Rafa Benitez reveals why he won't yet discuss a new deal at Newcastle
Rafa Benitez says he's more concerned about his Newcastle United team than his contract.
Benitez – whose side take on Arsenal at home tomorrow – is in the final year of his deal at the Premier League club.
United’s manager – who had hoped to build on last season’s 10th-placed finish – was again left frustrated this summer after owner Mike Ashley made it clear that he would have to sell to buy unless he agreed a new deal.
There have been no fresh talks over a new contract at St James’s Park, and Benitez, focused on improving his team, doesn’t believe it’s the right time to be addressing his future.
Asked if there had been any contract talks over the international break, Benitez said: “No. This time, for us, for everyone, it’s just to concentrate on that (football).
“I think questions, answers and comments about my contract will change nothing. The main thing, for me, is to realise where we are. I’m realistic, but I’m optimistic. Why? Because I know that we have to work really hard, and this team has done that.
“The point is that can we do it losing games? Can we keep the confidence? That is our job. To be sure the team is working really hard until the end of every game.
“That’s it. Don’t focus on the table. Just focus on the next game. For us, the international break is more an opportunity to analyse things and see where we are and where we have to improve.”
A number of TV pundits, notably Richard Keys and Andy Gray, have been critical of Benitez and his tactics so far this season.
Benitez, however, is more concerned what his players think as he prepares for Arsenal’s visit to St James’s Park.
“The main thing for me is to explain to our players what we’re trying to do,” said Benitez. “It’s very easy, because they know.
“One player was telling me ‘we did it last year and we will do it’. The players are convinced that is the way. Be sure the team is strong enough in both areas.
“In the bottom 10, we were the best attacking team (last season). After the top six and Burnley, we were the best team defending. We need to find this balance. Now, it’s too early.”
Meanwhile, captain Jamaal Lascelles believes one win could kick-start Newcastle’s campaign.
The defender said: “We’re just looking for that first win to get things rolling, and, I think, once we do that, then we can start looking onwards and upwards and really pushing on with the season.
“At the minute, it’s just getting that first win, enjoying it and getting that winning feeling back.
“It’s not nice to have a couple of defeats back to back. I know it’s against the top teams, but still it’s not nice as players. I think a victory against Arsenal would be perfect timing and exactly what we need right now.”