Newcastle made a key managerial change on Friday, with Steve McClaren’s sacking paving the way for Rafa Benitez to be appointed within just a matter of hours.
The Spanish boss will return to the Premier League for what will be his third job in the top flight, following previous spells with Liverpool and Chelsea, but faces what is set to be the biggest challenge of his career at St James’s Park.
Newcastle are 19th in the Premier League with ten games to go and are embroiled in a relegation dogfight – something Benitez has not been involved with in his managerial career as of yet.
Benitez is someone who clearly loves a fact, so here are five of them:
1. No bottom three Premier League club has ever stayed up when sacking a manager after March 3.
Benitez will have to do something no Premier League manager has ever done by keeping the Magpies in the top flight over the next ten games. There have been 11 previous managers appointed to clubs in the bottom three after March 3, but none of those have been able to avoid relegation.
2. Rafa Benitez has the seventh-highest win percentage of all Premier League managers to have overseen 50 or more games.
Benitez appears to be a huge managerial capture for Newcastle and that is proven by his all-time Premier League win percentage of 56%. That figure is the seventh-highest of all top flight managers to have been in charge of at least 50 matches. If he can keep that win record intact, Newcastle will win be on track to win five of their last ten games and would surely be safe.
3. Benitez’s teams have averaged 1.57 goals-per-game over the course of his managerial career.
One of Newcastle’s major problems this season has been the inability to score goals as they have only averaged one goal-per-game in the Premier League – only Aston Villa have a worse record. Benitez tends to see his side score closer to two goals per match than one, and will hope to instantly increase the Magpies’ goal output.
4. Teams managed by Benitez concede less than a goal per game, on average.
As well as addressing Newcastle’s offensive issues, Benitez will need to shore up a defence that has conceded 53 goals in 28 league games this term – an average of 1.89 per game. The Spanish manager is renowned for making his teams tough to beat and that is proven by the fact that his sides concede an average of 0.91 goals-per-game.
5. Rafa Benitez has not lost his first league game in charge in any of his last six jobs.
Benitez has a very tricky first game in charge to prepare for as Newcastle travel to Leicester on Monday night. The Foxes are top of the league and are on course for a historic title win. However, Magpies fans should take confidence into that trip based on Benitez’s record with his last six clubs. The Spaniard has not lost his first league game in charge since 2000 and has only conceded one goal in his last six opening matches as a manager. Three of his last four jobs have seen his opening league game end 0-0 – a result Newcastle fans would probably accept ahead of Monday’s trip.
Will Rafa Benitez keep Newcastle in the Premier League?