Newcastle United have now played 21 Premier League matches and only 17 remain.
With only four victories all season and only one win since November, it hasn’t been the greatest.
Always interesting to see how outsiders/neutrals see the situation at St James Park and I came across this ‘half-term report’ from BT Sport.
Some interesting and on the spot comments but in other areas they are lacking….
Here it is with my (ME) comments in brackets and bold:
Newcastle United half-term report by BT Sport:
League position: 7th (ME: ‘I wish!’)
Record: P21 W4 D6 L11 F15 A29 Pts 18
Top scorer: Salomon Rondon 5
Most assists: Matt Ritchie 6 (ME: ‘Ritchie has done OK but the official Premier League site shows he only has 3 and not 6 assists.’)
Star man: Federico Fernandez (ME: ‘Totally agree with this one!’)
It’s been a tough old season for Newcastle again, with off the field stories continuing to dominate and the looming threat of relegation hanging over the Magpies.
One shining light however has been summer arrival Federico Fernandez who swapped Swansea for the north east and has settled into the Newcastle backline well.
Having worked with manager Rafa Benitez at Napoli, the former Liverpool boss certainly seems to know how to get the best out of the Argentine.
Unsung hero: Mohamed Diame (ME: ‘Can’t agree with this one. Very mediocre this season and the player who probably doesn’t get anywhere near the outside recognition that he should, is Martin Dubravka.’)
No outfield player has more minutes under his belt for the Magpies than the Senegal man this season and the fact he was forced off against Man Utd is a concern.
With Jonjo Shelvey battling fitness issues of his own for most of the campaign, central midfield has been an area for concern for Benitez but Diame has been a dependable ever-present.
Having sat out of the FA Cup draw with Blackburn, Newcastle will hope the player that made the most Premier League tackles in 2018 is back in time for their relegation battle.
Season to date rating: 5/10
On the face of it, sitting just two points above the relegation zone with 17 games to play would hardly be considered an average season in most people’s eyes.
But considering the backdrop against which the Newcastle squad are working, it’s a lot more forgivable.
Owner Mike Ashley continues his search for a buyer and as a result is unwilling to part with too much of his money to back Benitez in the transfer market. (ME: ‘A huge red herring this one. No mention of a buyer this summer and Ashley didn’t give Rafa a penny, instead insisting on a £20m+ profit. As for parting with ‘his’ money, it is actually money generated by the club that he won’t even let Benitez spend.’)
Still fielding a squad with several players that helped the club achieve promotion from the Championship two seasons ago (ME: ‘A classic…’several players’, in the most recent PL game against Man Utd, 8 of the 11 NUFC players also played in the Championship!’), another battle against the drop seems inevitable.
The standoff between fans and owners has seen the players forced to perform under toxic circumstances at times, while they aim to stay above the dreaded bottom three.
January transfer window wish list: Striker/creativity (ME: ‘The most obvious thing in the world!)
Only bottom club Huddersfield have scored fewer times than the Magpies this season so the issue is fairly obvious – they need goals.
They have been linked with Miguel Almiron of MLS side Atlanta United for some time but rumours are that his wage demands could scupper any potential deal. (ME: ‘Yes, rumours put out by Mike Ashley’s people! Almiron’s agent has said that so far Ashley has refused to agree to pay Atlanta United’s valuation.’)
If they do miss out on the Paraguayan midfielder this month, Benitez will hope those funds can still be used to recruit someone to spark their attack and lead their charge to safety.
A good second half of the season would be: Survival (ME: ‘Sadly, very true.’)
Pure and simple, the aim for the club is to retain their Premier League status for another season.
At this stage last season, they went on a run that secured their safety – losing just twice in 11 matches across January, February and March.
Something similar might be needed this time around if they are to beat the drop and with a change of ownership still being mooted, the division the club find themselves in come May could have a significant bearing on that.