It was Benitez’s misfortune to be confronted by a Newcastle United side
reinvigorated by their transfer window signings, rather than the troubled
team who started the year, and there is only so much the Spaniard can
transform in the space of 13 games.
But Benítez understood that there is no more febrile club to work for in the
Premier League and, after just one win in six and having thrown away five
points from winning positions in stoppage time in the space of a week, he is
chewed up and in danger of being spat out again.
With the words interim chiselled in front of his job title, he will only ever
have felt like a temporary incumbent, but after Newcastle outplayed his side
for long periods in this thriller, his stay could be even shorter than
Revitalised by their five new signings from France and inspired by the three,
Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy, who started this game, Newcastle
look like a force to be reckoned with again.
Two wins in a week have put some distance between themselves and the drop
zone. Relegation worries are rapidly disappearing and optimism, so
depressingly crushed after last season’s fifth-place finish by injuries and
the arrogance that stopped them from strengthening the squad last summer, is
returning like buds on the trees.