After the huge win over Manchester United last weekend, there is finally a feel good factor on the pitch. Even though we are still just two points above the drop zone and in the thick of it still, the win on Sunday felt like more than just three points and we have the momentum to stay clear of trouble.
Here are five reasons why I believe we will beat the drop…
1.New signings adding much needed quality – and the best one’s still to come
Three players arrived in January and although they were all loans as Ashley scrimped again, they have already made an impact.
Kenedy has slotted in on the wing nicely and looks a cut above our other options there and we now know all about the dream debut for Dubravka. It’s early days for him, but he showed confidence (which is crucial) and several positive attributes as a new goalkeeper in the Premier League.
Slimani has yet to feature but looks set to be involved against Bournemouth. After already playing in the Premier League with Leicester, he will require less time to settle and add a much needed cutting edge and quality to our play up top. He’s a £29m striker we’ve got until the end of the season, so I’m fully expecting him to give us a real boost in attacking areas if he stays fit.
Better later than never but the impact they have already makes it all the more frustrating NUFC didn’t do business earlier in the January window.
2. This bunch have the character and fight required
What we lack in quality we certainly make up for with attitude, work rate and commitment. 4 points against Man Utd and Palace is an excellent return and conceding just once over the last two games was helped by players throwing their bodies on the line and being determined to get something from the game.
The attitude of the likes of Dummett, Lascelles, Ritchie and even Diame has optimised the good character of the squad. Despite limitations on the ball, you can’t question their application. This squad is a far cry of the spineless squad of internationals that was relegated last time and the new signing seem to be on board with this too. Slimani is certainly a player who’ll put himself about.
3. Benitez’s experience will give us the edge
Jamie Carragher mentioned this on Monday Night Football that he thinks Newcastle will stay up simply as they have Benitez. His argument was that he was a big game manager with world class pedigree and is a coach who is capable of pulling off a result in a one off game that could make all the difference. The win last weekend was a case in point on this; you would back Rafa to get us the points to get us over the line.
Even in the short time-frame he was in charge of in 2016, he pulled off some great wins which nearly stopped the rot and kept us up. With some relegation six pointers coming up at SJP, expect Rafa to help us get the 10 points we likely need.
When the going gets tough, I feel we couldn’t be in safer hands – and that will rub off on the players and give them real confidence and a sense of calm.
4. Players coming to form at the right time
As mentioned, we have some new signings who have hit the ground running and with Slimani to also come into the side. But we have some of the old guard who are peaking at just the right time. The stats of our win rate with Dummett/Lascelles vs. when they are absent is quite staggering really and they have certainly played their part recently.
Diame looks a new player after an incredible rise to form over the past 6 weeks and Shelvey arguably put his best display in a Newcastle shirt in last time out. Lejeune is finally fit and looks a class act alongside Lascelles at the heart of our defence and hopefully Dubravka can continue his debut and be the calming keeper we need. A special mention must go to Matt Ritchie as well, after being dropped and losing form, bounced back to win us the game and hopefully can get a few more crucial goals come the end of May.
5. Relegation rivals struggling
It is worth remembering that we just need to come 17th or higher this season and above just three teams. We have some good momentum at the moment and some of the other sides have plenty of reason to worry too.
Stoke are struggling and will find it hard to bounce back from that crucial penalty miss against Brighton. Despite winning last weekend, Huddersfield have dropped like a stone and will be in the thick of it, and despite signings West Brom are now 8 points adrift. The law of averages will dictate that Swansea’s outstanding form will also have to come to a halt at some stage. Southampton are another side who lack confidence and any sort of fight under Pellergrino, so I’d be quite worried if I was a Saints fan right now
There’s still 33 points to be won and several season defining games left to play in the run in, but things are looking up for NUFC.
How do you think we’ll fare between now and the end of the season and which three sides are you backing to do down?