Mikel Merino's revealing insight into how Rafa Benitez has prepared him for the Premier League at Newcastle
Mikel Merino feels that Rafa Benitez has already improved him as a player at Newcastle United.
The midfielder, signed on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund, has starred in the club’s three-game winning run.
Merino, preparing for Sunday’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion, has quickly adjusted to the “rhythm” of Premier League football.
Rafa Benitez has also helped improve Merino’s tactical understanding.
The 21-year-old, however, believes that he needs more time to get used to the physicality of English football.
“I’m improving a lot tactically,” said Merino.
“Physically, I still need to adapt to the league and how it works.
“It’s a different rhythm in this league, and he knows it, so he’s giving me – not only me, but all of the team – advice all the time.
“Tactically, he tells you want to do, what he wants.
“I think I’m improving, and, little by little, I will reach 100%. That’s what I want to do – to keep improving and be my best, and this coach can help me do that.”
Benitez’s side are fourth in the table ahead of their visit to the Amex Stadium.
Newcastle’s manager has quickly integrated the club’s summer signings.
And the team has a “clear idea” of what to do on the field, according to Merino.
“I think this is the mood we have in between the players, the good ambience we have in the dressing room,” said the Spain Under-21 international.
“It gives us a chance to think about having clear ideas, knowing what we have to do in order to defend as a team and that is clear.
“We keep working as were are, and you feel the confident of your team-mates. You have confidence in them, so it doesn’t matter if your team-mate fails, because you will be there to help him.
“This is something which helps us improve.
“This is why we are playing so well as a young, new team.”
Benitez, having missed the win over Swansea City earlier this month after having an operation, was back in the dugout for last weekend’s victory over Stoke City.
“It’s always important to have the boss with us,” said Merino. “His presence is important for us, but we know what to do.
“He’s intelligent, and he knows how to communicate to us the things we have to do.
“It’s always important when you look at the bench and you see him, because he gives you confidence.
“And you know that if you are doing anything wrong, he will tell you and you will improve.
“It’s always nice to have him on the bench near us.”
l South Shields Mags are running a coach to Newcastle’s game away to Burnley on October 30. It will leave from Morgan’s on Stanhope Road, South Shields. To book a seat, call Dean on 07403 181 808.