Newcastle United announced that Rafa Benitez is leaving the club and they must now find a quality replacement to fill his vacancy.
The silence surrounding the contract saga between Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez drove supporters and pundits crazy, but the silence has broken and Benitez is officially leaving. The Spaniard was a fan favorite from the moment he signed with Newcastle United back in March of 2016. He managed to earn immediate promotion to the Premier League in 2016, a top ten finish in 2017 and earned another mid-table finish this past season.
His departure has opened the door for several candidates to take his place at St. James’ Park, but they will have some big shoes to fill. In addition, the next manager will need to prove their worth to the supporters and motivate the players to get results the way Benitez did.
Take Notes from Rafa’s Tenure
Every manager has their own tactics, style of coaching and way of interacting with players. However, understanding the impact Benitez had on the current roster will be crucial for his replacement. Any incoming manager would be wise to make note of and try to implement the things that worked well for his predecessor.
From the end of January through the end of the season, Newcastle United were one of the most in-form teams in the Premier League. This happened because Benitez scrapped his traditional 4-2-3-1 counter-attacking formation for the 3-4-3 attacking setup. The Magpies were averaging 16 shots per match and scored multiple goals in most matches, especially at home. With players like Miguel Almiron, Christian Atsu, Matt Ritchie and, for now, Ayoze Perez, most managers would find some success if they deploy an attacking formation.
Simply purchasing big name players who do not fit the schemes being implemented by a manager is a waste of time, just ask Manchester United. One thing that Benitez did well was recruit players who fit his system. In defense, he looked for players who were aggressive and confrontational. In midfield, he valued players who had good vision and maintained composure with the ball at their feet. At striker, the Spaniard looked for players who could score goals, but also knew how to hold the ball up when they were isolated up top.
The next manager will have his own style of play and his own transfer targets in mind, but the important thing is to make sure they fit within their traditional formation. Moreover, it is important to find players who value collective results over individual success. With a blue collar team like Newcastle United that lacks superstars, collective understanding in each third of the pitch is crucial for getting results in the Premier League.