Can instrumental Benitez oversee Newcastle’s immediate return to the Premier League?
Lee Gormley | July 20, 2016
Benitez battles to restore Newcastle to PL
Despite the hopeful arrival of Rafael Benitez at St James’ Park towards the end of last season, Newcastle United still suffered their second Premier League relegation in seven years, finishing two points behind bitter rivals Sunderland in 17th.
Former Liverpool and Chelsea coach Benitez had begun the 2015/16 campaign in charge of Real Madrid after signing a three-year deal, following a successful spell with Napoli, but a lacklustre start saw him ultimately replaced by club icon Zinedine Zidane.
The Spaniard then agreed to take over on Tyneside, a massive managerial coup for the Geordie outfit, though he was unable to oversee a gallant battle against the drop, enduring a fall to the Championship.
Although, the 56-year-old showed commitment in remaining in the Northeast and will soon begin his quest to restore Newcastle back to the top flight, with Benitez now 15/8 from Coral to oversee a Championship title victory next term.
Can Toon instantly bounce back under Rafa?
Having taken over what he previously outlined as his dream job in Madrid, Benitez would never have imagined he’d end up in the English second tier just months later.
Nevertheless, he’s there and ready for the challenge, with a feel-good factor also swiftly returning around St James’ Park in spite of their drop down divisions, proven by mass season ticket sales recently.
Benitez is aware of the importance the fans will play in getting back to the summit of English football, and called for their support throughout what will be a testing Championship campaign.
“The relationship between the club and the fans is improving, everybody is happier. And that is good for everyone,” he stated.
“We need the support of the fans for the season. If they are behind the team it will be much easier for us to perform and give 100 per cent in every game.”
The fans have witnessed a flurry of new signings come in on Tyneside, boosting morale massively after the lows of last season, but the pressure is now on Benitez to bring the club instantly back to the top flight.
Talented additions boost prospects
Star players seemingly wanting away from the club include Georginio Wijnaldum, Florian Thauvin and Daryl Janmaat, but a host of new arrivals have boosted prospects for the 2016/17 term, with all of Dwight Gayle, Jesus Gamez, Matt Ritchie, Matz Sels, Isaac Hayden and Grant Hanley having been snapped up.
The Magpies are massive favourites to make an immediate return to the Premier League and will enter Championship proceedings this year at 14/1 to remain unbeaten on home soil throughout the domestic campaign.
With many acquisitions already secured, Benitez is still pondering further moves and also admitted some of his big names could yet depart, with Wijnaldum being linked heavily to his former employers Liverpool.
“We’re working hard behind the scenes to bring more players,” outlined the Spaniard. “As I have said before we are close to some of them, hopefully we can do it. We have to be open to offers if somebody is interested.
“We don’t want to sell but if somebody comes we have to make sure we do the right things for the club.”
The Toon can also be backed at a massive 100/1 to go the entire Championship campaign undefeated, with their season in the second tier kicking off on August 5th against Fulham.
Squad overhaul for brash Benitez
Alongside Newcastle, both Aston Villa and Norwich City also endured the daunting drop down divisions last season, and they could be their main rivals for promotion in the season coming up.
Although, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brighton and Hove Albion and Derby County could also have a say, while Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan Athletic and Fulham will hope to have an impact on proceedings too.
The arrivals on Tyneside under Benitez as well as the offloading of his squad’s deadwood has boosted hopes and expectation around the club, with a renewed sense of belief having been instilled within the set-up.
Gayle was captured from Crystal Palace for £10m and could turn out to be a highly efficient signing, while Ritchie’s £12m switch from Bournemouth gives Newcastle experienced width after the departure of Andros Townsend to the Eagles. Former Blackburn Rovers skipper Hanley will also sure-up the rearguard after signing a five-year deal.
Long-serving Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul may also depart after fellow stopper Sels was snapped up, with Steven Taylor having left after his contract expired, Fabricio Coloccini heading back to Argentina and Papiss Cisse jumping on the China bandwagon with Shandong Luneng.
It’s evident Benitez is having a positive impact, bringing flexibility to the club’s transfer policy by securing both youth and experience, highlighted by the signings of 21-year-old Hayden from Arsenal and 31-year-old Gamez from Atletico Madrid.
The driven Spanish boss is succeeding in overhauling his inherited squad and has been instrumental throughout changes around the club, but it will count for nothing if the former Madrid tactician cannot steer Newcastle back to the Premier League in 2017.