Reasons to be cheerful about NUFC this season despite Sunday’s defeat

When the fixtures were released for the 2017/18 season, our opening run of games looked pretty winnable. This handed us an opportunity to start well, but simultaneously piled the pressure on us to hit the ground running on our return to the Premier League.

Defeat at home to Spurs was anticipated on the opening day, but if someone had offered us three wins from our next five we’d have bitten their hand off – and that’s exactly what we’ve gone on and done.

Sunday’s defeat to Brighton was a sobering moment, but there’s still several reasons to be upbeat the season ahead of us:

It’s still our best start in years

With 9 points on the board after 6 games, this has still been our best start to a Premier League season since 2011/12 – the famous season where Ba, Ben Arfa, Cisse, Cabaye and Coloccini helped us to an incredible 5th place finish.

I’m not for a second suggesting this season will turn out similarly, but with 9 points on the board we’ve already got almost a quarter of the points needed to ‘secure’ Premier League safety, with the magic 40 points often being seen as the promise land for newly promoted clubs.



It’s frustrating that defeats have came against Huddersfield and Brighton – two fellow newly promoted clubs – but we should be buoyed by the fact we have out-fought and out-smarted established Premier League sides in wins West Ham, Swansea and Stoke. We might lack match winners and cutting edge in areas, but those wins were a real indicator that we have more than enough to compete in this league.

As The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas recently revealed, no team has EVER been relegated in the Premier League era after earning 9 points from their first give games. This tally is also more than any newly promoted club has racked up over the last decade in their opening five league matches.

Sunday’s defeat may have seen old doubts resurface, but these are pretty promising stats.

 

Rafa’s remained and he’s fully focused on football

The summer was another frustrating window for Newcastle fans and most importantly Rafa Benitez, but despite fears he would walk or be poached by a rival club, he has remained and sounds fully focused on football matters.

He has reiterated his desire to concentrate on events on the pitch, appearing committed to the cause, ready to go with what he’s got, develop his players to the best of his ability and keep us in the Premier League.

Our squad is limited, with the lack of quality signings leaving areas of our team looking a little worse for wear, but this frailty is compensated by having a world class manager like Rafa Benitez at the helm. His pragmatic style and tactical know how will make us difficult to play against and hard to beat.

I don’t anticipate a Rafa Benitez team being walked all over like Pardew and McClaren’s teams may have been in the past.

 

Some of our new signings look surprisingly good

You hope to see marquee signings and exciting talents come through the door when the summer window opens, and although fans were left underwhelmed by the majority of our six summer buys, a few of them are looking more and more like great pieces of business.

I knew next to nothing about Mikel Merino when he arrived on loan from Borussia Dortmund, but six games into his Newcastle career and I am already pretty certain we’ve picked up a gem of a player. It’s easy to get carried away too early, but everything about this kid tells me he’s a top talent. He plays with his head up, can pick a pass, carry the ball and doesn’t shirk a tackle or his defensive duties either. He plays with such elegance and, for a 21-year old, has shown real maturity both on and off the pitch.

The there’s Florian Lejeune. He’s not featured since the opening day of these season so it’s difficult to make an real judgements on him yet, but the early signs are very good. He showed his class over pre-season, looking like the ball playing centre-back who’d bring an air of calm and quality to the back line and also kept Harry Kane quiet during an assured first half display against Spurs on the opening day. It was disappointing to see him get injured after such a promising start to life at St. James’ Park for the Frenchman, but I look forward to seeing him back on the pitch, having high hopes for the £8.7m summer signing.

Christian Atsu was the first of our summer buys and, after a mixed season in the Championship, was a player several fans thought would struggle to cut it in the top flight. I don’t expect him to pull up too many trees, but he’s looked a player re-born at times this season. He was our most effective attacking player against Spurs on the opening day, caused Pablo Zabaleta all sorts of problems against West Ham – also laying on the assist for Joselu’s goal – and scored his first ever Premier League goal in the 2-1 win over Stoke last time out at St. James’. He is a confidence player, which is a concern, but with electric pace and the backing of Benitez to develop his game, he’s looking very good business at £6m and is repaying the faith Rafa has put in him.

