What should Rafa Benitez be aiming for next season?
The obvious first step I suppose is just making sure Newcastle avoid relegation but naturally, it is a better idea to aim for something better and then happily settle for that (staying up) if you fall short.
Aiming to be fourth bottom doesn’t really allow much wriggle room if things go against you and the Mike Ashley plan of just trying to stay in the Premier League was shown to be massively flawed.
Eight Premier League seasons under the current owner have seen two relegations (2008/09 and 2015/16), one where survival was reached on the final day of the season (2014/15), and another (2012/13), where staying up was confirmed in the last away game of the campaign.
In terms of purely league position, 15th is the average league finish in the 10 seasons under Mike Ashley (assuming top of the Championship = 21st).
Newcastle fans talk of aiming for a top half of the table finish but this past season (2016/17) has shown that league placing doesn’t always tell the full story.
In the campaign just ended, Southampton were eighth with 46 points and Watford seventeenth with 40 points – purely on league position I’m guessing most would see Watford having just avoided disaster (relegation) but they were actually six points clear of third bottom Hull City. Six points the same gap upwards to eighth place Southampton – who most fans will judge as having had a successful campaign with only seven clubs above them.
So basically, taking that logic, Watford were two wins away from having had a stellar season, whilst Southampton were two defeats away from having a shocker.
In 2015/16 it was Liverpool eighth with 60 points and Sunderland seventeenth with 39, even ninth (Stoke) and tenth (Chelsea) had 51 and 50 points respectively.
As for 2014/15, it was 56 points for eighth (Swansea) and 54 for ninth (Stoke), Aston Villa 17th with 38 points.
So judging purely on positions in the table can often be misleading when comparing seasons.
The only true way to measure how well a club has done season after season, is surely down to the points racked up each time.
This is how Newcastle have done each of the 10 seasons under Mike Ashley’s ownership:
43 points – 2007/08 – 12th
34 points – 2008/09 – 18th
102 points – 2009/10 – 21st (Championship)
46 points – 2010/11 – 12th
65 points – 2011/12 – 5th
41 points – 2012/13 – 16th
49 points – 2013/14 – 10th
39 points – 2014/15 – 15th
37 points – 2015/16 – 18th
94 points – 2016/17 – 21st (Championship)
44 points – Average in the eight NUFC Premier League seasons.
41 points – Average in the Premier League taking out NUFC’s 2011/12 season.
Much was made of that one-off season when Newcastle finished fifth with 65 points, especially when any Newcastle fans dared to suggest the club was failing under Mike Ashley.
However, it is surely a dismal failure of a decade when only once have Newcastle reached 50 points or more in the top tier.
To put it into some kind of perspective, before this season just ended, the previous three years have seen Stoke accumulate 50, 54 and 51 points respectively in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16.
Apart from the fifth place finish, there has only really been the season when Newcastle hit lucky with Loic Remy on loan (2013/14) and accumulated 49 points, when a fairly respectable number of points have been banked. That season of course was sabotaged halfway through by Cabaye forcing a move and Mike Ashley ensuring a second transfer window in a row ended with not a single player bought in.
So for Rafa Benitez, the target to aim for surely has to be 50 points, a figure that would ensure mid-table respectability and beat everything else under Mike Ashley, apart from that one freak season.
When you take over at a failing club as the Spaniard has, it is help at least in the early stages, that expectations have been dragged so low, so you can hopefully get the opportunity and time to start putting things right.
If Newcastle get 40 points and avoid relegation then nobody will count it as a disaster but I would have a good bet that Rafa Benitez will most certainly be thinking more towards that 50 points target and starting to put this club on the path back to where it should be.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])