Newcastle United analysis: What's happened to Kenedy? Darlow & Perez turn up the heat, and why Rondon would have paid back his £16m fee and then some

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez with Kenedy last season, when the player's performance was one of the catalysts to survival.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez with Kenedy last season, when the player's performance was one of the catalysts to survival.

A trip worth while - that seems to be the consensus from the Newcastle United camp on their return from Spain.

Rafa Benitez's squad came away from Murcia and Alicante relatively unscathed, with only Ciaran Clark nursing a minor wound ahead of what could well be one of the most important few months, and 12 games, in the career of the manager, as well as in the recent history of his club.

Not getting any injuries to the likes of Salomon Rondon was the bare minimum Benitez will have hoped for from the jaunt to his homeland. In that area of the field United are just one injury away from a potential end of season crisis, so crucial is the on-loan West Brom frontman. It's crazy United did not pay the £16million for the striker last summer, no matter his age. He'd have already paid that back, and then some by now. Hopefully they will do the decent, logical thing and give the player and a manager - whether that be Benitez or not - some security and assurance.


A lack of war wounds is a minor positive for United, two major ones are that the squad now appears that bit stronger than it was a week ago and also squad unity and togetherness seems to be at an all-time high, when the Magpies need it most.

The likes of Paul Dummett, Mo Diame and Ki all got vital minutes under their belt. Karl Darlow, in particular, turned up the heat on Martin Dubravka, so too did Ayoze Perez with Miguel Almiron waiting in the wings. And Almiron and Antonio Barreca, who will be nothing more than a bench-warmer for United this season, got a chance to integrate with the main group, away from the confines of United's day-in, day-out training base at Benton.

Follow Liam Kennedy on Twitter - @LiamJKennedy23

Follow Liam Kennedy on Twitter - @LiamJKennedy23

It was not all positives, though.

Kenedy looks like a lost boy out on the park. He seems to be a player carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders at United.

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His body language is poor and his performances even worse. Against CSKA he was easily the worst player on the park, for both sides. And it has to be considered that the Russians had not kicked a ball in anger against decent opposition since December.

While I was never convinced he was the £30million gamechanger his charges at Chelsea seemed to believe - for me, he's a player who even when on the top of his game drifts in and out of games - he looks like a player worth a tenth of that this campaign.

It would be no surprise to see his minutes on the pitch limited even further in the final weeks of 2018/19. It would be an even bigger shock to see him back in black and white after the summer. There's more chance of actually seeing the Tooth Fairy or Father Christmas, in fact.

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On to the game itself, and Benitez gave a run out to 22 of his 23 fit players as the Magpies drew 1-1 in a friendly with CSKA Moscow on Saturday.

Rondon further underlined his quality by opened the scoring at the Pinatar Arena before Abel Hernandez levelled just before the break, as United's six-day warm weather training camp in the south of Spain came to a close with honours even.

United's early dominance was rewarded when the figurehead of their South American attacking triumvirate Rondon popped up with a goal.

A raking cross-field pass from Florian Lejeue found DeAndre Yedlin in space out wide, he beat his man, then beat him again before whipping in a cross which Rondon battled for, then took down and turned home.

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After the goal, though, United's intensity dropped.

And after 41 minutes CSKA were level - Darlow making a quite brilliant stop to deny Fyodor Chadov but the ball was recycled on the United left and former Hull City striker Hernandez turned into an empty net for 1-1.

Benitez rung the changes at the break, sending out a whole new 11 for the second period switching to a 4-4-2.

In the new system United lost a little of the width and pace further forward which made them so dangerous, particularly down the right.

Despite that Perez and Isaac Hayden looked lively, so too Matt Ritchie down the left.

While the first 45 was full of chances, the second was a whole lot more conserved as the wind played havoc with the players' ability to move the ball over long distances.

With just minutes left on the clock United almost snatched a win as some smart work by Christian Atsu in the area tee'd up Yoshinori Muto but his effort was saved. 1-1 it ended.

Only Martin Dubravka remained on the United bench, in a game where Benitez gave all 22 fit players a chance to stake a claim ahead of next week's visit of Huddersfield Town to St James's Park.

Jonjo Shelvey and Ciaran Clark both travelled and were at the game but did not make the squad. The duo must be rated as doubtful for the Terriers' clash in seven days.