The likes of Manquillo and Joselu were seen as Premier League outcasts who couldn’t cut it at Sunderland and Stoke respectively, but they’ve shown enough so far to suggest they can do ‘a job’ in the team. Manquillo has done a decent job in Yedlin’s absence and Joselu’s all round play has been promising, having led the line well more often than not. You have to hope he’ll start converting his chances sooner rather than later, however half the battle is having the chances in the first place. I’m hopeful things will click for him if he can just re-find some confidence in front of goal.

 

This team won’t fold likes others have in the past

Finally, I don’t see this Newcastle team letting their heads drop and hiding like we’ve seen previous sides do over the years.

As Benitez has recently alluded to, we have players who understand what it means to play for Newcastle United. Players who respect the badge and care about the club, willing to fight for the fans week in week out.

This has been evident at times this season too. We battled with 10 men and never stopped running against a classy Tottenham side, who eventually broke us down despite our efforts. We out-fought West Ham in every department, dug in at Swansea for a hard earned away win and responded to Shaqiri’s equaliser against Stoke, going on to win the game 2-1 when previous NUFC sides may have felt sorry for themselves after missing several chances to put them out of sight. Even at Brighton on Sunday we didn’t let our heads drop after going a goal down.

Admittedly our lack of quality let us down over the weekend and we were unable to get back into the game, but unlike previous seasons, I doubt we’ll be putting defeats down to a lack of effort or enthusiasm this season.

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Olly Hawkins

Born in Gateshead, Olly was a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

55 thoughts on “Reasons to be cheerful about NUFC this season despite Sunday’s defeat

  1. Eric Sykes:
    Ice: since you brought up kilts. Did you ever watch Carry on up the Kyber? Devils in Skirts! etc.

    Cannot stand carry on films more so B Winsor should be in the slammer with the crooks she hung about,now if I want a laugh you cannot beat Pink Panther

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  2. Rafa has made one or two canny signings with the money Jabba gave him,Sels is vey very poor did he sign him on someone’s advice as would he have signed him if he watched himself,now the little I’ve seen of Murphy at 12mil Ime a little worried if he can make the PL standard but let’s see if Rafa can improve him

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  3. Mackems get beat 5-2. That is 6 losses in their last 7 games. What did they spend that money on in the PL. I know Grayson wasn’t given much but Moyes was given a bit and so was Big Fat Sam.

    Can Grayson survive?

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  4. Stuart79:
    It is still my view we will be in a relegation battle if we’re relying on Joselu to score.

    We have our 2 bogey teams next up. Hopefully we can get at least a point as I can see the mood turning sour again. At least Rafa doesn’t make silly excuses. Remember the Schteve shtick – judge me after 10 games, no, it will take until Christmas, but wait, judge us after a full season.

    I am not going to go full on Uncle Ed love fest about Rafa but it is refreshing to hear honesty from an NUFC manager. Schteve’s press conferences were a joke, Ugly John’s were cringeworthy and Arrogant Alan’s were, arrogant – take all the credit after a win and pass the buck and blame the players after a loss.

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  5. Do you think Pards would take the Mackem job? He would keep them up. He has a pattern of the players buying in to begin with but then it all turns to sh!t after a while. It might be funny just to watch the Mackem fans get over-excited and then wait for the inevitable to happen.

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  6. Kimtoon: Does your derg bite?

    I watched the 2nd Steve Martin Clouseau movie the other night. I was surprised by the first one as I thought it would be impossible to follow Peter Sellers but it wasn’t that bad. The second one was bad, with a few decent scenes, but mainly bad. Like watching Kenneth Branagh do Shakespeare. Just trying a little bit too hard and not quite getting it right. A bit too close to a parody to be good.

    Olly: is there an opening for a movie critic on the site as me, Ice and Kimtoon would like to apply?

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  7. I also reserve the right to call myself DeAndre-who-are-you-calling-a-puff- Entracht Frankfurter – PoodleTits – Yedlin.

    The ladies sewing on the names on shirts nowadays have got carpel tunnel with all of these hyphenated names

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  8. You see, a lot of the athletes in America are called names with “Le” or “De” in front of another name, LeBron, DeAndre, DeMarcus. I assume the parents think it makes them sound like they are from France. Just call them Guy Gadbois, or Jacques Clouseau, or Petit Dejeuner.

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  9. Yes, that’s what we should have named young DeAndre. Petit Dejeuner Yedlin! But, just because the Scouser’s are coming into town we will call him Brecky Yedlin for the day.

