I have seen and heard a number of Newcastle fans saying we shouldn’t be too negative about Newcastle United’s dismal start to the season because we’ve had a very difficult time of it in terms of fixtures.
I have tended to agree with that point of view (to an extent!) which got me thinking: is it actually possible to quantify this argument and look at the validity of it statistically.
In order to do so, I created a slightly crude system for predicting the points that we’d hope Newcastle might secure against their various opposition this season. I worked on the following model:
Top Half Finish in 2014-15 Home – 1 Point
Top Half Finish in 2014-15 Away – 0 Points
Bottom Half Finish in 2014-15 Home – 3 Points
Bottom Half Finish in 2014-15 Away – 1 Point
Newly Promoted Team Home – 3 Points
Newly Promoted Team Away – 1 Point
Based on this, Newcastle United might expect to secure a total of 46 points this season. Nothing spectacular, admittedly, and a long way short of the top-8 target bandied about by Ashley towards the end of last season, but still a 7 point improvement on last season, and sufficient points to secure Premier League football for another year.
With that – admittedly less than perfect – model in mind, we might have been expected to be on 7 points at the moment:
Southampton (H) 1
Swansea (A) 0
Man Utd (A) 0
Arsenal (H) 1
West Ham (A) 1
Watford (H) 3
Chelsea (H) 1
Man City (A) 0
What this makes clear is that we are , quite obviously, currently underachieving. The loss of a point at home to Arsenal was compensated for by an excellent draw away at Manchester United, but the very poor performances against West Ham and Watford have left us 4 points short of where we might have realistically expected to have been.
Looking further ahead, we might have realistically hoped to build on our theoretical 7 point total with a brief unbeaten run and thus be sitting on 12 points after eleven matches:
Norwich (H) 3
Sunderland (A) 1
Stoke (H) 1
The reason I point this out is to suggest that we aren’t yet in a catastrophic state, but that the next three Newcastle results are absolutely pivotal to our season.
If we can ‘overachieve’ against this prediction and win all three of our up-coming fixtures. Perhaps not an entirely unrealistic prospect given our first-half performances against Chelsea and Manchester City, then we would actually still be sitting on the 12 points that we might realistically have hoped to have achieved at the start of the season.
In other words, we’ve started badly – but there is still more than enough time to rectify it.
To my mind, performances have improved since McClaren reverted to a simple 4-4-2 formation, and victories against Norwich, Sunderland and Stoke may not be completely out of the question.
If we don’t achieve them, maybe then we can talk about being in complete crisis.
(To feature like Liam, send in your articles for our website to [email protected])