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Rafa: Lack of Experience, Funds Doomed Newcastle Last Night

Fact: Rafael Benitez owns a horse named Poodle

Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League
This picture has nothing to do with the article, it’s just pretty badass
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Last night’s 1-0 defeat to Everton ended Newcastle’s brilliant run of form that featured a 4-game winning streak and only 1 loss since the January transfer window ended. For those who couldn’t watch, a 51st minute goal from Arsenal signing Theo Walcott was the only highlight in an otherwise ugly game.

Watching the game you could say Newcastle lost for a number of reasons, one being that they were sucked into playing Sam Allardyce’s style of football, which can only be described as a repugnant display of football that results in Everton neutralizing threats rather than creating chances.

Another reason, which is one that fans and pundits alike having been pointing out about Newcastle all season, is the lack of a quality goalscorer. Neither Slimani, nor Perez, nor Gayle could provide any goals this match despite all 3 having chances to do so.

Some fans, including The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas, have pointed to the lack of a good final ball being a main reason Newcastle failed to score yesterday.

However, Rafael Benitez believes that the reason Newcastle lost was that Everton had better, more experienced, and more expensive players.

“If you do the numbers, it is very easy. The difference is they have players with experience in the Premier League.

“I don’t know how much they spent this year exactly, but it is very simple. For us to come here and expect to beat them; it is not easy.

“We have a chance but normally, when you go away against these teams, it is not easy to get anything.”

His comments can all be found on the Chronicle, but those few comments were the ones that stirred up the most drama. These comments on cost came the same day Sam Allardyce claimed that every manager could say “we don’t have enough funds”; attacking Benitez for wanting Mike Ashley to spend a little more cash.

Breaking down Rafa’s statement it is important to start with his first point:

“If you do the numbers, it is very easy. The difference is they have players with experience in the Premier League.

For any Newcastle fan, this does not come as a surprise. Last season Rafa signed a lot of Championship caliber veterans in order to ensure the squad returned to the Premier League. It appeared in the following summer that Rafa planned to make a new batch of signings that would help give Newcastle a shot at Premier League survival. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funds, Rafa was not able to make hardly any of these signings and Newcastle was left with essentially the same Championship Squad.

Yesterday’s starting lineup featured Martin Dubravka, Paul Dummett, Florian Lejeune, Jamaal Lascelles, DeAndre Yedlin, Kenedy, Mohamed Diame, Ayoze Perez, Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Ritchie and Islam Slimani. Other players who played were Dwight Gayle, Jacob Murphy and Mikel Merino. That list features 9 players who played in the Championship last season, and 3 players who made their English football debut this season. Dubravka, Lejeune and Merino all made their English football debuts this season, and combined have only 51 Premier League appearances. Of the 9 Championship players, Dummet, Perez, Shelvey, and Slimani are the only players with significant Premier League experience, all of which would arguably not start if they played for a club such as Everton. Diame falls into this boat and fortunately has a ton of Premier League experience, but has only played for bottom tier teams. Players such as Ritchie and Gayle have little to no PL experience, and while being the most important reason their teams were promoted, the players often dipped significantly in performance as did the teams they played for once playing in the Premier League.

Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League
Dwight Gayle was known as a “Championship goal scorer” when he was signed by Rafa. As a player he flourishes in the Championship and has always struggled to score goals in the Premier League.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Comparing our lineup to Everton’s lineup of Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Michael Keane, Leighton Baines, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Morgan Schneiderlin, Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney, Yannick Bolasie, and Cenk Tosun you can already see there is a huge gap in Premier League quality players. Outside of Jordan Pickford’s year with Sunderland, Gana’s year with Chrystal Palace, Michael Keane’s time with Burnley and Cenk Tosun just being signed, the rest of the lineup has been playing in the league for a while. That back line of Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, and Leighton Baines have been with the cub for at least 10 years, while the side also features Premier League legend Wayne Rooney, and former Arsenal star Theo Walcott. Couple that with the fact that the team also features Morgan Schneiderlin who has won the FA Cup and Yannick Bolasie, a player who has always been a bright spot for Chrystal Palace in recent seasons it is easy to see the experience gap that Everton and Newcastle have.

The second part of Rafa’s statement is a direct shot at both Ashley and Allardyce stating that Everton’s lineup was better because they spent more.

“I don’t know how much they spent this year exactly, but it is very simple. For us to come here and expect to beat them; it is not easy.

Before the match Allardyce complained that all managers don’t get to spend what they want, but apparently neglected to recognize he was fielding a team that was far more expensive than the one Rafa was able to field.

Matthew Robson over at The Mag crunched the numbers and broke down how expensive each team actually was.

Everton

£26m Pickford

£63,000 Coleman

£5m Jagielka

£26m Keane

£7m Baines

£8m Gueye

£21m Schneiderlin

‘Free’ Rooney (£100k a week wages)

£20m Walcott

£26m Bolasie

£20m Tosun

Newcastle United

Loan Dubravka

£5m Yedlin

£4m Lascelles

£9m Lejeune

Homegrown Dummett

£11m Ritchie

£14m Shelvey

£5m Diamé

Loan Kenedy

£2m Pérez

Loan Slimani

Alardyce’s starting 11 saw £159m spent on transfer fees, whilst Newcastle’s is over a third less with only £50m spent.

Six of those eleven players all cost more than Newcastle’s transfer record Michael Owen who cost a mere £16m. The list doesn't include players such as £44m Sigurdsson, £24m Klaassen and £16.1m Niasse who all did not start for various reasons. Over half of the money spent in Newcastle’s lineup comes from three payers, Shelvey, Ritchie and Lejeune. who combine to cost the club £34m over the past 3 seasons, which is £10m less than Sigurdsson who joined the club this season.

Burnley v Everton - Premier League
Sigurdsson, the clubs most expensive signing, was out due to a knee injury and could return in Early May
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

Furthermore, the least expensive players for Everton, Coleman, Baines and Jagielka all were bought at least 10 years ago, as already stated in this article. They were all bought at a time in which they were young and unproven, and the average cost of a player was much lower. To not recognize this pay gap in the starting 11s for each team is ignorant, and that is the message Rafa is sending to Ashley and Allardyce.

Rafa’s last statement sums it all up pretty well, as the combination of experience and lack of quality make it difficult for the team to compete against top flight sides.

“We have a chance but normally, when you go away against these teams, it is not easy to get anything.”

It is worth mentioning that this team has played well against top flight teams, notching wins against Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester United, but it is unrealistic to expect the team to continue to do well against these teams given the talent this side has and the lack of money invested in the squad. Outside of those three wins the team has 11 losses and 2 draws against the current top 10 teams. It should be interesting to see how the team does as they close out the season facing the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea.