After yesterday’s marvellous, marvellous win against Manchester United, Gary Neville said of Newcastle United that ”they have been on a terrible run”.
I find that sort of statement utterly mind-boggling.
Do these ‘experts’ even look at the facts before they bandy about their sloppy, cliched, damaging generalisations?
Benitez’ chronically under-funded team have only lost two times in their last nine games, and those losses were both two against Manchester City.
It’s a record that means Rafa Benitez and his squad have picked up a very steady 13 points in their last nine games.
Granted, there were three underwhelming home draws in that ten game run – against Brighton, Swansea and Burnley – but they are surely more than made up for by superb, battling away wins against West Ham and Stoke.
Forgive the nightmare vision I’m about to conjure, but I suspect that if Gary Neville were managing a relegation candidate, and he’d picked up nine points with no defeats from those five games…
He would be trumpeting his unbearable success from the Mancunian rooftops like some kind of demonically-possessed, Sky-Sports-plumaged macaw.
Roy Hodgson said recently that clubs seeking to avoid relegation don’t lose points, they only gain them.
By that logic, those three home draws are disappointing, but they’re not disastrous. They should perhaps be thought of as three points gained, rather than six points lost.
In other words, Gary Neville may think Benitez’s recent record has been “terrible”, but there’s a clear case to argue that it’s been evidence of experienced, astute management; a well-organised team working hard to gradually accumulate the points they need to stay up.
Benitez’s argument that Newcastle have been unlucky not to pick up even more points, holds water too. He might be accused of being a little overly-negative in home games against bottom-half teams, but a late Darlow own goal against Burnley aside, and they’d have hit the 30 point mark by now.
Newcastle fans have plenty of cause for optimism, and their victory against Manchester United was so significant, that it led bookmakers to push them out to seventh favourites for the drop.
The average points-per-game of 1.03 has Rafa’s team on track for a 39 points total this season.
They have got the firepower of Islam Slimani still waiting to come into the team.
Southampton, Huddersfield and West Brom are still yet to visit St. James Park.
Plus the Magpies have got the most stellar managerial name in the bottom-=half of the league.
Could they be in an even better position with a little more positivity at home? Perhaps.
Will they stay up anyway?
It will be tight but the signs are good.
Has their recent run been “terrible” Gary Neville?