Rafa Benitez

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Reports: Newcastle adds Joselu; Chasing Wilshere, three others

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Newcastle United’s search for an answer up top is heading South, directionally, and their hope for help in the midfield may be as well.

The Magpies are said to be on the verge of adding Joselu from Stoke City for about $6 million, and are linked to Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere amongst a host of other names as Rafa Benitez aims to build up his club for a long Premier League stay.

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League wrap ]

Joselu, 27, arrived at Stoke from Hannover 96 two years ago but struggled to find First Team time under Mark Hughes. He scored four goals in two preseason appearances for the Potters this season, but had reportedly already agreed to part ways with the club.

A story in The Express says Benitez is also chasing Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis and Legia Warsaw center back Michal Pazdan as well as oft-linked target Lucas Perez of Arsenal.

Speaking of Arsenal, Benitez is said to be requesting both Perez and Wilshere from Arsene Wenger. Wilshere went on loan to Bournemouth last season and played his most matches since 2013-14.

Newcastle fell 2-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, though the match was scoreless when Jonjo Shelvey took an absurd red card in the 50th minute for stamping on a prone Dele Alli‘s achilles.

Benitez’s striker corps is Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic, and the latter is out of favor with the manager for his potential to lash out at opponents. Joselu has a pair of double digit seasons in the Bundesliga, and perhaps the Spaniard can find his scoring boots under one of his countrymen.

Benitez: Kane tackle worse than Shelvey’s red card

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Rafa Benitez knows most teams aren’t going to find three points when two backs go down in the first half against a superior team.

He also knows that Jonjo Shelvey‘s red card was deserved, and that Spurs picked up a deserved win after Newcastle held them without real danger for 50 minutes.

[ MORE: Recap | Pochettino reacts ]

That’s where the understanding ends for Benitez, who saw big summer signing Florian Lejeune scythed down by a Harry Kane scissor kick and just a yellow card shown. Lejeune left the game, joining left back Paul Dummett as players needing first half subs.

From the BBC:

“It was difficult from the beginning. We had to adapt things [after injuries]. The red card changed everything. I think we were defending well. We have to improve. We had our chances but we missed them.”

“The Harry Kane tackle was worse than this one. It’s more dangerous. We lost one player from that. We made a mistake, but I think maybe someone has to analyse these things to see what’s more dangerous.”

Let’s be clear, Kane’s ugly tackle — easily a yellow card — wasn’t worse than Shelvey walking on Dele Alli‘s achilles tendon. But Benitez is right to feel aggrieved when Newcastle lost a major player on an unseemly tackle, and we’re sure he’s raging at Shelvey for ruining what looked like it could be a scoreless draw and welcome point from the Magpies’ Premier League return.

Premier League 2017-18 preview – Newcastle United

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Newcastle’s not your typical newly promoted side.

After bouncing straight back from relegation and returning to the Premier League, where they spent have spent every season except two since the league’s inauguration in 1992. Both times Newcastle were relegated, they won the Championship and came straight back up.

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This time, they have as experienced a manager as a newly promoted side can have along for the ride. Newcastle proved strong in their bid to keep Rafa Benitez after relegation, and he delivered on his promise to get them back to the top flight. Now, staying there will be another battle altogether.

Best, worst case scenarios – Best-case scenario is that Newcastle returns to its former pedigree as a perennial top-half finisher. That’s not out of the question at all, considering they have a strong side that pulverized the Championship at times. Newcastle can break down any defense, with attacking talent that could surprise the Premier League with its quality.

Worst-case, this team flops hard and battles relegation again. The Magpies’ biggest weakness is facing a team like them, that possesses the ball and storms forward. They lost twice to Fulham last season in Championship play, a team most comparable to Newcastle’s style at that level. Should teams look to replicate this strategy, Benitez would be powerless as he watches his team pinned back and unable to push forward. This team isn’t vastly changed from when they were relegated, and that could prove a major downfall.


