Uncertainty at Tyneside: Rafa Out, Who Comes In at Newcastle United?

Newcastle United is a club with a number of issues at the moment. Most of them stem from one man, current owner Mike Ashley.

Animosity towards Mike Ashley

His lack of interest in the club is widely documented and has led to huge unrest from the fans.

The Toon Army have been calling for new ownership to take over for some time now. Reports recently suggested Sheikh Khaled will takeover from Ashley, but there is still no official announcement of a change in ownership.

Rafa Benitez departs

Meanwhile, bad news for Newcastle United fans emerged as their manager, Rafa Benitez, has left the club.

The Spaniard has been an amazing coup for the Magpies since his arrival in 2016.

He was appointed to prevent the team from being relegated to the Championship, but it was too late for Benitez to turn their fortunes around.

However, he did manage to lead the club back up to the English Premier League the following season, winning the Championship.

Since then, he has led Newcastle United to a 10th place and a 13th place finish in the top flight.

A ceiling of success thanks to a lack of support

For a club with the stature, history, and support that it does, this isn’t where everyone associated with them want to be. Despite this, they are all content due to the circumstances in which their beloved club is currently being run.

Benitez managed to get the team where they are without much support from Ashley. The Premier League is the domestic league that generates the most revenue in the entire world.

Just looking at the revenue from T.V. broadcasting, Huddersfield town, who finished in last place last season, earned about $122,711,756. Therefore, there is clearly some money available for clubs such as Newcastle United to invest in the squad.

Beginning from the 16/17 season, when Benitez first was in charge during a transfer market for Newcastle United, the club has actually brought in more money on player departures than they have spent on player arrivals.

The lack of investment into a team, taking into consideration the vast amounts spent by the other Premier League clubs, would make it hard to improve, let alone avoid relegation scraps.

Yet, Rafa Benitez has done an immense job since taking over.

Now he’s gone.

Who replaces Rafa?

Rumors have already begun to circulate to see who will replace the Spaniard. Who ever comes in will ave a huge job on their hands, especially given the uncertainty in the club’s ownership.

Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta seems to be the favorite at this point, despite having no previous managerial experience. The Spaniard, who has been Pep Guardiola’s assistant coach for the past three seasons, does have plenty of knowledge of the English Premier League. Having played for Everton and Arsenal for over a decade combined, Arteta is familiar with the league.


Mikel Arteta playing for Arsenal

Assuming he prefers a possession style of football, Newcastle United just doesn’t seem like the right club to implement it. The Magpies don’t have a team with the quality to play such football and so, the appointment of Arteta could be an even bigger gamble.

Plus, it isn’t known whether the ownership will change, leaving uncertainty in whether or not Arteta would get the financial backing to bring in players who can do what he wants.

Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri also appears to be a popular name bringing thrown out as a possible name to replace Benitez. As likable as the Italian is, he will need to adapt to a difficult situation at Newcastle United.

At Leicester City, where he won the Premier League title in surprising fashion, he had players to build that success around. Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez provided width and the ability to whip a dangerous ball into the box. Mahrez specifically, also had the ability to take on defenders and beat his man, creating space for a shot or for other teammates. Up front, Ranieri had different types of strikers to work with. Jamie Vardy is a pacey forward who could be slipped in behind opposition defenses, Shinji Okazaki is an industrious and strong striker, and Leonardo Ulloa is a tall powerful center forward who could be used as a target man. Not to mention, the stable defense made up of Robert Huth and captain Wes Morgan.

Sure, Newcastle United have a set of defenders that can be solid and a great goalkeeper, but aside from that, they don’t have a team with the quality the Foxes did. In no way should this suggest the Magpies should compete for a Premier League title under Ranieri, but it must be said, Ranieri could struggle with this squad.

The only real bright spot would be Miguel Almirón. The club’s new record signing looks to be quite the player. He’s fast, can whip in a great cross, and has a great technical ability.

Without proper investment, questions remain how far Ranieri could take this team.

Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe in another manager who has been linked to the vacant job, but the move doesn’t make sense.

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The Englishman has plenty of positive Premier League experience as a result of his time at Bournemouth, but like Arteta, he could struggle to implement the style of football he wants to play.

He prefers a team that tries to keep the ball and play attractive football, something that may be hard to get across for the current players on the team. He does however, focus on each player giving all their effort, something that a hard-working Newcastle United could benefit from.

The main reason his arrival is unlikely is that he is already in a good place. At the Cherries, Howe is loved and it’s where he has made a name for himself. If and when he leaves, he will want to challenge himself at the biggest club possible. Newcastle United are currently unstable and haven’t shown any real ambition, so Howe leaving Bournemouth for the Toon doesn’t make much sense.

An unlikely, but possibly great choice

A name that hasn’t been linked to the club, but maybe should be is Domenico Tedesco. The former Schalke manager has done remarkable things in his career so far, even if he is only a 33-year-old.


Domenico Tedesco during his time in charge of Schalke

At Schalke he guided the team to a second place finish in the Bundesliga, only behind Bayern Munich. He also took the club to the semifinals of the DFB Pokal.

The following season didn’t go as well, however, as he was sacked in March for a lack of positive results. The club finished the season in 14th place.

Yet, his style of play might be worth gambling on.

He builds from a stable defense, something Newcastle United can offer. He favors a back three with wingbacks able to drop back to form a back five and the Magpies have the players to do that.

Under Benitez, Newcastle United often played with a back three. Center backs like Federico Fernández, Ciaran Clark, Florian Lejeune, Fabian Schär, and captain Jamaal Lascelles, can all perform well enough to create the solid base any manager would need. For a back three, there is no shortage of center backs, so no need to invest there.

The league table backs this up as Newcastle United had the seventh most clean sheets and were tied for seventh least goals conceded.

At the wingback position, Matt Richie can continue to provide a threat off the left-hand side and DeAndre Yedlin has the defensive and offensive attributes needed on the right.

In the midfield, Newcastle United doesn’t exactly have a Leon Goretzka or a Max Meyer, but they do have players who will work hard to win the ball back from pressing.

Last season, the club were second in distance covered in the month of March. (RYAN – if you can find this stat for the end of the season that would be great. I found some, but they weren’t from the best sources. Thanks) Looking at tackles, the Magpies were fourth by the end of last season. That being said, the team as of right now, definitely has the attributes needed to focus on pressing and breaking up the pitch on the counter.

With Ayoze Pérez departing the club, Yoshinori Muto may be the one to provide Newcastle United the route of chasing down any balls launched his way once the team recovers possession. His pace provides an alternative to Salomón Rondón, if they manage to keep him. In the Venezuelan, they can also have a target man who can hold the ball for oncoming runners like Almirón.

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Important decisions for the Magpies ahead

Newcastle United have a number of possible replacements for Benitez to sort through, but what’s important is that the club remains in the Premier League. If they can manage to reach the security of 40 points, then they can build from there.

Big decisions are coming for Newcastle United apart from who is their next manager, but what is certain is that this next season is absolutely immense for the Tyneside club.

Photo credits in order of appearance:

By Glasgow Celtic – 100_1837, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29801682

By Ronnie Macdonald from Chelmsford, United Kingdom – Mikel Arteta, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20853248

By Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71771205

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