So at the time of writing it’s just been confirmed that the long protracted Jacob Murphy saga has finally coming to an end. How long these deals, including Lejeune, are taking to ‘get over the line’ is a bit concerning and makes you wonder how many beyond Charnley within the NUFC personnel hierarchy are actively working on summer deals. Are we under-resourced and spread too thinly perhaps?
Regardless, it’s a good addition for me for 3 reasons:
- His record so far
- What he will bring to the team
- And, what it says about Rafa’s NUFC
Let’s start with what we know of young Jacob so far. I must admit I haven’t kept a close eye on the lad from our Championship season which may not fill everyone with a lot of confidence but to be fair I didn’t pay much attention to any other player last season as I was only interested in us getting out of the division.
His stats from last season include making 40 appearances for Norwich, scoring 9 goals and representing England U21 at the European Championships in Poland last month. Not bad figures for a young lad including being relatively injury-free (fingers crossed!).
Clearly Rafa sees something in the lad and from what I have seen of him since our reported interest (using the Dennis Wise technique of youtube videos…careful) he brings pace, trickery, an eye for goal and use of both feet (more of that later).
More importantly for me is what this signing says about Rafa’s NUFC both on and off the pitch. Let’s take off the pitch first. Whilst there has been all of the summer politicking between Rafa and Ashley the departure of Graham Carr and the appointment of Steve Nicholson seems to have changed the recruitment emphasis for the better. By that I mean the right one where the manager identifies the players, gets his scouts to watch them and then get the hierarchy to do the dealing, frustrating as that can be sometimes. Steve Nicholson was supposedly watching Murphy during the European Championships.
Whilst there are understandably concerns flying around about the need to bring in PL experience (which undoubtedly there is) I find it encouraging that Rafa and his team are identifying and looking to bring in young domestic talent. Reminds me of Sir Bobby’s approach once he’d started to sort out the mess he’d inherited at NUFC. As well as attracting players simply because it’s Rafa Benitez, what’s also so encouraging is the homework that Senor Rafa and his team have clearly done to identify targets who genuinely want to come and play for the club. It can’t be lost on anyone that young Jacob has been an NUFC fan since being a kid and there are reports he still has relatives based in the North East, with his parents being born there too. This approach is so much more encouraging and beneficial for NUFC in terms of attracting players who genuinely want to play and fight for the shirt, not the Carr approach of selling it as a stepping stone to London from France.
On the pitch, Murphy’s arrival perhaps indicates Rafa ‘s emphasis on the counter attack with pace for next season. Something that is important particularly in the PL where the need to counter attack is becoming ever more significant. System wise, I can see Murphy fitting comfortably into Rafa’s preferred 4-2-3-1 on either flank as he seems comfortable with both fit or coming off the bench to make an impact. I suspect Murphy could also be comfortable performing as part of a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 system either in a central or wide role. These are systems I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rafa deploy at times next season, either mid-way through games or at the outset and Lejeune recently hinted at this when he said he was comfortable playing as part of a back 3. The ability to change positions and systems is something the best managers are now doing, so having players who can play in different positions as part of different systems is going to be important. Particularly so with wingers and Rafa has got options in this department with Ritchie, Atsu and now Murphy whilst we’re still being linked with others including Ojo at Liverpool.
So for me Murphy is a good addition for all the reasons outlined above and I look forward to him contributing and developing next season under Rafa’s competent stewardship. Are there concerns? There always has to be whenever you sign a new player as risks abound and you can never guarantee it’s going to pay off I guess. Too much money? Perhaps, but I look at the current market and think for the type of player we’re targeting he could be great value for money, especially when you look at some of the Norwich fan comments on his departure. Lack of PL experience? Again, perhaps but the only one way he’s going to get that is through games with us and I look at some other England internationals who came to their respective clubs with no PL experience and shone (Dele Ali for example). There’s no guarantees he’s going to be as good as that but it’s a chance worth taking for me. Clearly we need other additions, including PL experience, but I’m taking this as a positive addition
A big warm welcome to Jacob Murphy and we hope you have a long, happy and successful career at NUFC
Images below courtesy of www.kickoff.co.uk