Newcastle: A Lucky Run Of Form Or Are We Finally Contenders Again?
According to football folklore, by the time we’ve reached this busy Christmas period we’re supposed to know where we stand regarding the possible runners and riders for the season. By now we are supposed to have seen enough to know who the realistic challengers are, and by the same token, who are the pretenders. This season however is proving to be unlike many others before and is so far one of the most surprising and unpredictable in recent memory.
So just what do we know so far? Well, we know City are a real force if they can just sort out their away form, we know Chelsea aren’t quite as good as they were during Jose’s first spell, and that Liverpool and Arsenal are much improved yet questions still remain over their longevity. We also know that Everton and Southampton have surpassed all expectations and are certainly not scared to mix it with the big boys, and we know that Spurs and Man Utd have been well under par so far but are not to be written off just yet.
But what about the team sitting in sixth place? For some reason no one is really talking about them. With thirty points already on the board going into Christmas, the question now is, should they be talking about Newcastle United??
Seventeen games in and Newcastle are staggeringly, just six points off top!
Such has been the surprise at Newcastle’s form this season that no really seems to be taking their form seriously. The general consensus of the media and the experts alike seems to be that Newcastle are just on a decent runs of games and will inevitably soon fall away.
Who knows, this may well be true.
However, dig a little deeper and it might just be that this Newcastle side has more credibility than many currently believe. In the last couple of months Newcastle have not only beaten teams below them in the league, they have beaten Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and have even taken a point against league leaders Liverpool with only 10 men.
The manager, who many were calling to be dismissed earlier in the campaign, has pretty much been tactically spot-on this term. His team is now a settled unit with each player fully grasping their role and fulfilling their duty within the side to the absolute maximum of their ability.
It should also not be forgotten that it was only two years ago that this side finished fifth in Premier League. With a few notable exceptions, this is still more or less the same team that completely upset the odds in 2012; finishing ahead of Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool.
This success proved to be a double-edged sword for Newcastle as the Europa League was the main contributing factor in Newcastle’s poor showing last season. The commitments of a taxing European campaign that continued deep into April pretty much destroyed Newcastle’s league form. A squad that was shamefully under prepared for the long, hard season ahead was stretched to its absolute limit as Newcastle teetered on the verge of The Championship.
With confidence and form now fully reinstalled back into the squad this season, could it be that the real Newcastle United have now returned to the fold?!?
As ever with Newcastle, it’s not a good idea for us fans to get too far ahead of ourselves; it’s never long until the next self-inflicted crisis rears its head at St James’ Park. January is around the corner and this will be the month that potentially makes or breaks our season – both on and off the pitch.
Whilst there is talk from the manager of potential new signings in the window, many of us are not naïve enough to believe that any one of our better players will not be sold in January. Yohan Cabaye is probably our best player and it is he that makes us tick. He very nearly went in the summer and if he departs in January then the impact of his loss could potentially throw us off course.
On the pitch in January, we have three tough away games against teams at the bottom; with Man City’s visit to St James’ our one solitary home game. If we can come through these games with the sort of performances we have been showing of late, and if we can keep hold of our best players, then there is real hope going into the second half of the season.
So as we progress through this busy festive period that so often separates the wheat from the chaff, it seems we might just have to wait a little while longer before we know if Newcastle are to be taken seriously or not.
However, given the openness of this current season and the way the club have been performing this term, it seems that if ever Newcastle had an opportunity to once again gatecrash the big boys at the top of the league, this season is it - question is, will they take it?