Rafa Benitez reveals why Kenedy is '˜not at his level' for Newcastle

Rafa Benitez has admitted that Kenedy is still adjusting to playing as a wing-back for Newcastle United.

Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 6:26 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 10:04 am

Benitez has been fielding a five-man defence in recent weeks.

And Kenedy has taken on a more defensive role in the new formation.

The winger struggled to make an impact going forward in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town.

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Benitez felt that was because Kenedy – who had been recalled to the starting XI at the John Smith’s Stadium after recovering from a toe injury – had to contend with a winger and a right-back for much of the match, which was decided by a second-half goal from Salomon Rondon.

“It was not easy for him, because, tactically, it was a strange game,” said United’s manager.

“Not too many people have seen that, but Huddersfield started with five, and, as soon as they saw we were playing with five at the back, they changed to four.

“Then it means that they have a winger close to him, and he was wing-back for us.

“So he has a winger close to him, and a full-back going all the time, because normally Kenedy would go forward.

“But he had to deal with the distance and maybe two players coming at him. (Christian) Atsu was helping a lot.

“Still, tactically, for a player who is normally an offensive player to adjust his position in defence, it was not easy.

“That, for me, is the main thing – that it was not easy for him to find the right distance between the full-back and the winger, and defend them properly.”

Kenedy was an influential player in the second half of last season after joining on loan from Chelsea in January.

Benitez re-signed the 22-year-old in the summer on a season-long loan.

However, Kenedy, hampered by a groin problem earlier in the season, has struggled for form and fitness since failing to convert a penalty against Cardiff City on the second weekend of the season.

Asked if the Brazilian was low on confidence, Benitez said: “No.

“I think he knows that he’s not playing at the level he can play.

“But don’t forget that he’s an offensive player who we’re playing as a wing-back in a defensive formation, when sometimes he was defending two against one.

“So we have to think that he has to adjust, he has to learn, and these kind of games will be a good experience for him.”

Benitez must now decide his formation for Saturday’s home game against Fulham.

Newcastle climbed up one place to 14th after the Huddersfield win.

The club is four points above the Premier League’s relegation zone.

Fulham, beaten 2-0 at Craven Cottage by West Ham United at the weekend, are propping up the division.

Meanwhile, tickets for Newcastle’s third-round FA Cup tie against Championship club Blackburn Rovers at St James’s Park on January 5 are now on general sale.

Advance tickets are priced £10 for adults and £5 for children.