Looking at our recent defeat at Man City, who currently are, in my opinion anyway, the toughest opposition in the league, I was impressed by the team as a whole.
What impresses me even more is that the fact that even if we fail to pick up any points in our next two fixtures against Manchester United and Chelsea, we would still have had a remarkable start to the season – far better than any Toon fan could have expected.
This has got me thinking about just where Newcastle will be standing in the league table when we reach the half way mark of the season. After some tough matches ahead, and a very congested fixture list around the December period, the true strength of the Premier League squads will start to show.
Our December fixture list looks as follows:
Man United (a), Chelsea (h), Norwich (a), Swansea (h), West Brom (h), Bolton (a), and Liverpool (a)
Assuming we only picked up a total of seven points from those fixtures, that would see us on a points tally of 32 points for the first half (19 games) of the season.
Nobody can then say we haven’t really been tested, because we would have played everyone in the league!
Now considering our target realistically should be to finish “the best of the rest”, (so in seventh), what would our competitors have to achieve in their fixtures to keep up the chase.
At the moment, our nearest rivals for that position are Aston Villa, who are currently 10 points adrift. So hypothetically, in order for them to be above us come January, they would need to accumulate 17 points from their seven fixtures, those include:
Swansea (a), Man United (h), Bolton (a), Liverpool (h), Arsenal (a), Stoke (a) and Chelsea (a)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t see them getting anywhere near 17 points from those fixtures. Perhaps nine points at best, which would still see them eight points adrift.
Next on the list of competitors is big spending QPR who no doubt will invest again in January. There next seven fixtures are:
Norwich (a), West Brom (h), Liverpool (a), Man United (a), Sunderland (h), Swansea (a), Arsenal (a)
Here I can see QPR picking up a maximum of 12 points. Again, I’m being generous, but even with that, they would still be five points adrift.
Next up is West Brom. They are a solid side, as most Roy Hodsgon sides are, but a side we really shouldn’t be too worried about. Regardless, their fixtures look like this:
Tottenham (h), QPR (a), Wigan (h), Blackburn (a), Newcastle (a), Man City (h), Everton (h)
Again generously, I’m going to say West Brom could probably pick up around nine points from these fixtures, leaving them remaining nine points behind us.
Looking at the rest of the teams below us, I just can’t see Swansea or Norwich becoming a threat, with small squads and little recent Premier League experience in their squad, I can only see them falling lower down the table.
Our only two remaining threats then come in the form of Everton and Stoke. I don’t see Sunderland at any stage making up a 14 point gap with their squad.
So lets look at Everton. Perennial late bloomers, they again have suffered a slow start, but history tells us, they should improve as the season goes on. Currently 12 points behind us, their next seven fixtures look like this:
Bolton (a), Stoke (h), Arsenal (a), Norwich (h), Swansea (h), Sunderland (a), West Brom (a)
Continuing the trend of generosity, I’m going to give Everton a maximum of 14 points from these fixtures, which would see them at best five points behind us.
Finally, our last genuine threat comes in the way of Stoke. Stoke were probably seen as the team to push up the table this year after some big spending, but as things stand, they are 13 points behind us, with their next seven fixtures being:
Blackburn (h), Everton (a), Tottenham (h), Wolves (a), Man City (a), Aston Villa (h), Wigan (h)
I’m going to go with them getting a maximum of 12 points from those games, which still leaves them a fair distance of right points behind my projected minimum points total at the half way point in the season for Newcastle.
I realise that might be a lot to take in and leave people a lot of working out to do so I guess the easiest way of showcasing it is to put it in a table showing just what the mini-league for the ‘best of the rest’ would look like given the results that I’ve afforded each team.
If we could pick up a few surprise results at big clubs and our competitors don’t fair as well as I’ve given them credit for, that table could very likely look even better.
Also with it being very likely that one of the top six clubs will be lifting the League and FA Cup competitions, then seventh place could well be good enough for an automatic Europa Cup place.
Where do you think we will be placed in the league as we head into 2012 and after the start we have made, what is your minimum expectation for Newcastle in the league this season?