Newcastle 2018: Mission accomplished
Because Swansea City and Southampton will play each other, it means it is mathematically impossible for BOTH clubs to catch Newcastle United in the table. Ergo, Newcastle United has officially avoided relegation. This is a take from the theoretical; practical application tells us Newcastle United was most likely safe following their 2-1 victory against Arsenal two weeks ago when they surpassed the hallowed “40 point” mark.
This realization also made it to the players, who fully deserve to be applauded for their efforts under Rafa Benitez’s direction. Unfortunately, when this happens, there tends to be a dip in form which may be the reason for back-to-back 1-0 defeats this past week. However, it is likely not the only reason for the end of Newcastle’s run, which had seen them win their previous four.
Too often too close
Newcastle has found themselves in 27 matches which ended in a goal difference of either +/-1 or even. When you have a club who find themselves in these sorts of matches, it isn’t far-fetched for a team to sometimes lose two of these in a row. For these matches, I’ll provide a brief review of the fixtures and make final mention to why players, managers, and management should still care about the season.
Everton: 1-0 Defeat Away
This result concluded an unfortunate two match series against Everton this season. The first match was during Newcastle’s torrid run of 1 point from 9 games, and in that match, they let in a soft goal, hit the post twice, and generally looked the better team.
Was this performance on par with the Arsenal performance from the prior week? Of course not. But suffice it to say it wasn’t a poor tactical evening from Newcastle from a defensive standpoint. If DeAndre Yedlin does not overplay a cross, Theo Walcott doesn’t score. And that was probably the only mistake on the afternoon.
Newcastle should feel hard-pressed to not come away with anything. Dwight Gayle seemed to earn a penalty which was waved away by referee by Bobby Madley. This came after the best chance for Newcastle to score, which saw Ayoze Perez fail to take advantage of a poor clearance by Everton ‘keeper Jordan Pickford by misplacing a pass to Islam Slimani. Slimani was both onside and alone on net.
West Brom: 1-0 Defeat Home
Newcastle, with the opportunity to officially bury West Brom, could not convert on the scoresheet as well as in the table, as they suffered their second consecutive loss. This match was the one which illustrated Newcastle as a club resigned with its current place most. Newcastle couldn’t complete a pass all afternoon, especially being undone by wayward balls designed to create momentum going forward.
The last few matches under Darren Moore’s leadership have been inspiring, and he has his squad believing they can somehow, improbably survive. A win from either Swansea City or Southampton in their aforementioned matchup would relegate West Brom. But crazier things have happened, right?
Furthermore, in this TV-money Premier League world, we’re going to see teams relegated with more Premier League talent than seen previously. Premier League vets fill this roster, and they’ll likely get picked off by surviving teams. If you’re a player like Jonny Evans or Ahmed Hegazi, there’s certainly time to increase your stock for a move regardless of West Brom’s finish.
What can Newcastle’s _____ look forward to in the final weeks?
Newcastle may be safe, but there’s a bunch which you can watch over the final 3 games. While finishing middle of the table would normally be ho-hum, every place Newcastle finishes will affect every level of the club.
If you are a Newcastle suit (management, owner, board), finishing higher in the table means you can command a higher fee from prospective buyers. Buyers famously backed out earlier in 2018 amid Newcastle’s plight into relegation, and safety and a mid-table finish means business dealings can resume.
If you’re manager Rafa Benitez, finishing higher in the table means more funds in the summer transfer market and full control over player scouting. If a new ownership group were to come in, his body of work, both currently and in the past, will play favorably into earning the same control. Even if Benitez were to leave Newcastle, he would likely leave for a club willing to give him exactly what he’s earned.
If you are a Newcastle squad player, you’ve heard all campaign about how pundits believe Newcastle is doomed due to lack in investment and talent. While they were able to prove the pundits wrong, that doesn’t mean anyone should be comfortable in their role. For one, Rafa won’t allow it. Secondly, Rafa has mentioned bringing in players to create competition in the squad.
Some players, such as Ayoze Perez and Paul Dummett, have come out and welcomed the challenge. The fact of the matter is Newcastle has plans, with Rafa Benitez, to compete for the final Europa League spot amongst the likes of Leicester City, Everton, and likely placeholders, Burnley. The fact is this squad is unlikely to compete with those squads without significant investment.
…Kenedy and company…?
Finally, if you are Kenedy, you are likely playing to find a place to play regularly next year. His performances with Newcastle have impressed, and teams from all over the continent have taken notice. Any performances which see him excel raise the transfer price, for Kenedy at Chelsea, should one exist.
No such intrigue exists for ‘keeper Martin Dubravka, who was on a loan-to-sign deal, and is likely to stay at Newcastle permanently. The same can be said for Islam Slimani. The odds of him earning a second, big-money Premier League move were always against him; he didn’t get into a game until last month and he’s 31. He would’ve needed sparkling performances for Newcastle to consider a transfer. While he has been an impact substitute, he hasn’t shown to be worth the money. A late season suspension, following an after-play knock on West Brom defender Craig Dawson, is likely to follow and end his Newcastle career.
The good news? Despite two losses the last week, Newcastle has not dropped their place in the table. A big match looms against Watford next week, and a loss could see us drop as far as 13th. Conversely, a win could see us even on points with Leicester, heading into final matches away at Tottenham and home against Chelsea. Despite our safety, it should be an exciting time, for all, at St. James’ Park. It will all be easier to digest, given our safety. So sit back, relax, and Howay the Lads!