When will Newcastle United be able to compete with Liverpool? An update…
In the wake of last season’s home defeat to Liverpool, I wrote an article for the Mag posing the question, when will we compete with the likes of Liverpool?
In essence, the gist of my article was making the point that it will be more difficult to emulate Man City’s meteoric rise to stardom, one of the reasons being the way in which FFP will inhibit us in a way that didn’t hold Sheikh Mansour back.
In addition, I also argued that there is greater competition now than there was in 2008, our NUFC squad required a total revamp and as serial underachievers, winning a trophy could be more difficult than it has been for others.
I summed up by suggesting the need for patience, for the owners and the manager to be ultra-methodical and to chart a realistic path, which to me meant in the first instance targeting the League Cup or the FA Cup.
Nine months on, I’ve returned to the question I posed.
First of all, Liverpool beat us again at the beginning of this new season.
The fact that our latest acquisition, our most expensive signing, scored the opener and was denied a second because of a dubious VAR decision, tells you something about the summer transfer window. In addition to the £60m Alexander Isak, we also signed Sven Botman and Nick Pope, both of whom have been nothing short of fantastic. Since then, we have of course added Anthony Gordon and Harrison Ashby, with the likes of Shelvey and Wood moving on.
Moreover, we only lost that night at Anfield because the referee played 98 minutes of a match that was scheduled to last 95. Remarkably, that was the last (only) time we have lost in the league this season. It was in August. I’m writing this in February!
Despite them winning that six pointer, Liverpool are 11 points adrift of us in the league. Of the teams I mentioned as being our main competition, Chelsea, despite their obscene spending sprees are 10 points adrift (and we beat them at SJP), Spurs are four points behind us (and we beat them in north London) and we sit just two points below Man Utd. The only others above NUFC are Man City and perhaps surprisingly given the way we dismantled them at SJP, to deny them a Champions League berth at the end of last season.
By the way, neither of the Manchester clubs or Arsenal have managed to beat us either this season! That said, my view is that the competition is still there and it is still very strong. Chelsea and Liverpool won’t languish for long. Arsenal have been impressive, although I don’t think they’ll win the league. According to transfermkt.co.uk, the value of Chelsea and Man City’s squads are in excess of 1 billion Euros, more than twice the value of ours, and Liverpool’s is close to 1 billion euros.
What about FFP?
Our signings have been measured and getting rid of Shelvey and Wood looks like good business. We’ve also added Kuol and with the new management team off the pitch, things are also on the up. As above, the market value of our squad is in the order of 474m Euros, higher than everyone outside the so called ‘septic 6’ but unsurprisingly, our squad value falls well short when compared to that lot.
We’ve added Noon to the sleeves on the shirt, but ‘NoFun88’ as we called it under CAshley is still emblazoned across the chest and Castore seems like a poor man’s version of Adidas or Nike. In terms of progress, there’s been some, but we need to do much, much more on the commercial front in order to get ahead of FFP.
As for progress on the pitch?
One defeat all season, the meanest defence in the league, unbeaten at fortress St James and currently occupying a Champions League spot. What’s not to like?
However, that’s not all, we are off to Wembley on 26 February where we can finally get the monkey off our back by winning the League Cup. Our opponents won’t be easy to overcome but they are beatable and in the last two encounters with them, we didn’t lose and were unlucky not to win, although the Mancs will claim they should have taken all three points at Old Trafford earlier in the season; I don’t think Rashford will miss at Wembley if presented with a similar opportunity to the one he squandered in the dying embers of the goalless draw in October, given his recent form.
To sum up, we are well ahead of schedule and winning the League Cup is a must. So is keeping up the momentum in the league because the riches on offer from Champions League qualification will make a massive difference.
Can we do both?
My preference is to win some silverware – that’s a very personal view and one that I know divides opinion.
Let’s be greedy and strive for both.
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