Don’t panic just yet. Nothing has actually happened. Arsene Wenger has not said that he is retiring at the end of the season, yet. The Mirror reported over the weekend that Rafa Benitez has been linked to a move to Arsenal if Wenger steps down at the end of this season.
The possibility of losing Rafa Benitez is real, though. He has done a fairly good job rebuilding this Newcastle team in just over a year now with mixed financial support from management. It was no secret that Rafa wanted to spend in January. All signs point to Mike Ashley not green lighting these proposed moves. That has traditionally been how Ashley has approached business, but it doesn’t help our chances of holding on to Rafa.
Benitez has voiced interest in winning trophies at Newcastle, acknowledging that it might take time though. That sort of rationale makes it seem like Rafa is planning to be leading the Magpies for a long time, but the allure of managing at a bigger club has to be appealing to Benitez, who has a very storied list of previous employment.
I would be pretty surprised if Benitez jumped ship at the end of the season if he achieves promotion with Newcastle. He is loved by the Toon Army and I think he relishes the opportunity to make some noise as something of an underdog in the Premier League next season. I really think Rafa will rise to the challenge.
This type of talk does give Benitez some leverage, which actually might be beneficial for us as fans. The Spaniard can now go in to Ashley and remind him how sought after he is as a manager. That gives Rafa power to lobby for players and more financial backing in order to keep him happy and remain at the club.
Now, Rafa wouldn’t be a shoe in at Arsenal either. The Mirror also indicated that current Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel is a front runner for the position should it open up. The one thing that reportedly makes Benitez more desirable, according to the Mirror, would be his ability to recruit former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry to join his staff, something Arsenal seems keen on making happen.
Losing Rafa would basically be a death warrant for us back to the Championship. Trying to install a new manager the same season of promotion will almost inevitably result in relegation. Keeping Benitez in the north east of England should be this team’s top priority if they are serious about returning to Premier League stability.
Now to address Rafa: if for some bizarre reason you are reading this, please don’t go. We need you more than you even know. I am sorry that I criticized your team choice against Oxford. Just please, whatever you do, don’t leave for Arsenal. Don’t let Mike Ashley go back to ruining this team during a crucial summer for the club. If you find a way to win trophies at Tyneside, you will go down in club lure like no other. There will be a statue built, I presume. This Toon Army is starved for success. You can bring it for us. I believe I speak for every Newcastle fan when I say, stay with us. You will not be disappointed.