Newcastle United 2017-18 Season Preview: Can Rafa Benítez help Toon find stability?

Rafa Benítez has made no secret of the fact he is frustrated with the lack of transfer activity, but is his current squad capable of having a successful season?

Newcastle United 2017-18 Season Preview: Can Rafa Benítez help Toon find stability?
Image Credit: Getty Images / Serena Taylor

It was all smiles on Tyneside at the end of last season when Newcastle United dramatically sealed the title of Championship Champions on the final day of the season.

Fans were optimistic about what the future may hold under Rafa Benítez, who revealed he was told he would be given upwards of £80m to spend as they prepared for life back in the top flight.

The window so far however hasn’t gone as many fans would have hoped and the mood has been dampened somewhat by rumours of Benítez considering his future at the club, following Mike Ashley’s false promises.

The Spaniard has stated that he still has money to spend, but it is expected to be significantly lower than the expected £80m.

The fans don’t appear to be too fazed by the talk of disharmony in the board room however as the club revealed around 40,000 season tickets have been sold for this season.

The Magpies were also watched by an impressive 24,000 in their final pre-season game at St James’ Park on Sunday.

New recruits

Christian Atsu and Florian Lejeune have featured heavily in pre-season and have both impressed fans with their performances.

It is expected Lejeune will push Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark for a place in the back four, while Atsu is likely to start the season on the left-wing following the departure of Yoan Gouffran.

Jacob Murphy was the third signing of the summer after securing a £12m deal from Norwich City.

Murphy was part of England’s Under-21 side at the Euro’s and has so far been restricted to second-half appearances for the Magpies as he aims to build up his fitness ahead of the new season.

Former Sunderland loanee Javier Manquillo was next to join Benítez’ side and will provide back-up to both Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin.

The club’s latest arrival has been Mikel Merino who signed on a season-long loan deal with the Magpies having an obligation to buy if a certain number of appearances is reached.

Merino is a deep-lying playmaker who can also play at the back. The Spanish Under-21 international is highly rated in Spain and it is expected he will challenge Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden for a place in the starting eleven. 

 

Outgoings

Forgotten man Florian Thauvin eventually left the club on a permanent deal at the start of the window with United receiving £9.8m from Marseille, while Daryl Murphy left the club to join Nottingham Forest.

The most surprising departure was of the versatile Vernon Anita who wasn’t offered a new contract and subsequently joined Leeds United.

Midfield trio Haris Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi and Yoan Gouffran also left the club on free transfers at the end of last season.

United remain keen to reduce their wage bill and more players are likely to be moved on before the end of the window.

Tim Krul, Henri Saivet, Achraf Lazaar and Emmanuel Riviere have all been training with the reserve side as they look for new clubs, but all four players are yet to attract any serious interest from other clubs.

Who will be key to Newcastle’s success?

Dwight Gayle – Having not yet signed a striker, United’s number nine will need to have another good season in front of goal if the Magpies are to have a successful season.

Gayle ended the Championship campaign with 23 goals, despite having two lengthy spells out of the side through injury.

Benítez will be hoping the 27-year-old’s injury problems are behind him and he can continue his top goal scoring form in the top flight.

Jonjo Shelvey – The former-England international knows himself that he needs to impress again this season.

Shelvey is Newcastle’s main man in midfield with almost all of United’s attacking play coming through him and he is likely to be key in turning defence into attack for the Magpies again this year.

Shelvey began his pre-season training early in an effort to lose weight and his performances in pre-season show it has paid off.

The 27-year-old has admitted he wants to force himself back into the national team picture and knows only top performances this season will do that.

Rafa Benítez - Undoubtedly the biggest key to Newcastle's success is Rafael Benítez. Benítez turned the club around as soon as he walked through the door at St James’ Park.

The Spaniard lost just three of his 10 games in the Premier League with the Magpies – compared to Steve McClaren’s 16 losses in 28 previously.

Benítez currently has an overall win ratio of 57% – better than any other Newcastle manager in the modern era.

He has put his own stamp on things as he aims to get the club back to where it used to be. Fans worship him and if he were to leave he would no doubt take the positive atmosphere around the club with him. 

 

Predicted finish – 14th

A successful first season for most Magpies fans would mean cementing their place as a Premier League team who are capable of competing with any team in the division.

With the current squad and under the guidance of Benítez, I feel the club will finish in the bottom half, but well clear of the relegation places.

However, should Benitez leave, it could be worrying times once again for the Geordie faithful.

Newcastle United FC