Benitez lays out safety path for struggling Newcastle

Owen Humphreys/PA via AP
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Newcastle United has lost four-straight Premier League matches, but manager Rafa Benitez says the club is not far off from its goals.

The Magpies were belted by Watford on Saturday, the latest in a string of losses started by Burnley, Bournemouth, and Manchester United.

Two of those were at home, and the Toon Army is less than enthused with a club which seemed ahead of its projections during a nice run earlier in the season.

[ MORE: Magpies walloped by Watford ]

Not-so-fast, says Rafa, who was not allowed to meet the wages or transfer fees of many of his required targets this summer. The goal is 20 points in the first 19 matches, and 20 in the second.

Newcastle has 14, and needs six points from its next six matches to meet Rafa’s pace. The Magpies play West Brom on Tuesday before meeting Chelsea, Leicester, West Ham, Everton, and Arsenal.

That puts a big circle on the Hawthorns trip:

“You can lose against the top teams but we have to compete against Huddersfield, against Brighton or against Burnley but we couldn’t sign players that they signed. We couldn’t pay the wages that they paid, so that is what we have.”

Benitez has riffed on the “know who we are” underdog/siege mentality since the summer, and perhaps before it. Top-end talent is at a minimum around St. James Park, and the strength lies in its center back corps when healthy.

Joselu and Aleksandar Mitrovic couldn’t finish their chances in the loss to Watford, and Benitez didn’t exactly endorse the former when asked about the side’s weak strike production. Newcastle bought Joselu from Stoke for under $7 million (£5) this summer.

“Our reality is if you want to buy a striker that scores 20 goals every year you have to pay now £40m,” said Benitez.

“An average striker is £15, £20, £25m, if he kicks the ball forward it’s £15m – if he scores it’s £25m. We didn’t do that, we didn’t do that and that’s it. We need to know who we are and where we are.”

Rafa’s a savvy actor, and knows this puts pressure on owner Mike Ashley when it comes to takeover bids. Stories in the media say Benitez would be backed big in January by new ownership, and fans very much want Ashley out of the picture. The London businessman, however, is anything but easily swayed and has a stubborn streak. Will this help?