Two Or Three Players Short of Champions League?
Three very similar occasions since we were promoted in 2010, I have seen us beaten by Man City after a close game at St James Park, in which for all our huff and puff, we were undone by some cutting edge finishing by City.
The first time, a 3-1 defeat in Pardew’s second game in charge, I left the ground with a strange positive feeling, something I rarely have after a defeat, no matter who the opposition are, mainly because of how well we played and how much of a handful Andy Carroll was, ironically he scored his last Newcastle goal that same day.
On Sunday, we came as close as we ever have to beating City since our promotion and when they became backed by oil money, after ‘Tiote wonder strike number two’ was ruled out. Blaming the referee’s performance is not something I usually look for when analysing a game, but there is no doubt in my mind that last Sunday ‘we were robbed’.
Mike Jones had a bad game when taking charge of the Southampton match, but he was really taking the biscuit last week, and clearly intimidated by the City players.
Even with this clear miscarriage of justice, whilst having a bite to eat after the match, I felt more deflated that ever before when we have lost to a ‘title contender’.
We are a good team, as has being proven since the Derby defeat in October, but I just get the feeling we are always going to be two or three players away from really having a charge at the Champions League places, the City game showed that. It is starting to get to the point when I’m getting bored of the team playing so well and still losing by two goals.
If Ashley could repeat the funds utilised so well in the January window, then we would certainly be in the race for a top 4/5 place, but without that it won’t happen. I am trying (admittedly not succeeding) to not sound completely ‘glass half-empty’ , but it is nothing but frustrating to see us this close, but not quite close enough.
We are also still over-reliant on Cabaye, who seems to be our only truly creative midfielder and needs to play well for us to be at our best, meaning a successful bid from Paris, Monaco, or Manchester would be a nightmare scenario.
Most fans knew that the £10m offered from Arsenal last summer would not be enough but will Cashley really turn down more than twenty? Probably not.
Our top goalscorer is not even fully a Newcastle player, while rumours continue to circulate about Tim Krul going to AC Milan. I also feel disappointed with the Jonas situation as he could have offered a big option from the bench when we need to close out games later on in the season.
As for incomings, I know we have a strategy of signing, younger cheaper foreign players but can someone at the club explain why Hull City are able to sign players of the quality of Huddlestone and Shane Long, who are proven to perform in the Premier League? They didn’t cost a ridiculous amount either.
If the static activity continues in the transfer window, I feel this season will be remembered as one that could have been, but wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong I, like many others, predicted us to finish somewhere between 8th and 10th, but it was not long ago we were on the coat tails of the Champions League chasers.
No signings (so far) and news of a trip to Dubai next week, leave this Saturday’s game against a struggling West Ham, as one that has the ability to reintroduce the feel good factor around the club, but also one that could leave us in danger of slipping towards mid-table mediocrity.
It is up to the players to turn it around and to be fair they have put some kind of heart and guts into most of our games this season. The same is needed today.
Expectation levels for the rest of the season appear to hinge entirely on the next two games.
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