The Premier League champions sanctioned the Serbia international’s departure to Old Trafford in July for a fee of £40m.

However, the Sky Sports pundit has labelled the sale “strange”, especially given the role Matic played in helping the Blues win the Premier League last season.

Football is a dirty business at times. We all know that player power rules football. But the factor of an official transfer request before any deals go through actually puts the club in a very controlling position.

They can sell a player, potentially destroy his reputation (at least with its own fans) and keep their own reputation intact by avoiding any potential criticism for lack of ambition or being a sell-out. The player issuing a transfer request gives them ‘no choice’ at the end of the day. No responsibility.

In some instances, like the Andy Carroll £35million transfer from Newcastle to Liverpool in 2011, the club rang Carroll up as he was already on his way to sign for Liverpool (in Mike Ashley’s private helicopter!) requesting that he handed in a transfer request otherwise the deal was off!

Carroll didn’t have much choice and did as he was asked which saved Newcastle a couple of million quid by avoiding paying his loyalty bonus but at the same time destroyed the local lad’s reputation with some Geordies that will never be fixed.

So the next time you see a player hand in a transfer request ask yourself why? Is it him throwing his toys out the pram and demanding a move or is the club forcing it upon him?

Follow The Ginger Pirlo on Twitter @ToonBano

Rafa Benitez confirms he is “not happy” at Newcastle at the moment

It’s Premier League launch day and one of the several guests in attendance is our very own ‘special one’ Rafa Benitez. As the standard procedure, he has taken part in several interviews for the likes of Sky, BT Sport, BBC & TalkSport with the main talking point being the seeming lack of spending and investment in the squad over the summer.

Rafa seems more than happy to talk about it and hasn’t held back in what he thinks. On Sky Sports this morning he blatantly made his stance be known to the world by categorically confirming he is “not happy” with Newcastle’s transfer business thus far and hopes to bring players in over the coming weeks.

 

Rafa is a very political manager who uses threats and concerns through the media in order to strengthen his own hand with certain issues he has with his club, usually transfer business, and has done this throughout his career.

How his latest comments will go down with the club executive Lee Charnley and owner Mike Ashley no one knows for sure. Will it inspire Charnley to get his finger out? Or put his back up? We will find out in due course but one thing is for sure, Rafa is not happy with his current squad and wants the whole world to know that ‘fact’.

Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano