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Opinion

Newcastle United and the reassurance of finishing 10th

6 months ago
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Fans of Newcastle United are obviously not too bright.

Their worries about this Premier League season and especially the ramifications of actually making a profit in the summer transfer window, are dismissed by pundits and neutrals alike with one sweeping statement.

Newcastle supporters told ‘You finished 10th last season, what have you got to worry about?’

If only life was so simple!

Mike Ashley and his people (see below) have constantly referred to last season’s tenth place finish as some kind of protective shield for this season, the reasoning supposedly being that if you finish 10th one season then you don’t need to worry about relegation the next.

In normal circumstances that should hold some truth, in that if you finish in comfortable mid-table and then invest in your squad, you should be improving and looking to move on.

Last season Everton and Leicester finished in the two places just ahead of Newcastle, each of those clubs spent around £81m on new signings this summer (on top of significant investment in recent seasons), Newcastle spent £23m and made a net profit of over £20m.

Those two clubs already had decent squads with some real quality players, their biggest problem being that they were underperforming. In contrast, any sensible person knew that Newcastle massively overachieved last season when it came to their place in the table. Rafa Benitez pulling out all the stops thanks to his experience and expertise.

As has been noted on The Mag previously before, on the final day of the season Newcastle could have finished as low as 15th if results had gone a different way, whilst NUFC’s 44 points was the lowest ever to get a top half finish in Premier League history.

If you need any further illustration when it comes to being complacent after relative success the season before, Newcastle followed their fifth place finish in 2011/12 by only reaching safety the next season when winning their final away game of the season (2-1 at QPR).

The reality of course is that once you get beyond the top six, everything is there to be fought for. That is why the likes of Everton and Leicester know they have to keep on trying to strengthen their squads.

When it comes to 10th this season you could name at least a dozen clubs who could potentially end the season in that position, most/all of them also relegation candidates to varying degrees.

Interesting to look at the Premier League final tables from 2015/16 and 2016/17, just look who ended up 10th on those occasions:

2015/16 final Premier League Table:

newcastle united

2016/17 final Premier League Table:

newcastle united

In 2016/17, the season after Chelsea finished 10th, they won the Premier League.

In 2017/18, the season after West Brom finished 10th, they were relegated in 20th spot.

13 May 2018 – Official Mike Ashley statement released after Newcastle beat Chelsea on final day of the season:

‘Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has thanked Rafa Benítez, the players and the club’s supporters following the club’s tenth-place finish in the Premier League.

“Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him.”

3 August 2018 – Richard Keys:

“Shut up Rafa – or walk – which is your right. The club will survive you.

“Mike Ashley isn’t going to change for you. He was right last season – you had more than enough.”

10 August 2018 – Joint official statement released on eve of new season by Mike Ashley/Keith Bishop, getting it signed off by Rafa Benitez, Lee Charnley and Jamaal Lascelles:

‘The view we all share is that we have a better squad now than the one that finished tenth last season and all involved have worked tirelessly to make this happen.

Given our finishing position last season, we already had a team of players who were more than capable of performing well in the Premier League.’

11 August 2018 – Andy Gray (along with Richard Keys) attacking Rafa Benitez and praising Mike Ashley:

“So Mike Ashley can sit there and say ‘Listen, we finished tenth last year, I’ve allowed you sign seven new players, that you want, because you’ve signed them’.

“So I have given you a better squad than you had last year.”
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