Newcastle United have found life back in the Premier League tough.
A disappointing summer 2017 transfer window saw Rafa Benitez badly undermined by Mike Ashley.
Rather than significantly increasing the quality of his team, the United boss was forced to use the limited cash to make sure his squad was strong enough, as a host of players left.
Little wonder then that Newcastle have this record against the top half of the Premier League so far this season:
Played 10 Won 0 Drawn 1 Lost 9 – Averaging 0.1 point per game (Liverpool at home the only point gained in a 1-1 draw)
In addition, Newcastle have only scored five goals in the 10 matches against teams in the top 10 of the top tier, with a sizeable 20 goals conceded.
However, if Rafa Benitez’ remit was to compete against their rivals at the bottom end, then he has certainly achieved that.
Just look at this table below of matches between the clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League, up to and including the games on New Year’s day.
Newcastle United, top of the table when it comes to relegation scraps!
As you can see, Newcastle have played 12 matches so far against other bottom half of the table clubs, picking up an excellent 21 points from a possible 36, at a rate of 1.75 points per game.
Six games won (Stoke, West Ham and Palace at home – Stoke, West Ham and Swansea away), three drawn (Brighton home, West Brom and Southampton away), with three defeats (Bournemouth at home – Brighton and Huddersfield away).
What these stats tell me is a number of things.
Rafa Benitez has managed to use his experience to enable his team to outperform clubs who have squads/teams that are on the same level as Newcastle, or a little bit better.
However, Newcastle just don’t have the quality to hurt better teams, lacking the creativity and goalscorers that were desperately needed to be brought in last summer.
The need for strengthening is desperate, despite seven points from nine against relegation rivals over the festive period, giving everybody a boost.
The harsh reality is that only six of the 16 remaining games are against the nine other clubs in the bottom half, with 10 to play against top half performers.
This is one occasion where the stats most definitely don’t lie.