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  10. What are the odds that it will be Jamie Redknapp, Stevie G, Michael Owen, Phil Tommo Thompson, Jamie Carragher, Lawro, Sourness, Steve Mcmanamanaman, Stan Boardman, Ken Dodd and the ghost of Bill Shankley having a panel discussion on the game on Sunday? And Peytar might join them if he is sober enough.

    I know some of them have a connection to NUFC but they still don’t like us.

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  11. I see ERIC mate Rooney said he was very sad at Freddys passing,I would have signed for the toon if m/u hadn’t come in for him,plus he would do anything to get away from Moyes and only Moyes wanted credit for the club finishing 7th

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  12. Icedog:
    I see ERIC mate Rooney said he was very sad at Freddys passing,I would have signed for the toon if m/u hadn’t come in for him,plus he would do anything to get away from Moyes and only Moyes wanted credit for the club finishing 7th

    It is Guy Gadbois now! Rooney was very good for about 10 years and would have been a good buy for NUFC. Probably. Not sure if we could have taken all of the publicity though and there are a few slappers that should have been worried.

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  13. I hear a small whisper there has been a little more talk of toon sale,Rafa is starting to say he’s looking long term to keep things calm,I do hope it’s right talk is cheap like

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  14. Over the last year or two the Saudi Arabian government have been diversifying their investments so as not to rely on oil. They’re also about to float their oil company Saudi Aramco. They’re also trying to improve their image. What better way to do that than to buy a high profile football club in the highest profile league in the world…

    Just a thought.

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  15. Stuart79:
    Over the last year or two the Saudi Arabian government have been diversifying their investments so as not to rely on oil. They’re also about to float their oil company Saudi Aramco. They’re also trying to improve their image. What better way to do that than to buy a high profile football club in the highest profile league in the world…

    Just a thought.

    And just this week they said they will let women drive!!!!!

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  16. Icedog: Frankie Howerd was in some of those Carry On movies. They couldn’t be all that bad. Oh err, missus. Frankie was a one off. Like Tommy Cooper. We will never see the like again.

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  17. Guy Gadbois:
    Icedog: Frankie Howerd was in some of those Carry On movies. They couldn’t be all that bad. Oh err, missus. Frankie was a one off. Like Tommy Cooper. We will never see the like again.

    Tommy Cooper I like a lot,Howard I cannot stand,a bully and a creep,Steve Martain is a very poor excuse for pink panther don’t rate as a actor, Peter Sellers was the King of many movies,I blame that Brit Ecland (spelling) for giving him a bad heart locking him their bedroom for two weeks after their marriage lol

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  18. Stuart79: More fool them!

    You might get some grief on that one! They still allow public whippings for drinking the wrong sort of coffee, Necafe, not Starbucks – 18 lashes for you! I think they are not very forward thinking on the Gays either.

    And they did fly planes into the World Trade Centre.

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  19. Guy Gadbois:
    And they wear those stupid white robes when trousers and shorts were invented at least 1,000 years ago.

    It would be just so much easier to get on a camel with trousers, don’t you know. With those white robes you would be flashing your bollocks getting on and off.

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  20. Guy Gadbois: You might get some grief on that one! They still allow public whippings for drinking the wrong sort of coffee, Necafe, not Starbucks – 18 lashes for you! I think they are not very forward thinking on the Gays either.

    And they did fly planes into the World Trade Centre.

    Oh I am sure there’d be many who would object due to their nonsensical religious beliefs.

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  21. Seriously though Stuart. I would be a bit conflicted if the Saudis bought NUFC. It is like dancing with the Devil, although I don’t believe in the Devil.

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  22. Eric Sykes:
    Kimtoon: Does your derg bite?

    I watched the 2nd Steve Martin Clouseau movie the other night. I was surprised by the first one as I thought it would be impossible to follow Peter Sellers but it wasn’t that bad. The second one was bad, with a few decent scenes, but mainly bad. Like watching Kenneth Branagh do Shakespeare. Just trying a little bit too hard and not quite getting it right. A bit too close to a parody to be good.

    Olly: is there an opening for a movie critic on the site as me, Ice and Kimtoon would like to apply?

    haha, not unless they bring a ‘goal 2’ out with Santiago Munez:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4slq3RYc0TI

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