Garth Crooks has previously said he believes Newcastle United could challenge for the title if Rafa Benitez is/was given the right backing.
On Saturday he was impressed with the Newcastle players, in that they ‘fought bravely and – with better finishing – could have come away with a point’.
However, he says that despite that battling display, you have to face reality.
The reality being that this under-resourced Newcastle squad are ‘punching above their weight and are slowly running out of gas’.
Not great to hear that Newcastle are ‘punching above their weight’ when now they are in the relegation zone and the bookies make them one of their three favourites to go down.
Newcastle now face four crucial Premier League matches separated by only nine days, which crucially includes games against fellow strugglers Stoke, Brighton and West Ham.
With the lack of quality and numbers in Rafa’s squad, Garth Crooks says ‘I dread to think how this squad is going to cope over the Christmas period’.
The starting point surely has to be at least avoiding defeat at West Ham on Saturday.
Typical though that Newcastle now go there against a team on the up, the last three matches seeing the Hammers beating Chelsea, drawing with Arsenal and then hammering Stoke on Saturday.
Garth Crooks speaking to BBC Sport:
“Mesut Ozil’s goal against Newcastle was special – and produced by a special player. The mere fact the German was travelling backwards when he took the ball out of the sky and volleyed it into the roof of Newcastle’s net was quite amazing. It was the only thing that really separated both sides.
“For all of Arsenal’s possession and intricate play, Newcastle fought bravely and – with better finishing – could have come away with a point.
“But the reality is the Magpies are punching above their weight and are slowly running out of gas.
“I dread to think how this squad is going to cope over the Christmas period.
“The games are coming thick and fast now. Players are going to have to play with knocks and bruises and put their bodies on the line for their clubs and team-mates.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have a squad capable of finishing in the top four but the real issue is will Ozil stay at Arsenal? Arsene Wenger insists he will, but he would say that wouldn’t he? If Ozil goes then where does that leave Alexis Sanchez?
“There is no doubt in my mind that one player gets his inspiration from the other and should Ozil leave then it would almost signal the departure of Sanchez too. The question both players must be asking themselves is, ‘what is the point of staying at Arsenal?’”