The season is only 6 games in, and as the old adage goes, the league only begins to take shape when we get closer to the 12-15 game mark. As the table currently stands, Newcastle United are sitting in 16th with 7 points, only 4 points of 5th place Chelsea. Nothing overly concerning right now. However, given that Newcastle United are playing Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs as part of their next 5 games, with a Tyne-Wear derby thrown in for good measure, Saturday’s away trip to Cardiff is looking very important indeed.
If United lose on Saturday, we could well find that we do not pick up many points in our next 5 games, which would see us approaching the league shaping 12th game with around the same number of points as we do now. If we do not at least double our points tally in the next 5 games, we will be sucked into an early relegation scrap, much like we did last season. The big question is, where are we going to pick up these points? At home to Liverpool? Away to Spurs? Or in the simple home fixture against Chelsea? I’m not even mentioning the derby because, while Sunderland have been pants this season, and I always back us to beat them, anything can happen in that game.
My next question goes out to the club as a whole. Where do you want us to finish this season? This may sound like a daft question but I am being serious. There has been conflicting news coming from the Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew when he has been quizzed about Newcastle’s goals for this season.
This is what he said back in August when asked what he was aiming for from this season,
“When you look at the teams now and the money that’s being spent, you have to be honest and say it’s going to be difficult replicating that fifth-place finish. But our ambition must be to try to do that,”
“Demba went to Chelsea, and that was a big blow for us last year. I think the fact that we never really replaced him got missed a little bit.
“We brought in (Yoan) Gouffran, but we weren’t really able to replace Demba like for like. If I can replace Demba into this team, I think this team is stronger than the one that finished fifth. But I think the task of finishing in the top five is more difficult for us because of the growth of some of the other clubs who were just below us.
“In particular, Liverpool and Spurs have spent a lot of money, and other clubs such as Swansea and Southampton have coordinated their financial strength really well.
“You look at a club like Southampton, and they’re in a much stronger financial position than us in terms of purchasing players. Even though my team might be slightly stronger on paper once we replace Demba – team and squad – it’ll be even more difficult to get fifth.”
“When you look at the teams now and the money that’s being spent, you have to be honest and say it’s going to be difficult replicating that fifth-place finish. But our ambition must be to try to do that,” – In clear, black and white, Pardew claims that his goal for this season would be to try to replicate our 5th place finish. He recognises that this would be very difficult, coupled with the latest analysis from Forbes that finishing 5th was a fluke on our part, it is nigh on impossible.
I think Newcastle United fans would like to see us regularly challenging top 6, however, we are pretty realistic in the sense that we know there are more competitive clubs out there with more resources than us. The top 4, with Liverpool and Spurs thrown in makes the top 6 pretty much locked in. However, I think most Newcastle United fans want to see us as the “best of the rest” knocking on the door of the top 6, and I think that would be a realistic and attainable target. Given the comments made by Pardew in August, it would appear that he would agree with that assessment too.
Pardew’s latest comments to the media, however, have thrown a spanner into the works though. No longer is he referencing finishing 5th as the target. In fact, he is not even referencing a semi-decent push on the top 6. He has revised his comments in a matter of months to something entirely less ambitious.
Here is what he had to say,
“I think we still have a chance of the top ten,” said Pardew.
“As a team we have shown inconsistencies, especially in our defending. Some of the goals we have conceded this year really are not good enough for us.
“The consistency of performance individually and as a unit – the back four – we will have to do some work and there will have to be some personnel changes in there.
“I thought Mike Williamson came on and we looked a lot stronger and he has given himself a great chance of featuring at Cardiff.”
“I think we still have a chance of the top ten,” – One summer window and 6 games is all it took for Pardew to go from challenging for 5th, to “having a chance” of finishing 10th. Why the sudden change of heart? Has he lost confidence in his abilities? I seriously doubt that, here’s a man who believes he can do no wrong and never takes responsibility for defeat. So what is it then? Why is the message so drastically and fundamentally different?
I’ll tell you why. Our owner has no intention in seeing us challenging in the Premier League, apparently we cannot even compete with the likes of Southampton, Swansea or Norwich any more when it comes to spending, so the inevitable outcome will be that these teams bring in better players, and overtake us in the league. What does it matter to Ashley though? So long as we are not relegated, he can still make an absolute fortune from Newcastle United.
Last season is one that Newcastle United fans never want to see repeated, however, it has become the blueprint that Ashley will follow to save some cash. Instead of buying Debuchy, Sissoko, Gouffran, Haidara and M’biwa in the summer window, at a cost of well over 30 million pounds, they decided to see how the season would play out without them. By January we were in relegation trouble so Ashley spent less than 20 million (not the 30 million that is being bandied about) and brought in these players who helped keep us up by the skin of our teeth. Premier League TV money secured, and Ashley is laughing all the way to the bank.
Rest assured, if we are in relegation trouble come January, expect 1 or 2 new faces to come in and give the impression that Ashley is doing all he can to “save our season” once more. Don’t be fooled people.
What do you think? Where is this club headed under the stewardship of Mike Ashley? Does he even know or care? Do you think there is a wider plan afoot that some of us are missing? I’d love to hear your views.