Newcastle United haven’t been doing very lately.

The Newcastle fans are still behind Rafa Benitez of course but not surprisingly supporters have been keen to try and find reasons as to why the team have picked up only one point from the last twenty one.

Especially so, when a very respectable fourteen points were stacked up in the opening nine matches.

I think everybody accepts that injuries to first team regulars such as Lascelles, Merino and Atsu have been a factor.

However, I don’t think many accept that this can be the only reason for such a drop-off in results and performances.

Loads of theories on what formation should be used and/or which other players should be selected. Mitrovic still not having started a Premier League being arguably the most talked about, as well as ironically on formations, suggestion that a more negative 4-2-3-1 should be used as opposed to the 4-4-2 due to the better early results with that other formation.

There is something much more obvious in my opinion though, Newcastle are simply playing much better teams at the minute and can’t live with that better quality.

Have a look at the current Premier League table as it is shown here on Sunday morning and then look at the fixtures we have played:

newcastle united

First nine games:

Home

Tottenham, West Ham, Stoke, Liverpool, Crystal Palace

Away

Huddersfield, Swansea, Brighton, Southampton

Next nine games:

Home 

Bournemouth, Watford, Leicester, Everton

Away

Burnley, Man Utd, West Brom, Chelsea, Arsenal

I think that if you look at that current table, I doubt very much whether we will see many, if any, dropping out of the top half when it comes to the end of season table.

Newcastle’s first nine games saw them play seven clubs from the bottom half and only two (Liverpool and Spurs) from the top half.

The next nine matches is the opposite, two from the bottom half (West Brom and Bournemouth) and seven in the top half.

Burnley are proving very good this season and Watford & Leicester are excellent attacking teams with loads of pace, whilst Wednesday’s opponents Everton spent a fortune this summer on top of having some very good players, and were always going to end up top half despite a poor start to the season.

So looking at the first nine matches, I think fans should have expected that it was possible to get points from any one of the seven matches against lower teams, plus obviously it was a massive bonus when Newcastle rode their luck against Liverpool and pinched a bonus point.

I would argue actually that Newcastle should have maybe got more points from the opening nine games, as I think the team didn’t really have a proper go at Huddersfield or Brighton. With pretty much all of the players available back then, I think if the team had tried to attack like they have done in some of the more recent matches, against better opposition, they could well have beaten both Brighton and Huddersfield.

On the other hand, of the following nine games, I think there is only Bournemouth and West Brom where we could have reasonably expected (rather than hoped) to get something. A draw at West Brom that could have easily been a win, whilst the Bournemouth game could and should have been won in the first half hour if not for bad luck, bad officials and bad finishing.

In fact luck is really at the heart of this slump being far more pronounced than it should have been.

In reality, Newcastle actually played better against Bournemouth than they did against Palace but conceded a late goal rather than scoring as they did with Merino against Roy Hodgson’s team. Three or more additional points from the games against West Brom and Bournemouth and we would all be feeling a lot more comfortable.

Bottom line for me is that a point against Everton would be a good result in terms of the quality of the opposition and naturally the game at Arsenal is looking likely to have only one outcome.

The one club missing from these opening 18 fixtures is of course Manchester City. It is something Rafa could have done without, the fixtures meaning that the club we face twice within three and a half weeks in the middle of the season is the runaway league leaders – not what we needed when on a bad run!

The warning bells are obviously ringing and as we pass halfway you can’t ignore how the fixtures are laid out.

The fixtures more or less the reverse of the opening half of the season, so if you ignore the Man City fixtures, Newcastle’s first nine matches of the second half of the season are mostly against the clubs they faced in the opening nine games of the season.

In other words, the teams we have picked up points from in the opening months of the season are the ones we then face from West Ham away on the 23 December onwards.

A demoralised squad and the very real possibility of little backing from Mike Ashley in the transfer window, as Newcastle have to play their most winnable looking matches.

Hopefully we can start and get the odd surprise result against better teams but reality for me is that if Newcastle aren’t on a decent number of points after playing Palace away on 3 February, then we are well and truly knackered.

Between 23 December and 3 February, just a six week period, we play Brighton, Swansea, Burnley at home and Stoke, West Ham, Crystal Palace away, as well as the two Manchester City matches.

Looking further ahead though, the last six games read Leicester (A), Arsenal (H), Everton (A), West Brom (H), Watford (A), Chelsea (H).

Obviously we’d be looking for three points off West Brom but that last six game run-in could be very painful if we don’t already have the necessary points on the board.

If better players can be added in January of course then the equation would change and it becomes a case of maybe most games could be approached with some hope and expectation of possibly getting points.

