So, no need to panic with at Newcastle United then. No really, I’m not being sarcastic, there really isn’t any need to panic- Yet!
After three league games and Wednesday night’s misadventure in the League Cup, we can now say the season is up and running after the near disaster that was the summer transfer window. We all know the manager was severely undermined by our absent owner and clueless Managing Director, which has left the squad woefully short of quantity and more importantly, quality.
We all know that Mike Ashley likes a gamble as he has provided to us on numerous occasions over the last eleven years. But this summer was the one where all the stops has to be pulled out and genuine quality brought into the club.
The Premier League is awash with money, even Championship sides are spending big sums to try and get onboard the gravy train that is the top flight. The response at Newcastle? Net profit. Thanks Mike! At least that balance sheet will look good when we’re facing a third relegation in 12 years.
If this policy of getting the club on a sound footing with regards to a future sale then great, I’m all for it. I’ll take another year of paucity if we can get someone in to run the club like a football club and not a business. The trouble is, it’s one hell of a gamble to take if the owner is looking for that magical £400m bid to come in.
So far this season we have played four games in all competitions and each side we’ve played has spent more (net) than we have – and I include Nottingham Forest in that. That’s shameful, and has left the manager fighting an uphill battle to keep us in the league, rather than the more optimistic crack at improving on 10th place and maybe a push for Europe. That would’ve been a far more interesting gamble to make.
Last season the gamble paid off with that tenth place finish, but only after a season where we had next to no injuries, minimal suspensions and a rescue package of Martin Dubravka and Kenedy in the transfer window. Funny what happens when you allow the manager to get a bit of quality in Mike. Is that balance sheet still looking good?
The gamble this season isn’t quite going according to the script. We’ve lost a good centre half for most/all of he season (Lejeune), our playmaker is out for a few weeks (Shelvey), the captain has a knock and he’s been at odds with our workaholic right winger on the training ground whilst allegedly questioning the manager’s tactics. Still, that balance sheet’s looking great isn’t it?
It’s not looking the best of situations, but it’s not irretrievable. A quick glance at seasons past and you can see that it regularly take us a while to get out of the starting blocks. On quite a few occasions it has taken us a few games to register a first win.
In 98/99 we won at the fifth attempt and the following season it took us an incredible eight games to register a first win. In 03/04 (when we were supposed to have a good team) it took seven tries to get a win, 04/05 it was the fifth game and the next season it was the sixth.
In more recent times, it took Alan Pardew’s team in 2014/15 eight games to get three points from a match for the first time and the following season it took an astounding nine games. Now granted we got relegated in that last one, but the point is, we need not panic just yet. There are some beatable teams in this league, after all we are one of them, but we need to get some points racked up as soon as possible.
In the later seasons I’ve highlighted, we didn’t have a manager with any sense of tactical nous, in Rafa Benitez we do. That’s why I’m not too worried- yet. We need to get the weekend game out of the way as no matter which personnel or formation or attitude we adopt, we are dead certs to come a cropper and probably by some goals in the against column.
After the fortnight’s break we need to start picking up points, preferably against Arsenal and Man Utd, but more realistically against the likes of Leicester and Brighton who are going to be in our mini-league of teams we actually can compete with on the field, if not financially.
I always like to see where we are in the season once we get to ten points as I see that as a decent base to kick on and see what we can actually do in a season. Push for Europe, concentrate on a cup run, or start sweating over our league status. The trick is to get to 10 points as quickly as possible.
We have two home games in Watford and Bournemouth in bonfire week in November, by which time we will have played 12 games, and will have faced a more fairer mix of fixtures. If we are still sitting on single figures in the points tally by then, we can then start to legitimately panic with good cause.