Best possible XI is…

Elliott

Yedlin — Lascelles — Lejeune — Dummett

Shelvey — Diame

Ritchie — Perez — Murphy

Gayle


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Jacob Murphy (Norwich City, $13.3 million), Florian Lejeune (Eibar, $11.7 million), Christian Atsu ($9 million), Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, $5.9 million), Mikel Merino (Borussia Dortmund, Loan).

Transfers Out: Florian Thauvin (Marseille, $12.9 million), Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest, $2.7 million), Sammy Ameobi (Bolton, Free), Vurnon Anita (Leeds United, Free), Haris Vuckic (FC Twente, Free), Yoan Gouffran (Goztepe, Free).

Last season:

— 1st Place finish in Championship (Automatic promotion)
— FA Cup 4th Round (Lost to Oxford United)
— League Cup quarterfinals (Lost to Hull City)

Star player: Ayoze Perez — If asked for most important player, I probably would have gone with one of the two central defenders, who anchor this club. Florian Lejeune is a quality addition and will strengthen this defense considerably. However, it’s “star” player and that is without a doubt playmaker Ayoze Perez. The 22-year-old Spaniard can both create and score, and he racked up 12 goals and 7 assists last season in the Championship despite playing 1,400 less minutes than leading creators Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey. Perez will be a critical part of this Newcastle squad, and he’ll need to blossom this time around after misfiring in his first go at the Premier League campaign the Magpies’ relegation season.

Coaches’ Corner: Rafa Benitez is as experienced as they come for newly promoted sides. He is the only manager in history to have won the Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, and Super Cup titles, and he has Newcastle in good hands. While he fell from grace at Napoli and Real Madrid, taking charge of Newcastle is a completely different animal, and he passed the Championship meat grinder with flying colors. Back in the Premier League for a full season for the first time since 2010, Benitez has a quality squad to work with as Newcastle looks to continue its slow build back up.

PST predicts: This is a very deep team, which will be of utmost importance when the injuries inevitably hit. The attacking trio of Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez, and new signing Jacob Murphy have plenty of support in Christian Atsu, Siem De Jong, Henri Saivet (should he stay). In addition, the midfield is strengthened by Borussia Dortmund loanee Mikel Marino and Jack Colback. The quality in depth coupled with Rafa Benitez’s guiding means this squad should be comfortably in the Premier League, with a safe bottom-half finish. The only slip could be if the players who failed to keep the club afloat last time perform below standards a second time.

Newcastle interested in Atleti’s Correa, Arsenal’s Perez

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Rafa Benitez has eye on a pair of strikers from big European clubs.

The Newcastle United manager reportedly has interest in Arsenal’s veteran forward Lucas Perez and Atletico Madrid’s young star Angel Correa, according to the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder.

Either would make sense, though the latter would certainly have interest from around Europe as a productive player in limited time at the Vicente Calderon.

[ MORE: Weirdest Freddy Adu trial yet ]

A San Lorenzo product, the 22-year-old Argentine played primarily on the right wing but can be used in any attacking position. Correa has 16 goals and 15 assists in 83 matches for Atleti, including one Champions League goal vs. Benfica.

Perez moved to Arsenal from Deportivo de la Coruna last summer, and scored seven times in 21 appearances. Only one of those came in the Premier League, though the 28-year-old netted a hat trick against Basel in the UCL.

Either would be a boon for Benitez, who has Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic as his prime strike options (the latter has been linked with a move away from St. James Park). Correa would be a major coup for Newcastle.

Cheick Tiote tributes pour in; Hard-nosed midfielder mourned

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Few people enjoyed playing against combative Ivorian midfielder Cheick Tiote, but the longtime Newcastle United midfielder was respected by many.

Tiote, 30, passed away Monday after collapsing during a training session with Chinese side Beijing enterprises.

The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner also played with Twente and Anderlecht, and was especially beloved amongst his ex-Newcastle teammates.

[ MORE: Hazard out 3 months ]

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez praised Tiote as “a true professional, dedicated, talented, and above all, a great man.”

Ex-NUFC boss Alan Pardew was particularly stung by Tiote’s death, and honored “a giant of a midfielder.”