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Opinion

A timely wake up call for Steve Bruce and Newcastle United as Premier League kicks off

4 weeks ago
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The opening weekend of the Premier League season back in front of stadiums allowed capacity crowds.

Only eight games played so far but already so much to talk about.

No doubts of course, if there were ever any, of the importance of fans at matches.

For Newcastle United of course, a refusal by Mike Ashley to allow any signings to be made in good time for the new season, means that later today NUFC line up against West Ham reliant on the same players who were at the club a year ago.

The signing of Joe Willock is of course a massive relief, even though not signed in time to be involved today. However, it is worth pointing out that even with Willock’s belated arrival, Newcastle United still have a weaker squad than the one that ended the 2020/21 season. A desperate need for more signings before the window closes in 16 days time.

With sadly Newcastle United eyes still forced to look towards the wrong end of the table, these were the best (highest) odds you could get ahead of the season on relegation for the likely candidates, from various bookies:

1/1 Watford

1/1 Norwich

5/4 Brentford

7/4 Crystal Palace

5/2 Burnley

3/1 Newcastle United

7/2 Southampton

5/1 Wolves

8/1 Brighton

10 Aston Villa

12/1 West Ham

12/1 Leeds

25/1 Everton

As you can see, Newcastle United were / are sixth favourites to go down according to the bookies, a one in four (3/1) shot to be relegated.

This is how the opening Premier League weekend has played out so far:

Friday 13 August 

Brentford 2 Arsenal 0

Saturday 14 August

Man Utd 5 Leeds 1

Burnley 1 Brighton 2

Chelsea 3 Crystal Palace 0

Everton 3 Southampton 1

Leicester 1 Wolves 0

Watford 3 Aston Villa 2

Norwich 0 Liverpool 3

Sunday 15 August

Newcastle v West Ham (2pm)

Tottenham v Man City (4.30pm)

The 2020/21 Premier League season saw a particularly feeble effort at the very bottom end, with 29 points enough to keep the other 17 clubs in the top tier, as Fulham ended on 28 points, with West Brom 26 points and Sheffield United 23 points.

However, if Newcastle United were in danger of being complacent this time and expecting another (in the end) easy survival ride due to the failings of others, maybe time to think again.

With ‘smaller’ clubs Brentford, Norwich and Watford promoted and filling the three pre-season most likely relegation spots for the bookies, it did give a bit of comfort for those worried about Ashley’s unwillingness to allow proper investment in the squad this summer.

However, the Brentford deserved victory over Arsenal and Watford’s 3-2 win over Villa, have definitely given food for thought. Before the season kicked off, I definitely thought Brentford had a great chance of staying up and Friday night did that thinking no harm. Personally, my feeling is they will stay up and at least one relegation spot will be open for the rest.

As for Watford, I thought they’d struggle but their mix of youth and experience produced goals and the win against a Villa side that has once again seen plenty of money spent on it, the Grealish fee reinvested and seemingly more incoming signings to come.

Palace and Norwich predictably lost to contenders Chelsea and Liverpool, Wolves lost 1-0 at Leicester but rumours of them falling off a cliff maybe a bit premature, as they gave the Foxes a tough match and actually had 17 shots to the home side’s 9.

Southampton another club where black clouds have gathered as players have left and question marks over incoming signings. However, Adam Armstrong game them a 22nd minute lead at Goodison and whilst Everton equalised on 47 minutes, it took until the later stages for the home side to get the win. Rafa Benitez overseeing the first time in six years that Everton have won in the Premier League after trailing at half-time. The Saints though giving them a match and giving them hope for the season ahead.

I don’t see Brighton having any kind of relegation battle and their 2-1 comeback win at Burnley backs that up. As for Burnley, they were competitive in a close game and you always feel that on enough days, each season, they will turn up and their formula will win enough matches to stay up

For Newcastle United of course, the best way to banish any nerves is to get points and a win on the board today. Here’s hoping that the lack of timely investment in the squad doesn’t impact on the performance and result against West Ham today.

Although hopefully, if things do go badly at St James Park this afternoon, it then pushes Mike Ashley into allowing at least another couple of signings to be made for a squad that still lacks quality / depth in a number of areas.

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