Rafa Benitez happy with Magpie players' decision to cancel Christmas party

Newcastle United's players have cancelled their Christmas party after a run of defeats left the club just a point above the relegation zone.
Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank ReidRafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid
Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid

The squad had planned a night out after this afternoon’s game at Arsenal.

However, they scrapped their festive plans after losing seven of their last eight Premier League games.

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Manager Rafa Benitez said: “The players have decided to cancel their Christmas party, because they’ve taken responsibility and they think it’s important to focus on football.

“They have cancelled. They want to give a very clear message that they care and they want to do things right.

“On the pitch, you can win or not, but they realise that they have to be focused on doing things right.”

Benitez didn’t put any pressure on the players to cancel their party, though he spoke to a number of them about the party.

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“There was no pressure from me. I was asking four or five players about it, and they were very clear. That was it,” said the Spaniard.

“They talked between themselves and decided. I think it’s the right thing.

“Obviously, if you’re asking me, this group of players are working so hard, so I could not have said to them you do not deserve to do this or that – they are giving everything – but they’ve decided this and I think that’s very positive.”

Benitez hopes his players will be in a position to have a belated celebration later in the season. “I’ve said to them they could have dinner or whatever in the future when things are going well,” said Benitez.

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“I think it’s a very good thing from them.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal will be without injured duo Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.

Ramsey injured his hamstring in last week’s 1-1 draw at Southampton, while Walcott (groin) is also sidelined, although manager Arsene Wenger could welcome back Shkodran Mustafi.

Wenger is likely to bring Sead Kolasinac and one-time Newcastle target Alexandre Lacazette back into his starting line-up. They were rested at West Ham on Wednesday.