Back on 5 November 2016, Newcastle made it eight wins on the bounce with a 2-1 victory over Cardiff, only for Neil Warnock to grab some headlines with his post-match comments.
At the time, the result ensured Newcastle were clear at the top of the table, three points and a better goal difference than challengers Brighton.
Despite the league placings and Newcastle’s winning run, Neil Warnock claimed that it wasn’t NUFC who had the best team in the division, but instead their south coast rivals.
The Cardiff Manager did though concede that Newcastle had/have by far the strongest squad.
Neil Warnock speaking on Talksport – 10 November 2016:
“Newcastle have got the best squad by a mile, haven’t they.
“I think Brighton probably have a better team at the moment but they (Newcastle) have got the best squad.”
So, two months on and 10 further Championship games behind us, what would you make of Warnock’s claims now?
Brighton have continued to be ultra consistent and have still only lost one other match (home to Brentford), apart from the defeat at St James Park. Whilst Newcastle have faltered slightly in recent weeks, losing two of the last three Championship games and now standing two points behind Brighton, with Chris Hughton’s team also having a game in hand.
If Newcastle do indeed have a much stronger squad than their rivals, then you would hope that it is now when it begins to come into play.
Brighton have seven players who have started 20 or more of their 24 league games: Dunk (23), Knockaert (22), Duffy (20), Murray (21), Bruno (24), Bong (21) and Stockdale (23).
Interesting to see that these seven players are their goalkeeper and back four, plus their most creative player and secondary goalscorer (Knockaert) and the Championship’s second top goalscorer (Glenn Murray).
Their defence is the best in the division with only 15 conceded, compared to Newcastle’s 20.
Knockaert and Murray are responsible for 23 of Brighton’s 40 goals.
Newcastle actually have six players who have started 20 or more league matches: Clark (20), Dummett (23), Lascelles (23), Gayle (20), Ritchie (21) and Shelvey (20).
However, whilst Newcastle don’t look to have adequate cover for Jonjo Shelvey, judging on recent games, they do for pretty much every position. With the likes of Mitrovic and Atsu able to come in for Gayle and Ritchie/Gouffran. If Brighton lost Knockaert and/or Murray, do they have anything close to the same quality as replacements.
It is also a formidable advantage to have known your best defence and being able to call on it pretty much every match.
The end of the season will decisively decide who actually has the best team/squad but at the moment what is clear, is that Newcastle & Brighton are better than the other 22 clubs/teams at this moment in time.