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Opinion

Massive missed opportunity for Newcastle United this season as 61 extra points up for grabs

1 month ago
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This is the third Premier League season for Newcastle United after promotion in 2016/17.

Rafa Benitez forced to find a way for NUFC to survive on a budget in the first season up.

A small net spend allowed by Mike Ashley of only around £20m to cope with the step up, Rafa had to look for bargain signings such as Manquillo (£4m), Joselu (£5m) and Atsu (£6m) for survival.

After an up and down first half of the season, only loan deals were allowed by the NUFC owner, though Rafa produced a couple of rabbits out of the hat, Dubravka and Kenedy helping Newcastle end up tenth.

The second season was made even more difficult, this time Mike Ashley insisting on a £20m+ profit in the summer 2018 transfer window.

Once again it was budget deals, with £4m to make Dubravka permanent and moves for the likes of Schar (£3m) and Fernandez (£6m).

A similar season in terms of a relegation battle turned into a comfortable end of the season, as the arrival of £20m Miguel Almiron at last showed some ambition and this quality attacking signing helped spark a late run of results that took Newcastle to early safety and 13th place in the end.

The final 16 games of the 2018/19 season saw Newcastle United with the fifth best form in the Premier League.

Plenty of room for optimism that if a decent level of ambition was shown and Rafa Benitez retained to oversee recruitment and preparing the squad, this (2019/20) season could at last see Newcastle make real progress after two seasons of austerity.

We all know what did/didn’t happen at St James Park in summer 2019 but just have a look at these following two tables.

They show how the Premier League table looked after 23 games last season, compared to now, after 23 matches of this 2019/20 season:

This is how the 2019/20 Premier League table currently stands after 23 matches (following Saturday games and before Sunday 19 January matches):

This is how the 2018/19 Premier League table stood after 23 games (table via transfermarkt):

As you can see there are some significant changes.

The biggest of which for me is the number of points the richest, established, most powerful clubs have dropped already, leading to opportunities for other clubs…

Leaving aside Liverpool and concentrating on the other five of the ‘big six’, this is how many points less the five clubs have this season, the first figure in brackets is the points total after 23 games of the 2018/19 season, then the 2019/20 totals (This is assuming Manchester Uniteed lose at Liverpool this afternoon in their 23rd game):

8 points – Manchester City (56, 48)

20 points – Tottenham (51, 31)

8 point – Chelsea (47, 39)

15 points – Arsenal (44, 29)

10 points – Man Utd (44, 34)

In total that is 181 points for the five clubs this season, compared to 242 at this stage last season, a massive 61 points less.

Interestingly, looking  back at the previous two seasons, these same five clubs after 23 games had 242 points between them in 2017/18 and 238 points in 2016/17.

Man Utd, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Man City all have different issues facing them but one thing is obvious, none of the five are as good as they were last season. Nor indeed collectively as good as they were in the previous two seasons either.

The likes of Leicester have taken full advantage, their current 45 points total has them nailed on for the Champions League, yet at this stage they wouldn’t have even been top four with 45 points! (Though they do of course have Burnley this afternoon and could rise to 48 points after 23 games), which would have just sneaked them into top four last season at this stage.

The media talk about avoiding relegation as being success for Newcastle United this season.

I don’t agree with that and mid-table should be expected BUT it could and should have been so much better.

The opportunity was and is there IF showing ambition.

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