Rafa Benitez reveals why he left Jacob Murphy out of his Newcastle squad

Rafa Benitez says Kenedy is ready to step up at Newcastle United '“ and rediscover the form that helped the club finish 10th.

Saturday, 29th September 2018, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 29th September 2018, 1:02 pm
Kenedy and Rafa Benitez.

The winger, re-signed on loan from Chelsea in the summer, is yet to get into his stride this season.

Kenedy was an influential player last season after joining on loan in January.

Kenedy and Rafa Benitez.

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The 22-year-old helped the club finish in the top half of the Premier League.

Benitez has seen an improvement from Kenedy on the training pitch in recent weeks – and he believes the Brazilian can take that into this afternoon’s home game against Leicester City.

Asked if Kenedy’s form was a concern, Benitez said: “I think last year we had a lot of players who were doing really well. This year, it’s more difficult, because the games were more difficult. Some players were coming late.

“He knows he has to improve. The positive thing is the last two weeks I think he’s getting better, so hopefully he will come back to his level.

“I said that the squad could be a little bit better than at the beginning of last season. Why? Because him and (goalkeeper Martin) Dubravka came in January and improved already the team. If they play at the level they were playing, we will be happy with that.

“He was doing really for us. It’s a question of time. He’s getting better.”

Kenedy – who had a penalty saved in last month’s goalless draw away to Cardiff City – hopes to establish himself in Chelsea’s first team next season.

However, to do that he must impress on loan.

“He knows that it’s an important season for him,” said manager Benitez. “He’s training really, really well. The last weeks has been much better. Hopefully, you will see that on the pitch.”

Asked if his failure to convert what would have been a match-winning penalty against Cardiff had affected him, Benitez said: “No. He was disappointed. He knew it was important for the team, but after that we were working as usual.”

Benitez’s wingers – Kenedy, Matt Ritchie, Jacob Murphy and Christian Atsu – are yet to contribute a goal this season. And Benitez, without injured striker Salomon Rondon, is looking for a goalscoring contribution from them.

“I like that you ask this question, because against Leicester I’m confident that one of the wingers will score a goal,” said Benitez. “That’s the positive thing. They know that they need to score more, and I’ve told them before.

“I was speaking with Kenedy, Ritchie, Murphy and Atsu at different points this week. You talk with them and ask them to do things.

“They are always trying to do what is best for the team, trying to encourage them to do things, and I’m sure that they will be fine. Hopefully soon. They need some time, but they will do it.”

Murphy, signed from Norwich City last year, didn’t even make the bench for last weekend’s goalless draw against Crystal Palace. Instead, Atsu came off the bench at Selhurst Park, and Benitez says he will pick and choose his wingers depending on how they train and the opposition.

“We have a problem in this position because we have four players to play in the wide areas,” said Benitez. “Normally, when you do the squad one will be out of the squad. It depends how they train. It depends what they do.

“Each one is different and his own strengths and weaknesses. We are working to encourage them to use their strengthens and improve their weaknesses.

“They are different and it depends on the game whether we use one or the other one. Jacob is training well.”