Where does this tell you Newcastle United are going?
As we enter the sharp end of the season, it is worth asking the question, where exactly are Newcastle United going?
It is never easy to answer this question under the Mike Ashley regime.
Due to their lack of communication, and/or the misinformation that emanates from the club, but this is what I think.
Relegation or Europe?
Our league form could go either way but I think this season is still all about survival because of the following reasons.
1) Results against our rivals –
One of the ways Rafa ensured Premier League survival was by coming out on top in those games against the other struggling teams. Last season we lost only one game against the bottom six teams in the table.
This season we’ve already lost three and only managed one point in our two games against the bottom club, Norwich.
2) Lack of goalscorers in the team –
The fact we didn’t strengthen in this area in the transfer window is a major concern.
Again, if you compare us with other teams around us, Norwich have Pukki and Cantwell, Watford have Deuolofeu and Deeney, West Ham have Bowen, Antonio and Haller, Aston Villa have Grealish, Hourihane and El Ghazi, Bournemouth have Callum and Harry Wilson and King, Brighton have Maupay, Murray and Connolly, Palace have Ayew and Zaha, Southampton have Ings, Long and Redmond and Burnley have Woods, Barnes and Rodriguez. These combinations of players easily outscore our leading goalscorers.
If Newcastle United are to stay safe this season I think we will need to continue to ride our luck, Martin Dubravka will need to continue his excellent form, our loan signings will need to hit the ground running and Allan Saint Maximin will need to stay fit!
An FA Cup run?
I guess you could say that under Mike Ashley reaching the 5th round is an FA Cup run.
This year’s run is very similar to our 1974 cup run when we got to the final after 3rd and 4th round victories against lower league opposition after replays and a 5th round away tie against West Brom. In 1974 we comprehensively outplayed West Brom on the way to a 3-0 victory but this year I would settle for a spawny one goal victory against what’s likely to be a West Brom B team.
Player recruitment/ retention
Our team now consists of three loan players who may only be here until the end of the season, along with a lot of players whose contracts will run out by 2021. I’ve got a number of theories about what might be happening.
1) The club is all about surviving in the Premiership and in the event of this not happening they will be able to offload a load of players on Premiership contracts.
2) A lot of the players are in their late 20s/ early 30s and the club would prefer younger players with more resale value on their books.
3) Steve Bruce/Steve Nickson want to get rid of some of the players that Rafa brought in and replace them with their players.
4) If new owners took over Newcastle it would be easier for them to revamp the squad
5) Lee Charnley is just incompetent and sorting out contracts is just another job he’s not very good at.
Not tying up young, home-grown players is difficult to understand but maybe Sean and Matty are considering moving to well-run, progressive clubs, just like Lewis Gibson and Ayoze Perez.
Much as I’d love to see the back of Mike Ashley I wonder when or if it’s ever going to happen. The reasons for this are –
1) He doesn’t need to sell.
The club is self-financing and there are likely to be some new, lucrative TV deals on the way. On top of that it provides him with a lot of high-profile advertising opportunities.
2) Whoever came in would need a lot more than £350 million to put the club on a secure footing and to make up for all the under investment in the first team squad, the training ground, the stadium etc.
At the beginning of this piece I asked the question ‘where are we going?’ and I’d say compared to last season, the answer is backwards.
After we’d brought in Miggy Almiron and we got Salomon Rondon fully fit, we were a match for any Premiership side during the second half of last season.
I was lucky enough to get tickets for Rafa’s last game in charge and on that day we looked like a team where everyone knew their role, which was solid in defence but also carried a real threat in attack. This is in stark contrast to the team we have now.
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