Jamaal Lascelles has revealed that harsh words were exchanged in Newcastle United’s dressing room after Rafael Benítez’s side endured their seventh defeat in eight games when beaten by Everton at home on Wednesday night.
“I wouldn’t say it was calm, no,” said Newcastle’s captain, who returned from injury for the 1-0 defeat. “There were a few home truths said but the reality is we’re not in a great position and sometimes things need to be said that players don’t want to hear. Hopefully, it’ll get a reaction. We don’t want to leave it too late.”
After collecting only one point from the last possible 24, something needs to change for Benítez’s side, who visit Arsenal on Saturday. While Newcastle’s manager waits to hear if Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, has accepted Amanda Staveley’s £300m offer to buy him out – the latest indications are that the takeover should happen at some point early in 2018 but there is quite a bit of negotiating still to do – he is ruing Ashley’s summertime failure to allow him to properly strengthen the squad who won promotion from the Championship last spring.
Benítez has taken to quoting an old Spanish saying about “a short blanket” leaving either your feet or your top half cold. In football parlance it translates to the uncomfortable reality that no formation currently looks capable of camouflaging Newcastle’s collective flaws.
In the last three games alone, their manager has tried three systems and deployed 18 different players to no avail and Lascelles acknowledges that confidence has been dented.
“When you keep getting bad results it’s going to knock you a little bit as a human beings,” the centre-half said. “But now is the time for characters and big personalities to come out of their shells. With the manager and players we have here we can definitely sort things out. I’m not going to say we’re in a relegation battle. There’s still loads of games to play.”
And much to put right. “For the last couple of weeks I’ve felt our organisation hasn’t been great, there wasn’t much talking on the pitch,” Lascelles said. “I feel we had that back against Everton but we just lacked that bit of quality. In the last three or four weeks we’ve been making mistakes and it’s cost us. We definitely have to sort that out; it’s unacceptable.
“Now that I’m back from injury I’m definitely going to be on to people. It’s not as if the boys aren’t working hard, it’s not like a few years back when I had a go at people [for not pulling their weight]. It’s just about sticking together as a team.”
Although Lascelles says the players are not distracted by takeover talk, Benítez’s hopes of squad strengthening apparently rest on Ashley agreeing to spend in next month’s transfer market before being refunded by Staveley once the deal is done.
On Thursday Benítez attended a transfer summit with Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s managing director, to discuss potential signings and the need to reinforce the team to prevent the club’s value depreciating. In an ideal world he would like to secure, among other signings, loans for the Liverpool striker Danny Ings and the Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw.