“They should be challenging for the Premier League,”
Daryl Murphy on Newcastle United.
“It’s a big club…All they want is their football, there’s 52,000 fans coming to home games in the Championship. It’s unheard of, really.
“They really support the team. We played away games, they were selling the games out. I can’t speak highly enough of them. They were great with me too.”
Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez have a tremendous opportunity to hit the ground running in the 2017/8 season and The Magpies must think and spend big to take advantage of it.
No European football entanglements which will hinder last season’s Top 7 – both Chelsea and Leicester City have won The Premier League in the last two seasons with just one main competition to focus on – means a level playing field with the teams that finished 8th to 17th and of course the two teams Newcastle finished above in The Championship.
A lot is made of the highly competitive nature of The Premier League and while that is true in some respects – organization, intensity and physicality certainly compared to Spain’s La Liga means no easy games. Yet in terms of real football quality, outside last season’s Top 4 teams there isn’t any great sides.
One of the traditional powers, Arsenal, is on the decline as evidenced by its fall from Champions League qualification grace after nearly 20 years in the lucrative competition, meaning its star players will be cherry-picked and want to leave like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin to Barcelona.
Of the others, Champions League football returning to a Liverpool side that had midweek free to prepare means two tough games a week for the majority of the season and the question of whether they can juggle on both fronts Under Jurgen Klopp?
Ditto Manchester United as Jose struggled in The Premier League with Chelsea on two fronts before his sacking in December 2015. After acknowledging he had his worst season ever last season finishing sixth, will he thrive on two massive fronts?
And Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Pep Guardiola at Man City and Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs will not want to see a football master like Benitez in the opposition dugout especially at St. James’ Park which can become a fortress once more.
As successful a manager as The Premier League has seen, Rafa Benitez is not rejoining the top flight of English football to make up the numbers.
While Rafa is the ultimate realist in football, he is also the ultimate competitor and will be hungry to win that Premier League title that eluded him and his glittering, almost perfect, CV at Liverpool or he would not have charged himself with the task of awakening the ultimate sleeping giant Newcastle United.
After receiving assurances of spending power from Mike Ashley to make Newcastle competitive this summer, Benitez is immediately looking to bring in the big players who can take Newcastle to the next level.
Former Newcastle United owner and Chairman Freddie Shepherd spoke of the need for a marquis signing through the doors at St. James’ Park recently and its certain that Newcastle will have to break their £15M transfer record many times this season just to punch their weight in the modern market.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be the talisman Newcastle need to launch their Premier League assault.
The Borussia Dortmund striker is the top marksman in Europe this season with 31 goals and Newcastle were one of his very early admirers with supremo Mike Ashley joining Graham Carr at the Parc De Princes in 2013 to watch him play.
Back then, the electric-paced striker – a friend of Magpie Ayoze Perez – was available for a more modest £10-15M yet has proven he is worth his goal-scoring weight in gold – or the diamonds that sometimes encrust his tailor-made boots – and £50M for his services would be more than worth it and make a huge statement.
Newcastle have a better nucleus of players ready for the top flight than the majority of people give credit for yet must strengthen the squad massively to boost quality levels and cover the loss of key players which affected their form badly at times last season.
Playmaker JonJo Shelvey makes The Magpies tick and was sorely missed by Newcastle when he was banned over the hectic Christmas period so an alternative to his talents must be top of the list and could arrive in the shape of Fulham’s Tom Cairney:
When PFA Fans’ Championship Player of the Year Dwight Gayle was out the side lacked pace up front, and another pacy finisher is essential if he is ham-strung again.
Newcastle have made one signing already this summer after completing the permanent move of winger Cristian Atsu for £6.2M from Chelsea on a four-year deal yet another winger to cover his absences with Ghana especially on African Nations Cup duty in future years could open the door for England U21 Jack Grealish to move to St. James’:
Scorer of the late goal above against Brighton that sealed The Championship title on the final day of season, ‘The Birmingham Ronaldo’ as he is known among the Aston Villa faithful is a player with bucket-loads of talent who could fulfil his potential under Rafa Benitez and certainly give the Magpies boss more attacking options.
Defender-wise, Newcastle sorely missed Grealish’ former Villa team-mate Ciaran Clark, pictured above celebrating with Dwight Gayle, Grealish and Grant Hanley, in his injury absence in the title-run in and the acquisition of Hull’s Harry Maguire would mean Newcastle have a top defender to increase competition:
Clark himself has spoken of “exciting times” ahead at St. James’ Park and is looking forward to the future with great relish:
“There are exciting times ahead. Everyone is obviously looking forward to the next season, playing against some of the best players and best stadiums in the world.”
Football pundits and transfer targets could do with heeding his words as there is a new mood of ambition – shown by Paul Dummett renouncing Wales for a shot at England honours – at St. James’ Park.
Expected the Unexpected
Arsenal Sacks Unai Emery After Defeat to Frankfurt
Arsenal has sacked manager Unai Emery following their loss at home to Frankfurt, according to ESPN.
Per the report, Emery’s position was untenable with senior figures at Arsenal reviewing his position with many believing he would be sacked prior to Sunday’s trip to Norwich, but Thursday’s loss seemed to be enough to make the move now.
Arsenal has been in the midst of their worst run in 27 years, going seven games without a win in all competitions.
The board at Arsenal had been supportive of Emery since the start of the season, and Emery has had a number of chances to find a fix to the problem, but he was unsuccessful in his attempts and the board had run out of patience and support for the former Paris Saint-German manager.
Emery’s baffling team selections have surprised players and staff, as well as his coaching, with glaring mistakes made with substitutions during Thursday’s loss to Frankfurt.
“Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand,” Josh Kroenke said on behalf of the club’s board, according to a statement. “We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.
“The decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required. We have asked Freddie Ljungberg to take responsibility for the first team as interim head coach. We have full confidence in Freddie to take us forward. The search for a new head coach is underway and we will make a further announcement when that process is complete.”
“However long I oversee Arsenal for I will give everything I have to put smiles on faces again” Ljungberg said, via a statement on Twitter. We have a busy few weeks ahead and the team needs your support. Let’s get to work!”
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Cristiano Ronaldo Not Being Charged for Alleged Sexual Assault
Prosecutors have decided that they will not file criminal charges against international soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for an alleged sexual assault incident from back in 2009.
Kathryn Mayorga claims that Ronaldo, who she says she met at Rain Nightclub in the Palms hotel, raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room back in 2009.
Mayorga claimed that Ronaldo invited her up to his penthouse suite to party and join him in a hot tub, and photos surfaced of the two hanging out in the nightclub earlier that evening.
Mayorga didn’t initially identify Ronaldo by name in her police report that described the alleged crime, and she later sued Ronaldo claiming that she later accepted a $375,00 payment in exchange for her silence.
Mayorga recently announced that she wants that agreement voided and then attempted to pursue a criminal case against Ronaldo.
The Clark County District Attorney’s Office claims that “the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
According to TMZ Sports, prosecutors stated the following in regards to the alleged incident:
New York City Police Investigating Possible Hate Crime Directed At Megan Rapinoe
New York City police are investigation a possible hate crime directed towards United States Women’s Team superstar Megan Rapinoe, according to ESPN.
According to the report, posters featuring Rapinoe, who is gay, were defaced with derogatory slurs. The posters have since been scrubbed clean.
Rapinoe has been an advocate for gender equity and LGBTQ inclusion, and has drawn attention for her comments towards President Donald Trump.
Police said that the vandalism, which was discovered inside the Bryant Park subway station in midtown Manhattan on Monday, is currently being investigated by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force.
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