Where are the next Newcastle United three points coming from?
Newcastle United are struggling, there is no doubt about it.
With Fulham closing the gap to only three points with victory over Sheffield United at the weekend, the reality is beginning to set in…for even the most optimistic of fans.
The NUFC hierarchy seem content to gamble on Fulham’s difficult final fixtures but to most Newcastle fans, all signs are pointing towards former Mag Scott Parker’s side consigning us to the Championship.
Many Newcastle United fans are starting to envisage a scenario where that final day fixture at Craven Cottage will decide who will drop out of the Premier League. It would be even more sickening if it was one-time fan favourite Aleksandar Mitrovic, or former Mackem Josh Maja, who puts the final nail in the coffin.
Of course, Newcastle’s fate is in their own hands. If they simply at least match the results of those below them, they will avoid the drop. However, with two wins and twelve losses (all competitions) since our victory over West Brom on 12 December, many fans are struggling to see where the Magpies’ next victory, or even draw, will come.
Within Newcastle’s run-in, there are five games which could be dubbed key ‘relegation six-pointers.’
Along with the final day trip to Craven Cottage, Newcastle face Sheffield United at St James Park in the penultimate fixture of the season. Newcastle also travel to three other of their relegation rivals, West Brom, Brighton and Burnley.
Whilst hoping that Newcastle United will have guaranteed our safety by the time we face Sheffield and Fulham; few fans believe this will be the case. The issue is, as it has been for the past couple of seasons, goals. The man signed last season to provide goals, Joelinton, has struggled on Tyneside due to factors both in and out of his control.
Despite a largely disappointing January transfer window, Newcastle’s recruitment was considered effective last summer, with the signing of Callum Wilson being the most important reinforcement we have made for a number of years. His goal involvements have been a key factor as to why Newcastle haven’t been cut adrift as yet. He has a combined total of 15 goals and assists in the Premier League this season, with this form leading to calls for him to be recalled to the England squad, at least before his injury against Southampton.
With Wilson due to be on the sidelines for some time, Newcastle need to find a formula for scoring goals, and fast.
In the most recent games, against Chelsea and Manchester United, both Dwight Gayle and Joelinton have been given a chance to take the place of Wilson, with little impact.
However, the strength of the opposition played a part in this, as the quality of both of their squads eclipse that of our own. Dwight Gayle was likely to have felt hard done by to be dropped, with Newcastle as a team looking bereft of ideas during their visit to Stamford Bridge.
The only other viable options seem to be Ryan Fraser and Andy Carroll. In using Fraser, what you gain in pace you lose in physicality and aerial presence and the opposite could be said for Carroll. Perhaps then, Bruce should, as most managers do, choose personnel based on the opposition.
It is clear that 4-3-1-2 is the formation Bruce wants to stick with, and Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin are the most dangerous players in this formation, when Wilson is not available. Almiron seems to be thriving in this formation and Saint-Maximin, whilst very erratic, can pose a threat to any defence. Having scored against Manchester United on Sunday, he will be hoping his performances are more consistent between now and the end of the season to help us beat the drop.
Bruce should therefore, alternate who plays on the right side of the three depending on the opponent. This surely would give Newcastle the best chance of accumulating enough points to escape our current predicament.
We must make do without our top goalscorer for now and pray that others take their chances and give us some hope.
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