Rafael Benitez has admitted it would be “a miracle” if he kept Newcastle in the Premier League for another season even if he has money to spend next month.
The Spaniard described last season’s 10th place finish as miraculous and insisted in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s 0-0 home draw with Fulham a repeat would take some doing given the fact that most of the clubs around the Magpies invested far more heavily on recruitment last summer.
However, he later went further, suggesting the imbalance was so great that simply keeping the club, which owner Mike Ashley had hoped to sell by Christmas, in the top flight this time around would be a major achievement.
Benitez said: “We have to be realistic and understand that we will be in the bottom half during the whole season.
“For me, it is almost clear and if we can be better than three teams, it will be another miracle.
“It was a miracle last year. People were thinking, ‘Oh, you finished 10th…’, but with a couple fewer wins, we could have been in the bottom five, so it was a miracle.
“If we do the same this year with teams spending even more money than last year, it will be a miracle.”
Questioned further on his bleak assessment of the situation just days before the January transfer window opens, Benitez pointed to promoted Fulham, who invested in excess of £100 million on summer signings, as an example of the disparity he fears could cost the club top-flight status.
🎥 You can watch post-match reaction from Rafa Benítez, Mohamed Diamé and Martin Dúbravka, and extended highlights from yesterday's game against @FulhamFC, on NUFC TV now.— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) December 23, 2018
📺 https://t.co/HiQXfReGxc #NUFC pic.twitter.com/91imzMG88e
He said: “I know what is coming now and I know where we are. You can see the team – the team is trying a lot of things, but still it’s not enough sometimes to get the points, and it will be like that.
“If we are under pressure and we feel this pressure, we will not be better, we can make more mistakes.
“I’m trying to tell everyone, realise where we are, realise what we have to do and if we do well, fine, we can finish 10th or whatever.
“But if we think we have to beat these teams which have spent £100 million, every one of them, during the summer, if we think we can beat them easily every game, no chance. We are wrong, 100 per cent.”
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Sead Kolasinac insists Mesut Ozil has the backing of everyone at Arsenal and that he and his team-mates ignore any negativity aimed at the German forward.
Ozil’s performances are often in the spotlight, given he is the highest-paid player at Emirates Stadium.
Gunners head coach Unai Emery insisted last week that he could not guarantee Ozil a starting berth in his side – only to then name the former Real Madrid man as captain for Saturday’s 3-1 Premier League win over Burnley.
Ozil’s future at Arsenal remains unclear as Emery refused to rule out a January exit for the 30-year-old, who provided a couple of moments of class to help down the Clarets.
While his displays may be over-analysed and his critics vocal, Kolasinac revealed no-one within the club takes any notice of Ozil’s detractors.
“That’s the case when you’re a big star, like Mesut is,” the Bosnia-Herzegovina international said when asked if Ozil gets unfair criticism.
“Of course there are always negative headlines but, as a team, we don’t pay attention to them and Mesut doesn’t either.
“That’s what’s most important. We’re all behind Mesut – all the staff, all the players.
“If negative things are written, then that’s just what happens. In life, not everything is positive – sometimes there are negatives written about you too, and he’s had that. But with his performance (against Burnley) he’s quietened a few critics.”
Kolasinac was named man of the match in the win having played a part in both of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opening two goals.
The 25-year-old got on the end of a perfect Ozil pass to cross for Aubameyang’s opener and admitted he would not have even made a lung-bursting run into the box if any other player had been in
possession at the time.
“It was unbelievable,” he said of Ozil’s pass.
“We all know Mesut’s qualities and I only actually made that run because I saw that he had the ball. Not many players would have been able to play that pass.
“He can, and when I saw him get on the ball, I knew he was going to find me. It was a brilliant pass from him.”
Ozil may have to fight for a place in Emery’s team but he has led Arsenal out as captain four times this season.
While Kolasinac admits Ozil is not the sort of skipper to dole out rollickings, the former Schalke man believes he commands respect in a different way.
“Mesut’s not the sort of player who will scream at you in public just to show the people on the outside that he tries to push us on,” he added.
“He’ll speak in the dressing room, he’ll go to every player individually. With his quality, he brings a lot to this team. He’s very important for us as a captain and as a player.”
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is an old romantic at heart.
The Argentinian coach may not have been able to spend his 26th wedding anniversary with wife Karina, but his team produced another fine display to dismantle Everton at Goodison Park.
The 6-2 scoreline, of course, was perfect after Harry Kane and Son Heung-min both scored twice, with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli also on target.
Afterwards, Pochettino was quizzed on the significant special date in his post-match interviews.
The Spurs boss told BBC Sport: “Twenty-sixth! Incredible. Yes it (scoreline) was amazing. I want to send all my love to my wife and congratulations.
“Because I believe in universal energy, and today was unbelievable because all day I was thinking I need to find a present for my wife. Yes, this is the present! 2-6! Unbelievable.
“And then, on the last minute with (assistant manager) Jesus (Perez), we were talking because it’s 26 years today that we got married.
“I was in my wedding 26 years ago and now, yes, the score is 2-6. Unbelievable, it’s a coincidence, but sometimes it’s not too much a coincidence.”
Pressed on whether he had actually found the time to get his wife an appropriate wedding anniversary gift, the Spurs boss said: “But I am going to arrive so late (back)….”
Hopefully the Pochettino’s local 24-hour garage will be well stocked on a bunch of red roses…