Rafa hails impact of Magpies duo
Written by Tom Easterby
Rafa Benítez has hailed the impact of Fabian Schär and Ki Sung-yueng after the summer signings helped kick-start Newcastle United’s season.
The duo joined the Magpies in the close season, after featuring for Switzerland and South Korea respectively at the World Cup finals in Russia.
Though both Schär and Ki found gametime hard to come by in the first few months of the season, the pair have proved crucial in helping United turn their form around with three successive Premier League victories.
And as his side go in search of a fourth straight win at home to West Ham on Saturday (3pm kick-off), Newcastle boss Benítez said he’s been impressed with the way his charges have risen to the fore.
“It was difficult, especially for Schär because he was not playing. To come and then show his level, it was not easy and it was a difficult time for the team, and he did really well,” he said of the former Deportivo La Coruña centre half.
“We knew about his quality on the ball and also something that we need to understand – the players need time to settle down in England, the tempo, the intensity, the physicality of the Premier League. For the new players, it’s always more difficult, and now he is doing really well.”
On former Swansea midfielder Ki’s display in the 2-1 win at Burnley on Monday, Benítez added: “He did quite well. We knew about his composure on the ball. He can manage the game and dictate the tempo of the game on the ball.
“Maybe coming back from the (World Cup in the) summer, the players need more time, but the good thing about him is he knew the Premier League and he knew his teammates. We have Fede (Fernández) and Jonjo (Shelvey), so it’s like Swansea for him. He was OK, he was fine, he was training well, and now he’s ready.”
Both players were handed opportunities following injuries in the United squad: Schär stepped in for skipper Jamaal Lascelles and turned in a series of steady, authoritative performances at the back, while Shelvey’s absence gave Ki the chance to deputise.
Benítez has been pleased with the latter’s impact, and spoke of the extra competition for places at the heart of his team.
“I think it’s important to have players who can compete in any position. Jonjo, (Mo) Diamé, (Isaac) Hayden, (Sean) Longstaff, him (Ki) – we have some good midfielders,” he said.
“With the characteristics of Ki, he can compete with Jonjo, and Jonjo is quite good one the ball. It’s important for us that if one is doing well, the other one has to keep working harder if he wants to play again, so that is good news.
“Ki is a player who is quite good on the ball and he understands the game. He was really important for us (against Burnley) and also in the next games.”