Here we are again. Another Premier League season is well into October and Newcastle United are still searching for their first win. Alarm bells are ringing, but is the Magpies start to the season truly as disastrous as many are making it out to be?
The table doesn’t lie. Rock bottom with three points from a possible 24, six goals scored and 17 conceded in eight games means we have the worst goal difference in the division.
But we have to take into account that in those eight games we have played six of last season’s top eight, including all of the top four.
Given that we finished 16th last season, it is unrealistic to be expecting consistently good results against teams who proved last season to be far better than us over 38 games. The next four fixtures are where it will be decided if the season truly has started as disastrously as it possibly could.
We play two of the three newly promoted sides and Sunderland, three teams that we definitely should be beating and finishing above this season. If we can pick up maximum points from those three fixtures, we will be taking points that could mean the difference between survival and relegation come the end of the season.
I’m not a fan of Steve McClaren, I doubt many Newcastle fans were jumping for joy at his appointment. There are still serious questions as to whether he is good enough for a premier league job.
However, there is no doubt he has got Newcastle playing better football this season than we saw under Carver, Pardew and possibly even Hughton. Style may earn admirers and excite fans, but it won’t earn points if the substance is missing, and points are far more important in a relegation fight.
It is therefore interesting to see Sunderland appoint Sam Allardyce as manager in the last week. Big Sam is long associated with bringing results to a team despite playing a ‘less attractive’ brand of football.
While Sunderland fans may not always enjoy the style of play at the Stadium of Light, you can be almost sure that they’ll still be enjoying Premier League football next season, something we can’t be sure of at St. James’.
The squad has shown in glimpses in the opening fixtures that it is easily good enough to be classed as premier league quality.
We have a better first 11 than Sunderland, Villa, West Brom and any of the promoted teams, with Mitrovic and Perez looking like they could form a strong strike partnership.
A return of two goals and one assist in eight tough fixtures is a strong start to English football from Wijnaldum. Colback is as reliable and hard working as ever, whilst Anita has enjoyed his best start to a season to date.
Mbemba has been the pick of the new signings to me and has helped shore up the defence and Janmaat has been good at both ends of the pitch.
Serious questions about the overall squad remain however. There are way too many stories about the likes of Cisse, Sissoko and Tiote not wanting to be at the club.
There are also far too many players who just aren’t up to the standard needed, such as Williamson, Gouffran and Marveaux. Lastly, there are some positions that we don’t have anywhere near enough cover for.
If we have our best 11 out every single game there’s enough quality to believe we will easily steer clear of relegation. What worries me however, is with injuries we will have to play unmotivated players, many of whom who are not good enough for the premier league.
We have already seen the likes of Mbemba playing at Right Back and Mbabu making his debut at left back due to injuries and a severe lack of back-up in those areas. The greatest immediate concern is goalkeeper, with recent developments seeing Tim Krul ruled out for the rest of the season.
When Arsenal signed Peter Cech many people highlighted how a good goalkeeper can be worth six or seven points. If Krul’s injury means we will end up with six fewer points at the end of the season, it seriously could be the stroke of bad luck which costs us our Premier League Status.
The team have put in some performances which have got them some good results, especially against Manchester United and Chelsea, where the team not only worked to defend but also really had a go at attacking. That’s what we as fans want to see.
We want to turn up to any game thinking ‘we’ve really got a shot at winning this one’, however, the mentality of the team is still a fragile one. The Manchester City game highlighted this. Even after a good 45 minutes against a team we have no business to be matching, there still is the potential for total collapse.
More worrying though was the truly awful 90 minutes against Watford which can only be put down to complacency. If the team perform the same way against the Watfords that they do against the Chelseas, then there’s no doubt they will pick up points. They have shown enough against the ‘big teams’ to suggest they can compete at the highest level, they just need to find consistency.
Perhaps it is harsh to expect consistency in the first eight games, especially with the quality of the opposition. The team hasn’t gelled quite yet.
A new manager, four new first team signings and a total change in the coaching staff, will all take time to settle…but time is running out.
Norwich visit St James Park this weekend for a truly season defining fixture.
Pick up three points and although the season hasn’t started well, it can be recovered from. Morale will be lifted and we can begin to build some momentum towards the winter period.
Lose and even this early in the season, relegation could be almost inevitable.
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