It is no secret that Rafa Benitez’s relationship with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has been a strained one. And he wouldn’t be the first Toon boss to lock horns with the businessman during his ten years running the club.
Since 2007, the club’s average net spend has been around £3.5m per season and Benitez has often bemoaned the lack of backing he has received in the transfer market. However, things took a surprising turn in January when attacking midfielder Miguel Almirón was drafted from MLS side Atlanta United FC for a club record fee of around £21m.
One defeat in six
That game finished 2-0, as predicted by the pros on the betconnect social betting platform, and was followed by another 2-0 home against Burnley, making it four wins, one draw and one defeat in their last six. Punters will be looking out for more top football tips involving the Magpies in the coming weeks.
The Paraguayan’s arrival seems to have given the whole club a lift at a crucial time and he put in a fine performance on his home debut against Huddersfield Town.
Prior to their recent run of good form, the northeast club had won just one in nine and had slipped back into the bottom three. But, just like last season, the Spanish coach has turned things around and even masterminded a 2-1 win over reigning league champions Manchester City.
With four straight home wins with just one goal conceded under their belts, the black and white side can set their sights on achieving mathematical safety. They are currently 13 points adrift of last year’s tally of 44 points but, with ten games still left to play, that is not an unrealistic target.
With six of their last ten games coming away from home, those four home matches against Everton, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Liverpool will be crucial.
It seems clear that Benitez has a good relationship with the club and the fans but, for someone with such experience and ambition, it is hard to imagine he will stick around under the current circumstances – even with the rare show of spending from Ashley in January.
What’s more, other clubs must have started to take notice of his achievements on Tyneside. Only Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have better defensive records than Newcastle. And, without the luxury of a prolific goal scorer, it is that defence they have had to rely on.
You can’t help but get the feeling that, with a little more investment, the Magpies could easily become the best club outside of the top six. For that to happen, the club needs to be sold and that could be the key to whether Benitez stays on or not beyond this summer.
In the meantime, the club looks on course for survival and new signing Miguel Almirón looks set to light up St. James Park for the remainder of the season.