Newcastle United supporters have been drowning their sorrows in recent times after seeing their side suffer a fifth Premier League defeat of the season at the weekend.
Rafa Benitez’s men went into their clash with Leicester City at St James’ Park having picked up just two points from their opening six league games, and thus languishing in the relegation zone at this early stage of the season. And that is where the Magpies remain after going down 2-0 at home to Claude Puel’s Foxes on Saturday, with goals from Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire either side of half time sealing a routine success for the visitors.
As such, there have been many disappointed Newcastle fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom have taken to Twitter to back manager Benitez, instead placing the blame on their side’s woeful start to the season on owner Mike Ashley.
And while there is little doubting that Ashley deserves much criticism from supporters for his inability to back the Magpies chief during the summer, questions do need asking of 58-year-old after his team’s poor opening seven games.
Yes, things have to be put into perspective given former Chelsea boss Benitez was only able to bring seven players in during the summer, two of which were at the club last season, while another in Ki Sung-yueng arrived on a free transfer after leaving Swansea City.
And with a significant amount made from player sales, it’s plainly obvious that Benitez wasn’t backed during the summer with the players that he wanted or felt he needed to take the club forward – but that shouldn’t detract away from some questionable decisions made by the Spaniard.
The form of Aleksandar Mitrovic at Fulham ever since he left Newcastle on loan back in January and then permanently during the summer must puzzle Magpies supporters, with the Serbia international a completely different striker to the one that turned out for the North East giants – why was Benitez not able to get the best out of him?
Taking Matt Ritchie off after just 65 minutes on Saturday, arguably Newcastle’s best crosser of a ball and the most deadly from set plays, was a very surprising decision from the 58-year-old, but also the third time in the last three games in which he withdrew the Scotland international midway through the second – the impact of those substitutions weren’t felt in those three games.
Ultimately, why has this Newcastle side that finished tenth last season under the brilliant guidance of Benitez failed to register a league win so far this term? Yes, they have had some tough fixtures, but they have managed just two points from games against those outside the top six, drawing against Cardiff City and Crystal Palace, and losing on Saturday to Leicester.
Clearly, there is little doubting Benitez’s credentials as a manager, what he did last season was extraordinary, but that is in the past now and Newcastle are very much in trouble this term – they are already three points adrift of safety.
Questions should be being asked of any manager in the country whose side have so far failed to win a game this season – and while there are clearly other circumstances at large at Newcastle, those questions should be being asked of Benitez as well.
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