The big question after the ups, downs, joys and disappointments of January is “Have Newcastle United done enough to stay in the Premier League?”
Most would perhaps argue that this is a question which should not need asking, after the horrors of last season surely it couldn’t be allowed to happen again, but guess what….it has.
For me, Newcastle United didn’t really address the issues in the summer and attempted to carry on down the same path, albeit on a bigger budget. The inadequacies of the summer transfer window have been directly responsible for the activity in the January window, but I still don’t think that the club has addressed the glaring issues, we have stuck plasters on cuts but not set the broken bones, and not for the first time.
Undoubtedly our midfield is now much stronger and should be a much more positive unit in terms of playing the ball forward and providing a threat from both wide areas, and from deep lying passes into runners, but will this improvement take pressure away from the third most porous defence in the league, or spring our shot shy attack into life?
It’s also interesting to have a look at how our relegation rivals have approached the January window, how their actions and reaction compares to ours.
Down the road Sam Allardyce has pinned Sunderland’s survival hopes on bringing in dominant defenders and providing more supply to his forward line, which looks decidedly short of a few bodies. Whilst we seem to have concentrated on adding extra quality to our engine room and supply, whilst leaving attack and defence as an afterthought, unless you believe that Doumbia really was always the second choice to Berahino.
Of the other relegation rivals it seems that Villa have waved the white flag whilst Norwich have invested in a couple of solid pros and a bit of flair with what appear to be sensible moves.
Slightly higher up in the table Bournemouth have done great business bringing in Afobe, his goals will save them in the same way that we can only pray for Doumbia’s to save us.
Palace are a sinking ship but may have done enough earlier in the season to hold on (sound familiar?).
Chelsea and Everton (particularly after Wednesday…) should begin to climb away, whilst Watford are anyone’s guess week after week, unless they’re playing us of course.
Someone wrote a few days ago that Newcastle United are, player for player, the strongest team involved in the relegation battle by far – it’s hard to argue against that.
With our strongest team out on the pitch there aren’t many players from our basement rivals who would make their way into our 11, strikers being the obvious exception.
Being honest, would you really take Mitrovic over Afobe, Deeney, Ighalo or even Defoe? The others score goals, Mitrovic misses sitters, yes there are reasons of age and supply, but they don’t change the fact that we desperately need goals and now we have hopes pinned on a loan signing with a pedigree in lesser leagues. It’s a risk to say the least.
In my opinion the club has bought some good players, but we so desperately needed some guaranteed goals and I’m not convinced that we have them, I hope I’m wrong.
Perhaps most of all we need the manager to change his set up and have a go at teams away from home, without this simple change we are possibly sunk. At Watford and Everton, Shelvey played in centre midfield but was much more shackled by the formation and with limited options going forward, that can’t happen again.
Our defence remains our Achilles heel, so the way out for Newcastle has to be to come out firing, put the opposition on the back foot, retain the ball and make every team who plays us worry about what we’re going to do for a change.
McClaren keeps talking about the journey, how the building job is still very much in process and how we are an evolving team…what absolutely needs to evolve though is the kind of football we play, into a forward thinking and playing game which covers our weaknesses and exploits our strengths, pace, width, runners and passing. That will be how we avoid relegation.
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