The hiring of a new manager is guaranteed to raise mixed emotions among club supporters as excitement and skepticism become mutually inclusive. In the case of Newcastle United, the arrival of Rafa Benitez in 2016 generated excitement and optimism as a result of his experience with major clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.
The only concern surrounding Rafa Benitez was whether he would stay after inheriting a club that was bound for relegation. However, his decision to sign a three-year extension with Newcastle United, despite having to begin his first full season as club manager in the Championship, brought about a sense of relief.
By signing an extension with Newcastle United, not only did Benitez exhibit his dedication to rebuilding the club, but his signature marked the beginning of a new era in Newcastle United football known as the Rafalution.
In order to fully comprehend and analyze the Rafalution at Newcastle United, it is important to understand three key phases that Rafa Benitez is implementing to obtain long-term success.
Phase One: Promotion
Fortunately, this phase of the Rafalution is complete as Newcastle United concluded the 2016-17 season in the Championship as league winners. Although it was disappointing to see the Magpies play in the second division, it was rewarding as the club was victorious in 29 of its 46 matches and scored 85 goals during the campaign.
The pressure truly rested on the shoulders of Rafa Benitez that season as he had to showcase his managerial expertise to lift Newcastle United back to the English Premier League only one year after being relegated. As nice as it is to win a league title, I am certain that Benitez and the lads will do whatever they can to avoid playing in the Championship in the future.
Phase Two: Survival
Now that we are back in the English Premier League, in order to successfully complete phase two of the Rafalution, the team must fulfill its primary objective – avoid relegation. With 16 matches played thus far in the season, Newcastle United is currently in 16th place with 15 points.
Being so close to the relegation zone at this stage in the season is frustrating and worrisome, but the adversity our young roster is facing will serve as a blessing in disguise going into next season. The distractions at the executive level and the uncertainty of transfer funds are also presenting unnecessary challenges for the club, but the players need to keep their focus on the pitch.
For now, the club is on track to complete the second phase of the Rafalution, but Benitez is in dire need of transfer funds for the January transfer window as he knows that the goal of survival this season is dependent on taking as many points from teams in the bottom half of the table as possible.
Phase Three: Ascension
With phase one complete and phase two in progress, the third and final phase of the Rafalution is the gradual rise of Newcastle United. Aside from our second place finish in the 1995-96 season and our fifth place finish in the 2011-12 season, this club has primarily been associated with the mid-table.
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The gradual rise of Newcastle United requires money, time and consistency. It is crucial for Newcastle United to learn from their current mistakes and develop a style of play that is centered on confidence and discipline.
Our primary goal starting next season should no longer be survival, but rather ascending to a position close to the top half of the table and improving our standing upon the conclusion of each season after that. With that being said, the long-term objective of phase three is for Newcastle United to earn the opportunity to qualify for a European tournament every season.
For more information and analysis from the Rafalution series, stay tuned as progress reports regarding the status of the Rafalution will be published on a tri-weekly basis.