Progress of Jacob Murphy indicative of transfer failings under Rafa Benitez
Jacob and Josh Murphy, identical twins currently plying their trade in the Premier League for Newcastle United and Cardiff City respectively, look so alike that when they were both managed by Chris Hughton at Norwich City, the gaffer made them wear different color boots in order to differentiate.
Not only did they look alike but their playing styles were so similar that when Rafa Benitez completed the signing of Jacob in the summer of 2017, he admitted that signing his brother had also been under consideration.
Speaking to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle at the time, Benitez said:
“Last year here in Ireland we were talking about his brother Josh. We liked him. I was following both of them. I received a lot of information about both. In this case we were looking for this kind of player. We’ll see if he can reproduce his performances from the Championship in the Premier League.”
After Jacob’s latest diabolical performance for Newcastle in the FA Cup against Blackburn, Benitez must be wondering whether he should have signed his brother Josh after all.
This is because for all the miracles Benitez has performed as manager of Newcastle on a relatively small budget, his record in the transfer market is far from flawless, with the failure of Murphy being one of the most glaring.
This season Murphy has made only 10 fleeting appearances for the club for a combined total of just 381 minutes but has contributed with just one assist. This followed a return of one goal in 28 appearances in 2017-18.
Unlike his brother, Josh had to wait a further season for his big money move to the Premier League and he enjoyed an impressive 2017-18 making 39 appearances and scoring nine goals in his final season for Norwich. This was enough to attract the attention of newly promoted Cardiff City and their manager Neil Warnock.
Unlike his brother, Josh has thrived in his first season in the top flight and has so far made 19 appearances in all competitions; scoring three goals during Cardiff’s scrap for survival.
He was also impressive in the 0-0 draw between Cardiff and Newcastle in the opening weeks of the season, which must have been particularly galling for Benitez and the watching fans.
What has been disappointing to see in Jacob Murphy’s development at Newcastle is just the sheer lack of progress.
During his first season there were signs of potential – he was quick, good with both feet and not afraid to get at his full back and beat him.
This season he looks completely devoid of confidence. He spends plenty of time running around but with no real purpose or conviction, often making runs that look suspiciously like he is doing everything possible to avoid receiving the ball.
Even a reasonably impressive performance away at Everton, when his direct running created the opening goal for Salomon Rondon, hasn’t been enough to restore confidence. His reward for that performance at Goodison Park was to not feature in the team again until a brief substitute appearance away at Liverpool three weeks later.
His lack of selection suggests a complete loss of faith in him from the manager who signed him.
These were Benitez’s comments after his performance against Blackburn:
“Murphy still has the potential and I hope [that he will come good]. You have to play well to play more games, that is the circle.”
Hardly the words of a man likely to inspire a struggling player.
Murphy is undoubtedly at fault here – he has not adapted to the demands of playing in the Premier League but Benitez and his coaching staff must carry some of the blame for his shortcomings. It is their job to improve the players at their disposal and they have failed here.
Or maybe Benitez got it wrong 18 months ago and should have signed his brother instead.