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Opinion

Newcastle United and the race for Premier League top five

3 weeks ago
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Finish Premier League top five this season and Champions League football will be very likely next season.

From the 2024/25 season the Champions League format changes with an increased number of clubs and each one playing a guaranteed eight instead of six matches, to decide who reaches the knockout stages.

Two of the extra four places will go to the countries / leagues whose clubs have collectively performed the best the previous season in the three European competitions.

In five of the last six seasons, that would have meant the Premier League / England having had a fifth club qualifying for the Champions League through domestic league position. So for example, Liverpool would have been in the 2023/24 Champions League and not Europa League.

So what about this current season and the race for Premier League top five and in particular, fifth position.

Could Newcastle United still potentially have a late surge and grab that fifth place, which very likely will give Champions League football?

This is how the Premier League table looks on Sunday before today’s fixtures (2pm West Ham v Arsenal, 4.30pm Villa v Man U):

As you can see, Newcastle United currently seventh after that win at Forest and having picked up seven points in their last three matches. Eddie Howe’s team currently 10 points off the Premier League top five, although that would change to 11 points if Villa beat Man U today.

How many points is it likely to need to get fifth place?

These are the last 12 seasons, going back as far as 2011/12 when Newcastle United finished fifth under Alan Pardew, showing how many points the fifth place club got each season:

67 (2022/23)

69 (2021/22)

66 (2020/21)

62 (2019/20)

70 (2018/19)

70 (2017/18)

75 (2016/17)

66 (2015/16)

64 (2014/15)

72 (2013/14)

72 (2012/13)

65 (2011/12)

As I see it, nobody outside the current top five will end up in the top four at the end of the season.

However, I think there is a chance for certain clubs outside the current top five, to grab that fifth place, potentially.

Newcastle United got 30 points in their last 14 PL games last season, which gave them 71 points as their final total.

Starting now five points back from that position after 24 games, this season Newcastle would end up on 66 points, if picking up 30 points in their last 14 PL games.

Would that be enough for fifth this season? Three of the last four seasons have seen 67 points or lower having been enough, so if NUFC could get any extra points compared to last season, we could be in business I reckon.

Going back more than four seasons, you find a seven year run where in five of the seven years the fifth place club had 70 or more points. However, that was back when year after year we were pretty much seeing the same self-appointed elite group of clubs absolutely dominating and pulling well clear of the rest in those top five places.

Beyond doubt, I think that has changed and we are having greater competition from other clubs, only maybe Man City the one you automatically think will be towards the very top.

These past three games have seen Newcastle United pick up seven points at an average of 2.33 points per game, a very small sample but that average if continued for the rest of the season would give Eddie Howe’s side 32 more points to end on 68, which I feel would very likely be enough for Premier League top five.

Looking at the remaining 14 NUFC fixtures, is that feasible?

Well the top five in the Premier League, Newcastle have already played eight of their ten fixtures against them.

The remaining 14 games see a split for Eddie Howe’s side of eight against clubs in the bottom half of the league table currently and six against top half clubs.

Those six against top half teams are Arsenal and Man U away, with Wolves, Brighton, Spurs and West Ham at St James’ Park.

I look towards the final six fixtures of Newcastle’s season and just wonder.

If say these next eight matches, Newcastle could close the gap from the current 11 points behind Spurs to say six, we are then due to play them in the sixth last match of the season, which would mean in that scenario going to only three points behind Tottenham with five games remaining.

The run in to Newcastle’s season looks a lot kinder on paper than in previous years, as after Man U away in the fifth last match, Newcastle then have Sheff Utd home, Burnley away, Brighton home and Brentford away. I have a feeling that by the point of playing these four clubs, the first two will very likely have been already relegated and the last two having nothing to play for.

All this is of course daydreaming BUT if Newcastle can win against Bournemouth next Saturday and then repeat the point at Arsenal that they got last season. What could then be possible, especially if we can also have the likes of Isak, Anderson and Willock back available, plus potentially Pope as well sometime in March as media reports have suggested.

At the moment, the bookies have Newcastle United around 7/4 to finish top six and 20/1 to finish top four. They don’t tend to offer odds on top five but my guess is that if you did ask them, they would make it around an 8/1 chance currently.

A few positive rounds of Premier League matches for Newcastle United (and those of other clubs favouring us), then those odds could radically change in a very short period of time.

It was at this point last season, with 14 PL games remaining, that Eddie Howe’s side then won eight of their next nine Premier League games. That would be the stuff of dreams if Newcastle United could repeat it this season…

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