If only those better players had been signed in the summer then very unlikely we would be needing to have this conversation but this is what we are faced with.

Will Mike Ashley now hold his hands up and at last sell the club, or alternatively also face the reality that we can see, and allow Rafa Benitez to make the necessary signings.

To feature like Jack Watt submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here

City Hall Gifts - shop.themag.co.uk


  • Paul Patterson

    It’s a fair point, but to lose against all of Burnley, Huddersfield, Brighton and Bournemouth, no draws, nowt and not learn something is criminal.
    Does anyone know why Shelvey has sat out the last two games? Or has Rafa fell out with him? And turning to Mitrovic when losing with a few minutes to go is an insult.
    ‘Oh I don’t trust you, but heh, heh, can you get us out of this mess please? Oh and you’ve got five minutes to do it, chop chop.’ Utterly stupid.

    • Bowlsey

      I don’t understand the way Mitrovic is being treated either. He’s apparently good enough to score for his country on a regular basis but not good enough to start for a struggling Newcastle side desperately short of firepower. What’s even more upsetting is the fact that Mitrovic loves the club and fans and wants nothing more than to get out there and help us. Makes zero sense to me but then I’m not Rafa Benitez so what do I know?

      • Andy Mac

        Truth is none of us know but I’m pretty sure the players do !

  • TheNutJob

    Doomed

  • DMol

    Get Matt Sels back in January and we’ll be fine…

  • TheFatController

    Harsh reality is the promoted clubs will inevitably get relegated (due to their championship level squads) unless two circumstances occur:-
    – they buy PL quality players
    – a regular PL club have the wrong manager and stick with them or change to little effect (us, Mackems, Villa etc come in handy for the Bournemouths, Burnleys, Leicesters, Watfords, Stokes, West Broms of this world)

    These clubs surviving when promoted at the expense of badly run ‘bigger clubs’ look at the mistakes of those relegated bigger clubs and work out how to avoid making them themselves.

    They probably looked at our £11m net spend this summer and thought ‘big mistake but fantastic for us!’ …

  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    You can put forward theory after theory but the bottom line is you cannot survive for long in The Premiership with a Championship level squad !
    Most of the players who don the Black ‘n’ White are just not good enough for the club and it is always going to come back to how things are being run.

    This squad crawled over the line to Premier League football last season and are now expected to be able to keep the club afloat, I don’t know what planet Ashley and Co are on.
    The additions to the squad are poor with only Merino looking like he will go on to be a top level operator.

    Florian Lejeune is the new David Rozenhal to which I alluded to when he first signed and is nothing short of a liability !

    Special mention has to go out to Ayoze Perez who continues to defy belief by getting a game for Newcastle United !
    It’s ironic that the substitution that Rafa made was the one that lost the game for him in the end.
    That lad wouldn’t get a game for Gateshead at Conference level because he is that bad !

    Rafa can do no wrong in some fans eyes but you have to question why an utter lightweight like Perez is thrown on in a game like that.
    Mitrovic was put on far too late and should have be the sub made to back up Gayle who was looking dangerous and he could have held the ball up for him.
    Gayle has had some harsh criticism this season despite the fact he had hardly kicked a ball so that was always a strange one imo.
    The lad will get goals as long as his team mates are creating chances for him.

    • Paul Patterson

      Agreed, the Mitrovic sub was an insult. Like saying to a player ‘Look, you’re not getting a game because I don’t trust you, but sit on the bench like a good boy. Oh wait we’re a goal down now, so can you please get on and score to get us out of this mess. By the way you’ve got five minutes to do it, chop chop!’. Shocking.

    • Toonrobbybobson

      But what did Joselu do wrong against Leicester?

      • X,WHY,Y MAN.

        Nothing ?

  • HarryHype59

    About six weeks the Sky Sports model predicted this team to finish 20th, when we were still in the top ten! It was based upon the results the team had played up to that date!

    Whoever wrote the Algorithm obviously knew something the majority of NUFC fans didn’t!

  • Peaky Magpie

    We need Lascelles & Dummett back for Everton as that defence has more gaping holes than an Amsterdam brothel without them.

    • Andy Mac

      Tacky but succinct.

      • Peaky Magpie

        Not that I’ve ever been to such establishments of course,the “coffee” shops however………..😂

    • Toonrobbybobson

      But you will still get fans saying Dummett is rubbish! Because he isnt Roberto Carlos reincarnated.

      • Peaky Magpie

        Oh without a doubt but we’ve missed the lad more than most will admit.

