Newcastle can count themselves unfortunate to come up against the returning Paul Pogba on Saturday as the Frenchman inspired Man Utd to a 4-1 win. Jose Mourinho’s men put in their best performance with months and it was no surprise it coincided with the reappearance of their talisman. Pogba returned from injury in style and proved the difference between the two sides, and that is what £89 million gets you. But there is no shame in losing to Man Utd when they are in that sort of form, and such a fixture was never going to define the Magpies’ season. More realistic challenges lie ahead and Newcastle need to turn their poor form around ahead of games against Watford and West Brom before the end of the month.
Benitez has expressed his disappointment at the club’s lack of summer spending, while Man Utd were spending a fortune on the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, and he said the difference in the two teams’ firepower was plain for all to see on the pitch on Saturday. “This time, you see the difference between money spent,” he said. “It’s not something we didn’t know, we knew it would make a massive difference between both teams. When you pay big money for players, they can make the difference, so you make mistakes, you pay for that because you play against top-class players.”
The 4-1 reverse extended Newcastle’s losing streak to three games, but they are still 11th in the table and that is a decent place to be given their financial constraints. The club is up for sale and Benitez must be hoping someone snaps it up quickly after Mike Ashley admitted he will not plough any more money into Newcastle Utd in a candid TV interview. Amanda Staveley and the PCP Partners group wants to buy Ashley out and is currently completing due diligence on the club, and Benitez must hope it happens quickly and Newcastle’s financial fortunes improve.
This Magpies side clearly needs investment as Benitez was given just £36 million to spend in the summer and that merely papered over cracks in the squad. A look on Transfermarkt shows Newcastle’s most valuable players to be Jonjo Shelvey and Aleksandar Mitrovic and that is worrying for fans. There is the nub of a decent team in the likes of Jamaal Lascelles, Matt Richie, Mikel Merino, Dwight Gayle and Christian Atsu, but the Magpies need more quality if they are to make a splash in an extremely competitive league.
Eight teams are more likely to go down than Newcastle this season, according to the bookmakers, who are offering shorter odds on Stoke, Bournemouth, Brighton, West Brom, Huddersfield, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Swansea than on Newcastle going in the relegation betting. Newcastle’s trump card is Benitez and the Spaniard has masterminded some excellent victories this season. That has left them five points clear of the drop zone, despite losing three on the bounce. The Premiership is a very unforgiving league, however, and if they do not start picking up points soon they will find themselves in the thick of a relegation scrap.
If you check Intertops for the latest odds you will see that Newcastle are favourites to beat Watford at St James’s Park next weekend and given a chance against struggling West Brom three days later. If they can take six points, or even four, from those games they will relieve a lot of the pressure. Before the end of the year they have to face Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City and if they are still hovering around mid-table come January it will be a result. Even if the takeover has not gone through by then, Benitez really should look at bringing in some fresh faces for the second half of the season, even if he has to turn to loans. Potential suitors will find the club a lot less attractive if they are in a relegation scrap, so Ashley might even be tempted to sanction a couple of signings. Here’s hoping.