The general theme for Paul Merson and others last weekend, was that Newcastle were going to get their comeuppance.
The belief (or maybe wanting to believe?) that the previous game’s 3-0 win over West Ham had been all about the Hammers being clueless, rather than Newcastle getting their feet under the table in the Premier League.
The pundits/experts were in agreement that Swansea would put Rafa’s team in their place, Paul Merson declaring:
‘The Premier League class will show in this one. Swansea have been there and done it and will have too much for Newcastle.’
When you talk about ‘Premier League class’, last season actually showed a much of a muchness, with 10 clubs remarkably separated by only six points – Watford in 17th up to Southampton in eighth.
On top of that, Swansea lost their talisman Gylfi Sigurdsson in the summer, so despite having made signings, the Welsh outfit had looked anything but convincing so far.
Indeed looking back at last season, Swansea won the first match but then had to wait until 26 November 2016 for the second victory. In fact it was just a last gap effort of four wins and a draw in the final five matches that transformed them from looking doomed for sure, into survivors on 41 points.
We are once again being reminded in the flesh, as we had continued to see on TV last season, the Premier League has some very good teams and some excellent players but it isn’t like you are playing world beaters every week.
I sense a grudging respect for Newcastle’s performance at Swansea and I feel there will be a bit of a proper change in the wind direction, if Newcastle manage to beat a Stoke City side who have come to be middle of the table regulars with very few, if any, relegation scares.
Paul Merson predicts a 1-1 draw and says if Newcastle win then ‘It’s happy days at the club’ and with everything else has gone on, especially the Rafa/Ashley transfer friction, it would then be a case of the proverbial ‘It’s a funny old game’.
Newcastle’s fate this season will be majorly decided by how they get on in the matches against the clubs who won’t finish in the top five or six places and with defeat to Huddersfield and wins over West Ham & Swansea, Newcastle United are now 2-1 up.
Another win on Saturday and United would be 3-1 up and although not an unassailable lead, it would give breathing space and great momentum leading into yet another potentially key game for those who will be nearer the bottom, when Newcastle visit Brighton.
The fact Paul Merson says about Newcastle and Stoke ‘I can’t separate them at the moment’, is really a quite sizeable compliment coming from him, even if it wasn’t necessarily intended.
Respectability would do us all this season and Rafa Benitez has already laid a couple of building blocks towards that.
Paul Merson speaking to Sky Sports:
Newcastle v Stoke – Saturday, 3pm
“Both teams had good results last weekend and I can’t separate them at the moment.
“Stoke have found their feet and Newcastle have had a couple of good results.
“Newcastle put in a good performance at Swansea and if they get another win then it’s happy days at the club.
“It’s a funny old game.
“Paul Merson prediction: 1-1”