  • DaveH

    On some forums Rafa is getting the blame for this bad run of results and also for some of his signings.Yes, some of his team selections raise some debate, but not long back a lot of people were complaining about him using just one up front when the results were decent and yet when he has given the masses want they wanted ie two up front the results have dropped.There is only one man to blame.Ashley.He kept his wallet closed and Rafa had to shop in the bargain basement.Yes, players like Manquillo and Joselu are not the answer, and young Murphy was bought to develop and not be put straight in the first team, which would have happened if Rafa had been backed and been able to bring quality to add to the squad.Remember a lot of the present team were bought to get us out of the championship, but if premier league class had been bought as Rafa wanted, some of them would have been moved on. It is a young, fairly inexperienced side, and hopefully if the wallet is opened in January or hopefully new owners slash the cash, we should be OK. Ashley out!!!!

    • Mike Adam

      He has not given the masses what they want when he includes Horselu as the second striker with Gayle!!!

      • Toonrobbybobson

        Tell me what Joselu did wrong playing alongside Gayle against Leicester?

    • 1957

      He maybe should invested in more quality and less quantity last season. He could have used the money spent on SloMo and Hanley and bought a better quality No 10 that might have made the transition to PL this season. Player values were more sensible last season

    • ghostrider

      Ashley out and Rafa out.
      This isn’t the time that Rafa needs smoke blowing up his aris, this is the time he needs a good old kick up it and told to shape up or ship out.
      He had 125 million in 2 seasons, let’s not blame Ashley for that, let’s blame the man who used it and can’t assemble a confident team because he’s too stubborn and also a bit clueless.
      His plan B is pathetic in the extreme.

  • robbersdog

    If Bournemouth is an example of a much better team, then we’re heading back to the Championship.

  • mentalman

    We have a squad capable of competing in this league, the problems arise when the squad isn’t used and players who are out of form are continually picked

    • Dillon Tovak

      We don’t have a good enough squad, but I agree the squad isn’t being used properly.

  • Wor Lass

    You make a fair point, Jack, but I would put the absence of Lascelles as the single most important setback. I hoope he`s back for the next game!

  • Andy Mac

    Nice try Jack but Bournemouth, Leicester, Burnley and West Brom were all winnable games if we work on the basis that we beat Stoke, Wet Spam and Swansea ? I think team spirit has taken a knock recently so a drop in confidence goes hand in hand with that.

    Rafa’s job is to convince these players they are good enough to get points off other mid table teams so maybe if he focused on that rather than the negatives ?

  • Down Under Mag

    We have had some tough games but realistically we have shot ourselves in the foot in some winnable games as well. We have had injuries to some key players and just do not have the depth to cover these. We also have seen some key players suffer from a drop in form – Ritchie being the most obvious.

    I find it amazing that some fans suggest a negative formation while Rafa was being slated for being too negative when he played that way early in the season.

    Getting Lascelles back will make a huge difference. He may not be our best player on a skill level, but we look a lot more organised when he is in the side. Rafa may not be helping himself at the moment with some of his tactics, substitutions and player choices (Shelvey needs to play) but like it or not we just don’t have enough quality on the pitch and results are reflecting that… Rafa just needs to get their heads right so we can get through to January and hopefully strengthen. I think the players heads have dropped and they have lost confidence and the willingness to fight as well.

  • Toonrobbybobson

    Momentum is a funny old thing in football.

    The one thing that lost ours was Dwight Gayles wrongly ruled out goal against Bournemouth giving them new monentum and steaking ours wrongly.

    That linesman also has alot to answer for. They dont realise how sensitive their decisions are and frankly that was a shocker.

    We cant afford for those things to go against us.

  • Mrkgw

    We are going down as long as Rafa fields his current picks leaving Shelvey, Mitro, and Elliott on the bench.

  • NUFCDan

    Thing is we were always going to struggle this season. The fact we’ve at least been competitive and never dropped into the bottom 3 (yet) is a huge credit to Rafa. Our squad is awful and the bargain basement players we’ve brought in to plug holes haven’t improved us a great deal. This squad is significantly weaker than the one we were relegated with under McClown. As I’ve said before our 3 best players Shelvey, Ritchie and Gayle are all players who couldn’t get 1st team football at our relegation rivals. The rest of the squad are either promising youngsters thrown in at the deep end or Championship level players.

  • Viru leckworth

    What seems what seems to be the problem with playing Shelvey?

  • Wilber

    I agree the quality of opposition is probably the largest factor. I think the 2nd biggest is the uncertainty over the purchase – we know footballer confidence is fickle and half the side know they’ll be out if we get a massive war-chest, £250M x 2 has been talked about. Sure you could say they ‘should’ play out of their skin to prove themselves but it doesnt always go like that with footballers.