A safe pair of hands for 2/3 years of stability.
Outside of the established 4/6 top teams, the middle order is pretty much a mush of average, so anywhere up to 7th is possible.
I'd imagine the younger players (24 and below) will gain the most from Benitez They're going to be in no doubt of what is expected of them on the pitch. "Just play" doesn't help them at all.
We're going to struggle to shift the high earners on. Delph will happily sit out his final year, same for Tosun. Iwobi? Who knows where he'd go and for what. I suspect Gomes gets another crack this season and Kenny drops to the Championship. (Undisclosed fee.)
Already departed from the wage bill:
Probably not far off of £450kpw all totalled up. We’ve added Gray and Townsend but they’ll be peanuts compared to e.g. Walcott and Bernard.
Delph, Tosun, Sigurdsson and Kenny are unlikely to see more than the rest of this season (another £250k or so). Wouldn’t surprise anyone to see James, Gomes and one of the centre backs moved on, either.
That’s a lot of wages we’d shift off the books. Rafa’s a lot cheaper than Ancelotti, too.
The Gray and Townsend signings suggest we’ll be replacing expensive mediocrity with cheaper mediocrity. Both are fine and useful squad players but neither crack a top seven team. Rafa too…he’s a safe pair of hands who should ensure a top 12 or so finish and little threat of relegation. And I think, right now, that’s where we’re at.
Until we’ve cleared the books we can’t do much more. So you bring in a manager who’ll be semi-competitive as you look to reduce the size and cost of the squad. A year of little spending and big wage reductions puts us in a good spot 12 months from now with FFP. Even better if we sell Kean on top of that.
I’m going into this season with no expectations. Top 11-12 is about right. I think our aim is just to steady the ship this year and ride out everything else. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the approach taken for the next 24 months, until we’re close to moving into BMD (by which time a couple of spendthrift, wage-reducing years NOW will enable a far heavier spend later). I don’t hate it, if that’s the plan (and I don’t think we’ll be any worse than we were last season). I’m just managing my own expectations for the immediate term.
Convince this Eeyore otherwise?!