Newcastle United may be in the relegation zone but they occupy a false position.
It is only a matter of time before McClaren’s Magpies start climbing the table and here are four reasons why they will win on Saturday – a result that could see them climb to 16th, leaving Bournemouth in the relegation zone:
Domination in recent weeks
Newcastle have four points from their last three games but it should really be nine.
The crushing 6-2 defeat of Norwich was followed by utter domination against Sunderland – until a moment of madness from the referee resulted in a red card (later rescinded) for captain Coloccini, turning the match on its head.
Last week, only an outstanding performance from England goalkeeper Jack Butland prevented the Geordies recreating the margin of victory over Norwich; any Football Manager fan will appreciate the frustration in coming up against the ‘super-keeper’ who gets a 10 when all his teammates are bang average.
Since changing to a 4-4-2 against Chelsea, Newcastle United have blown away their opponents; the only exception being a freak 20 minute spell when, following the incorrect decision to rule out a Mitrovic goal for offside, the best striker in Europe took advantage of a defensive injury to go goal crazy.
A hit and hope from Ramires, two match changing referee blunders and a once in a season performance are the difference between 18th place and 7th.
This bizarre set of circumstances cannot continue. If ever a team were due some luck, it’s Newcastle. Perform like they have over the last six weeks and they won’t even need it.
Confidence in the game plan
Newcastle’s Master of Psychology, Steve Black, took time out of improving the squad’s mental strength to communicate with fans, saying:
“Good performance at SJP yesterday (v Stoke). Worked together to create opportunities & keep a clean sheet. Good performances will bring good results. Excellent work on the training field bringing noticeable improvement in performances … That continued progress will bring positive results.”
This indicates that, while elements of the crowd may be nervous, those within the club know how much progress has been made – sentiments backed up by Coloccini, Jamaal Lascelles, Chancel Mbemba and Georginio Wijnaldum in the last week.
Confidence within the club is high and the players have faith with the management set-up and the style of football.
It’s easy to forget the state John Carver left Newcastle in last season; the progress that has been made in attitude, performance and mentality since July cannot be understated.
The last piece of the puzzle is results; as the team continue to gel, understand each other and build chemistry, they will come sooner, rather than later.
The Norwich match offers a glimpse of the potential Newcastle have; if they approach Saturday’s match the same, Bournemouth could find themselves on the end of a similar result.
Away eases the pressure
Say it quietly, but sometimes the ‘loyalest football supporters the world has ever had’ hinder Newcastle’s performance.
Fifty thousand fans roaring a team on makes a big difference; fifty thousand intakes of breath at each mistake, groans at each missed opportunity and vocalised disappointment at full-time creates an atmosphere which makes it harder for Newcastle to play.
The atmosphere against West Ham last season, during the must-win match to avoid relegation, was electric; however, over recent years this has been the exception, rather than the rule. Away from home, Newcastle face none of this apprehension.
The travelling supporters are far more vocal in their support of the team, for much longer periods of matches, and the benefit this brings the team cannot be understated.
On-field, Newcastle’s style is perfect for dismantling Bournemouth. The onus is on them to attack, but they will struggle to obtain possession from McClaren’s men, which will increase tension among the home fans.
As this transmits onto the pitch, Bournemouth will begin chasing the game, which plays right into Newcastle’s hands. The pace and skill of Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Janmaat and Perez will exploit the space Bournemouth leave in defence; Mitrovic is the focal point that all four work around, bringing the team together.
Should Newcastle get an early goal, expect them to retain possession while Bournemouth chase shadows, before punishing the tiring home side as the game goes on.
Bournemouth’s three best players – Callum Wilson, Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel – are injured. Their goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, has a reputation for being error-prone and is in the twilight of his career.
Their defence includes 38-year old Sylvain Distin, whose lack of strength and pace will be exploited by Mitrovic and Perez.
Their midfield includes Dan Gosling, who couldn’t get in the Newcastle team and who has only gone downhill since then.
Their main attacking threat comes from Glenn Murray, a 32-year old who has had two good months of Premiership football in his career.
They haven’t won a Premiership match since September and even that was against Sunderland. Their last three results have involved two 5-1 thrashings. Bournemouth would be lower mid-table in the Scottish Premiership; in England they will be relegated, and it’s up to Newcastle to show why.
As long as Newcastle stay calm, professional and play their football the way they have in recent weeks, there is only one outcome. Newcastle have more quality, ability and threat in every area of the field.
Someone is going to get a hiding off Newcastle soon; all the signs indicate it will be Bournemouth on Saturday.
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