Rafa Benitez wants his Newcastle United players to fight for everything this season – just as they did last term.
But does he want them being pulled apart on the training pitch?
Things got heated at the club’s training ground last week ahead of the home game against Chelsea. It happens. It’s happened before. And it’ll happen again.
Jamaal Lascelles had a disagreement with Benitez over tactics – United’s manager fielded a five-man defence – and Matt Ritchie is understood to have had his say in an exchange with his captain, who ended up missing the game with an ankle problem.
They all shook hands afterwards.
Speaking after the game, Benitez said: “All my life I like to talk with players. We decide with what we have to do. Every one knows that.
We’re all really competitive, and sometimes it can get quite nasty. Not in a disrespectful or personal way, but because everybody wants to win. If somebody’s not pulling their weight, it could end up in an argument or going face-to-face.Jamaal Lascelles
“If players have different opinions, then we have to speak about it, that’s it. Then we stick to the plan.”
And that is it. The players have to stick to the plan.
Benitez was relaxed about the situation ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup tie against Nottingham Forest.
United’s manager knows Lascelles, in Premier League terms, is a young captain.
The 24-year-old has come a long way, as a player and a captain, since he was handed the armband by Benitez two years ago, though he’s still learning the role and he still needs guidance from Benitez.
Lascelles, linked with a number of clubs this summer, has a lot of qualities, and one of them is that he’s unafraid to speak his mind. He cares, and he gets the club he captains.
Speaking to the BBC’s Football Focus, Lascelles said: “We’re all really competitive, and sometimes it can get quite nasty. Not in a disrespectful or personal way, but because everybody wants to win. If somebody’s not pulling their weight, it could end up in an argument or going face-to-face.”
Benitez doesn’t want to change that dynamic.
But, ultimately, Benitez decides the tactics. And that’s it.