Comment : Disturbing case of Newcastle United and the 50 pointers
Another season is fast approaching for Newcastle United, less than four weeks until the players report back for pre-season and start preparing for the challenge ahead.
For the other 19 Premier League clubs it will be a case of doing everything they can to progress in 2021/22, to try and build on what happened last season.
For Newcastle United fans though, it is Groundhog Day, again.
At least it will be whilst Mike Ashley is in charge.
Trying to survive in the Premier League for another season, whilst spending as little money as possible on the squad and certainly not a penny more spent on the infrastructure than Ashley is forced to allow.
The trouble with Mike Ashley and his ingenious master plan, is that it is becoming ever more flawed, even if you thought that were impossible.
The trouble with showing no ambition and simply trying to stand still / tread water and survive, is that you are actually getting weaker, because other clubs are building long-term, showing both short and long-term ambition. They don’t all always get it right but year on year more and more clubs are getting significantly stronger, usually on the back of investment both on and off the pitch.
These are the number of points that selected Premier League clubs have totalled in these past four season (2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21):
(100, 98, 81, 86) Man City
(81, 66, 66, 74) Man Utd
(75, 97, 99, 69) Liverpool
(47, 52, 62, 66) Leicester
(70, 72, 66, 67) Chelsea
(42, 52, 39, 65) West Ham
(77, 71, 59, 62) Tottenham
(63, 70, 56, 61) Arsenal
(49, 54, 49, 59) Everton
(N/A, N/A, N/A, 59) Leeds
(N/A, N/A, 35, 55) Aston Villa
(N/A, 57, 59, 45) Wolves
(44, 45, 44, 45) Newcastle United
The ‘Big Six’ might be taking an odd hit here and there in terms of not automatically ending up top six. However, one thing for sure is that they aren’t getting relegated. Not exactly headline news.
However, in recent times I think both Everton and Leicester have clearly joined those six, in terms of all but impossible for them to be relegated.
If you put a certain level of investment into the club and squad on a long-term basis, it is very difficult to get into trouble.
Look at their points totals these past four years – (47, 52, 62, 66) Leicester and (49, 54, 49, 59) Everton. Neither of them are getting relegated any time soon.
More disturbingly for Newcastle United, I think more clubs are working their way towards joining them.
(N/A, 57, 59, 45) Wolves seeing 45 points as enough reason to sack their manager despite never in any real danger of going down. Losing Jota to Liverpool and then Jimenez to serious injury were big blows as they suddenly didn’t have their best two players available last season, yet still they never looked in any danger of relegation. Investment had given them the base to go and get two seventh place finishes, they will keep on investing and trying to progress, with mid-table seen as failure.
Wolves promoted three years ago and now we have seen similar in the next two years, clubs with new owners coming up from the Championship and showing the ambition and willingness to invest that Mike Ashley refused to allow when Rafa’s Newcastle came up in 2017.
(N/A, N/A, 35, 55) Aston Villa and (N/A, N/A, N/A, 59) Leeds.
Villa had a season where everything pretty much went wrong that could do so in 2019/20 and getting some key signings wrong, they ended up only surviving on the final weekend of the season. However, their ambitious owners went again in summer 2020 in the transfer market, Jack Grealish is not showing any intention to leave the club he loves, particularly as now Villa are showing him they are committed to building, with the £33m signing of Buendia imminent.
Leeds United, only one season up but 59 points and some great football. They have a good manager, a clear strategy and owners who are making all the right noises of building year on year with more investment to come this summer and beyond.
Nothing is guaranteed but I think every chance now that these three can join Everton and Leicester, along with the ‘big six’, as eleven clubs that are looking to operate at a level where a bad season is finishing mid-table, instead of fighting relegation.
I was never the biggest fan of David Moyes’ football at Everton but he built an excellent consistency at Goodison where finishing top six / top eight was the norm. Now at (42, 52, 39, 65) West Ham he is looking set to do the same, getting the signings right and Moyes having saved them from their mistake in ditching him for Pellegrini, 52 points for West Ham in 2018/19 and 65 in 2020/21 suggests strongly that they are building their squad and club longer-term. Helped of course by the ridiculously generous arrangement they have when it comes to renting their stadium.
Add the Hammers and you have 12 Premier League clubs detailed above.
I think all of them now seeing 50 points as their minimum starting point for next season and going forward.
Then we have Newcastle United…
In Mike Ashley’s 14 seasons (so far), we have seen 12 Premier League campaigns, two years in the second tier, two relegations and numerous relegation fights of various levels of danger.
The 12 Premier League seasons have seen points totals in order starting with 2007/08 of 43, 34, 46, 65, 41, 49, 39, 37, 44, 45, 44, 45.
Only once in his 14 years of ownership has Mike Ashley overseen a points total of 50+ and his reaction to that was the exact opposite of showing ambition, instead, the NUFC owner refused to allow a single penny of net spend in summer 2012 to try and build on that breakthrough 65 points and fifth place, instead squad player Vurnon Anita was the only signing and that paid for by selling squad players such as Fraser Forster.
How depressing is it to see that whilst NUFC have seen only one 50+ points Premier League season under Mike Ashley, we have seen three points totals of under 40.
Before Ashley’s arrival the lowest Premier League points total had been 43 and only four times in fourteen seasons before 200708, had Newcastle failed to get 50+ points.
For younger fans knowing nothing other than Mike Ashley and yearly relegation battles, difficult for them to imagine that for the first half of our existence as a Premier League club, we didn’t spend each summer dreading the relegation fight ahead.
Indeed, just like say Leicester now, even mentioning relegation as a possibility would have been bizarre.
The growing problem is that whilst Mike Ashley is still here, he will continue to throw the dice each season, almost guaranteeing another relegation battle and one that could now well be involving less and less clubs.
As I detailed above, as well as the usual six, I think we now have at least another half dozen shaping up to be strong consistent, or better, 50+ points clubs.
That leaves Newcastle United as one of five clubs, along with Burnley, Southampton, Palace and Brighton, wondering / worrying / hoping what the three promoted clubs are going to be like.
If Mike Ashley makes it fifteen seasons of ownership, then I think it is all but guaranteed that the three relegated teams in 2021/22 will come from Watford, Brentford, Norwich, Southampton, Palace, Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle United.
Not great odds. Especially when this is every season, no desire or ambition to join that group of 50+ points aspiring PL clubs.
Three abysmal clubs at the bottom last season but a rarity for it to be that bad. As for the 12th place finish, a lot of camouflage thrown by beating two relegated clubs in the final two matches to move from 39 to 45 points, from what would have been 16th or 17th. Those two wins coming only thanks to Joe Willock (pictured above), a player who definitely won’t be at NUFC next season and who Mike Ashley will allow zero effort to be made in trying to sign him, despite the extraordinary scoring feats of late last season.
With Mike Ashley at the helm, a meagre target of 50 points isn’t even a distant dream, whereas fighting relegation is pretty much a guaranteed nightmare.
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