‘Rafael Benitez was protecting his own ego’ – talkSPORT host Adrian Durham slams Newcastle tactics against Chelsea

27 Aug

talkSPORT presenter Adrian Durham has slammed Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez for putting his own reputation before the team against Chelsea.

The Magpies lost 2-1 at St James’ Park in an ultra-defensive display which saw them enjoy only 18% of the ball.

Benitez set up to frustrate Chelsea

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri succeeded Benitez at Napoli in 2015 and Durham believes the Spaniard’s ego influenced his tactics on Sunday.

He said: “I don’t think it’s to try and nab a point, although that might be a nice little by-product. I actually think it’s worse than that.

“It’s that he doesn’t want to be embarrassed. He certainly doesn’t want to be embarrassed by Sarri, who basically got hold of his Napoli side and turned it into something really special.

“So, he’s already been embarrassed by Sarri once. If Benitez is going to try and play expansive football, he knows that Sarri-ball could absolutely ruin him.

“If that was a game for Newcastle to stay in the Premier League, would Jonjo Shelvey have played? Pretty certain he would’ve. Same with Jamaal Lascelles.

“It wasn’t that he [Benitez] was giving up, it was that he was trying to stop Chelsea whatever way he could because he didn’t want to be embarrassed.

“So, it became about Rafa protecting his own ego rather than Newcastle trying to win the game.”

Sarri admitted he was surprised by the approach of Benitez who, according to the Blues manager, does not usually set up like that.

After the game, he said: “I was surprised at the beginning because in Italy I have never seen Rafa [Benitez] play with five defenders. So I was really surprised.”