Looking ahead to 2018, it is hard to say how things look for Newcastle United.
I am sure there will be a section of fans who hold high hopes for the coming year, then another section who fear the worst. As is very much the case at Newcastle United, it seems like it is one extreme or the other.
On the one hand, there is an impending takeover, improved recent performances from the team, perhaps some signings in January and a club with a manager who is looking to turn this side into a half decent top flight team again.
On the other hand, the takeover talks continue to drag, and therefore money in January still looks like it won’t be available. With that, our Premier League position remains in jeopardy.
It is important to remember, that even before any signings are likely to be made (or at least available to play), Newcastle have three massive matches coming up, plus an FA Cup tie. Two home games against Brighton and Swansea are matches that we cannot afford to lose. Similarly, away to Stoke on New Year’s Day is just as important against a sit who side next to us in the table. Over the course of the next three Premier League games I would be satisfied with a minimum of 5 points.
We are on 18 points with 18 games to go. In my opinion, another 20 points would see us safe. That basically means we need to replicate what we did in the first half of the season. Surely we will manage that? I can’t see us going on another run of form as bad as the one we have just been on. Even without signings, I do think we will stay up… just.
Even so, this is one of the most important transfer windows in recent memory. Although, it feels like I say that about every transfer window in the past few years, so who knows?
It is imperative that we improve the squad. For me, a new GK and a number 10 is key. If the rumours are true, and there is around £30 million available to spend, then I would much rather we spent all of it on two proper Premier League players who are going to improve the team, rather than 4/5 below par signings like Joselu (no disrespect to Joselu intended).
You have to expect that teams around us in the league table are going to improve over the next month. Swansea, although they look at the moment like being the side most likely to go down at this point, have now appointed Tony Pulis. History shows that a new appointment will probably bring some upturn in form. Similarly, although West Brom have Alan Pardew in charge and can’t seem to buy a win, you would fancy them to start picking up a few points soon enough.
Alternatively, and this may be naïve of me, I expect both Brighton and Huddersfield to slip closer to the relegation zone over the next few months. I also don’t see Bournemouth picking up too many points, or improving much on their team during the window.
What I am saying, is that no matter how bad Newcastle are between now and the end of the season, I think there are at least eight teams (Brighton, Huddersfield, Swansea, Palace, WBA, Stoke, Southampton, Bournemouth) who are at our level. If we can build on our squad, then you would have to fancy us to pick up at least 20 points in the remaining 18 games.
It is also imperative that everyone at the club, including the fans, tries not to let the potential takeover distract us. Given the past 10 years, I see why that may be impossible. However, every day that goes by with silence from the club, and the media, makes me doubt whether it will happen. We are pretty much at January now and nothing seems to be happening. For the moment, we must play the hand we are dealt, rather than dreaming about the hand we could be dealt.
On a side note, while I am here, I just want to put my thoughts out on that first 30 minutes against Manchester City: I am one of those fans that thought the way Rafa set us up in the first half an hour was embarrassing. Judging from the reaction on social media to the likes of Neville and Carragher, I am in the minority on this one, but I totally agreed with the two pundits.
I don’t think anybody was saying that Newcastle should have gone out and attacked Manchester City – that would have been foolish, and I even think it is a tad foolish that some people thought that’s what the pundits on Sky were suggesting.
Setting up defensively against the best team in the country is a given. I was actually pleased with the line up when I heard it. Setting up super defensive, extremely tight and trying to make yourself hard to beat, is also a given. I would have done the same.
However, Rafa went too far for me in that first 30 minutes, or at least up until City scored. This was a team, at home, in the Premier League, who made absolutely no effort at all to get
out of their own half. There is going defensive, there is going super defensive and then there is taking the p…, for me, Rafa took the p… on Wednesday night.
Once City scored their goal (after hitting the post twice and missing a hatful of chances) we remained the same but at least tried to get the ball forward and hit them on the counter attack. Why couldn’t we do that to start with?
Why did we have to embarrass ourselves by playing attack vs defence for 30 minutes? That first 30 minutes wasn’t anywhere near good enough for me from the manager. In my opinion, and again, I suspect there wont be many backing me on this one, in that first 30 minutes (I reiterate, up until they scored), Rafa showed Man City so much respect, and was so negative, that I actually thought it was disrespectful towards all those fans that turned up.
I am not saying we should have attacked them, but at the absolute very least, the absolute bare minimum, I want to see my side make some sort of effort to try and get out of their own half, or attack, or try and score a goal. It pains me to say it but thank god Manchester City actually scored because it would have been painful to sit there all night and watch that.
Bristol City didn’t do anything close to that against Man United recently, and even lowly Luton Town won’t come to SJP next week and be that mind-bogglingly OTT defensive. Anyway, rant over about that, I just hope I never see something like that again.
It is a big month ahead both on and off the pitch for us, but more so on the pitch. I am fairly positive about what is to come, I have full faith in the manager, and the players that they have what it takes to pick up more than enough points to drag us away from the relegation zone.
(PS I thought Diame played well again on Wednesday night – like a new signing maybe? I won’t get too ahead of myself for now.)
Keep the Faith.
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn