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Opinion

Paul Merson gets it completely wrong about Newcastle United

4 weeks ago
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Paul Merson has been talking about Newcastle United yet again.

Speaking after NUFC reached 40 points and eleventh place in the table, following the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Ahead of playing Norwich City, Paul Merson getting it completely wrong about Newcastle United, not for the first time.

The former Middlesbrough player declaring that Newcastle United have now ‘got nothing to play for this season.’

The ‘simple’ (very apt) reasoning from Paul Merson, is that because now realistically there is no way Newcastle United will be relegated, the players will be easing off in these final five matches and already have one foot on the beach.

I honestly think that the reality is the complete opposite of this.

Indeed, I think we will see more effort / commitment in the final stages of this season from the Newcastle United players, than we have seen for many a year.

This football club is now showing clear signs that it is going places, after almost a decade and a half where ambition was seen as a very dirty word.

Whilst obviously there won’t be a complete clear out over the summer, I would say that only Bruno Guimaraes and Kieran Trippier (although there again, the way Emil Krafth has suddenly announced himself this past week…) are guaranteed to be first choice when the 2022/23 season kicks off. All the rest of the players are desperately looking to convince Eddie Howe they should be pencilled in as first choice for next season, or failing that, viewed by the Head Coach as a nailed on 2022/23 NUFC squad player.

Anybody just going through the motions will be putting themselves at serious risk. A run of nine wins in thirteen Premier League matches, six home victories in a row, only once in more than four months have Newcastle conceded more than one goal in a game…all of this built on total commitment and everybody pulling together as a team / unit.

I have really liked Eddie Howe’s approach, he comes across as a really nice bloke, just like Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson and Rafa Benitez before him. However, also like that trio, Howe has very much already shown his ruthless side.

Karl Darlow instantly dropped when responsible for two goals in Eddie Howe’s first match, captain Jamaal Lascelles left on the sidelines as the head coach has gone with a new central defensive partnership, Ciaran Clark dropped from the 25 man PL squad altogether after costly errors in games, the club’s record signing Bruno G having to wait some time for his chance in the first eleven, seemingly first choice players that get injured and miss one or more matches – no guarantee of getting straight back in…and so on.

There is no better driving force for football players than competition for places and the knowledge that their club is looking to be ambitious in the transfer market, to constantly try and raise the quality of the team and squad.

Which then brings me to another reason why I doubt Paul Merson, when he declares ‘This should be an entertaining football match.’

I suppose it depends what you mean by ‘entertaining’ really.

I have found these last half dozen matches at St James Park VERY entertaining BUT if I was a neutral watching these games, I’m not so sure that would have been the case. Bottom line is that winning football is entertaining football and that is what Eddie Howe has most definitely produced, in quite astonishing amounts, considering the shambles he inherited.

However, if you are talking about what you’d think of as ‘entertaining’ when watching as a neutral it is surely a different viewpoint. Yes, there have certainly been some parts of matches that have entertaining, as well as that point in each of these last six home games when the referee has blown the final whistle. The atmospheres have been very enjoyable / entertaining, the first half against Palace was very decent, NUFC have had their moments in every match, BUT much of the ‘entertainment’ / enjoyment has been in revelling in the fact that Eddie Howe has made the team such a tough defensive nut to crack. Finding a way to take the lead in games such as Wolves, Leicester and Palace, then seeing the opposition flounder as they throw themselves forlornly against the rock of a defence with Geordie Dan Burn at its heart.

Maybe Saturday will indeed be ‘entertaining’ but rather than the 2-2 draw predicted by Paul Merson, my idea of ‘entertaining’ and very possible to happen, is that Newcastle create some decent chances in the first half, take one of them, sit back and let Norwich forlornly attack and hope for an equaliser, with then potentially NUFC breaking away and getting a killer second. Before then playing out the remainder of the match sitting deep.

In any match anything can happen BUT reality is that Norwich have scored far less goals (22) than any other Premier League club and only Leeds have conceded more than the 66 the Canaries have leaked.

In comparison, in these past four months or more and 16 games (all competitions), only once have Newcastle conceded more than one goal, whilst keeping five clean sheets amongst them. Indeed, the last five hours of football have seen Newcastle concede only once, thanks to that clever Leicester corner routine. Then at the other end of the pitch, only in those two games against Chelsea and Everton have Newcastle failed to score in the last 15 PL matches.

In contrast, Norwich have lost 13 of their last 18 Premier League matches and it is only a question of when, not if, they go down.

So far in 2021/22, Norwich have won five of 32 games, against Brentford, Southampton, Everton, Watford and Burnley.

When relegated the last time in 2019/20 it was a very similar story, Norwich City won five of their 38 Premier League games – Newcastle United, Manchester City, Everton, Bournemouth and Leicester.

There will be no complacency from Eddie Howe and his Newcastle United players. I think there is every chance that this will lead to a fourth PL win in a row for NUFC, whether outsiders will describe it as ‘entertaining’ afterwards…not one Newcastle fan will care.

Paul Merson speaking to Sportskeeda:

“Norwich are a funny team.

“They played well against Burnley and they were impressive against Manchester United.

“They’ve got nothing to lose and the shackles are off.

“They’ll just go out there and play.

“Newcastle are safe now and they’ve got nothing to play for this season.

“I’d be shocked if this ended in a 0-0 but a draw is a definite possibility.

“This should be an entertaining football match.

“Prediction: Norwich City 2 Newcastle United 2.”

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