It has been an interesting end of the season for Newcastle United.
Four victories in a row took NUFC to safety earlier than expected and dreams of a top eight finish.
Only for four straight defeats to follow and fears of potentially sinking as low as 16th, if everything went wrong in these very final days.
The first 37 games have seen two wins for Newcastle by more than a one goal margin and five times losing by more than a single goal in the Premier League.
The goals for column is 36 and goals against is 47.
Outside of the relegation zone, only fellow promoted clubs Huddersfield and Brighton have scored less goals than NUFC.
When it comes to goals conceded, only six have leaked fewer than Newcastle.
If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard ‘All we need is a decent centre-forward in the summer’ then I would be….around £2.86 richer.
If only life was so simple.
Don’t take it personally but I think you are pretty foolish if you see the situation as…Newcastle haven’t scored enough goals, Dwight Gayle is our centre-forward, so it must be his fault.
Yes, he should have scored a few more goals but he isn’t alone.
On the wings, Matt Ritchie is top scorer with three.
Central midfield sees Shelvey with one and Mohamed Diame most productive with two.
Centre-backs Lascelles and Clark have weighed in with a valuable five from set-pieces.
I can’t really remember any of our full-backs even having a shot.
The thing is as well, Rafa Benitez is playing a system where everybody, including Dwight Gayle, does their bit in terms of defending.
Plus, Dwight Gayle has played a valuable part in Perez’ recent spurt of four goals in six games (he had scored four in his previous 48 PL games), the number nine playing his part in the build-up to some goals, whilst also taking defenders away to create space for Perez, by moving out of the middle.
I don’t think Dwight Gayle is good enough to be our first choice every week in the top tier but equally, I think it is the height of stupidity to just blame him and/or think it a good idea we should get rid of him in the summer.
I think the bottom line is that Rafa has to bring in at least five signings who are better than the players currently in the team, with Perez and Gayle top of that list to be replaced.
However, we need to keep them and the other two or three who find themselves bettered, and put them on the bench/keep them in the squad.
Two things also worth a mention.
We have been exceptionally lucky with injuries this season, with no real key players out long-term. At a push you might say Dummett and/or Lejeune but I don’t see them as two of our core best players.
Rafa decided on a best 11 from Man Utd at home onwards and pretty much stuck with it every game. He did that for two reasons – they were the best 11 he had and he also didn’t really have any alternatives.
Of those not in that eleven, Mikel Merino and Ciaran Clark are probably exceptions but both have had injury/fitness issues in these final stages.
Newcastle need to bring in at least four or five better players this summer AND also ensure that he is adding goals to the squad, plus tell the existing squad that they also have to start taking more responsibility when it comes to goalscoring.