We knew this season would be tight and the lack of investment in the winter didn’t give Rafa the tools to pull us clear of the relegation dogfight. Dropping points at Bournemouth was a big blow but I still think we will stay up, after all we are better off than we were in 2015/6. Here are some things that may help if you are panicking about our plight…
Rafa can get us over the line
It’s been said a million times, but he’s the manager you’d want in these situations. He’ll keep the players calm and you back him to pull off the big results when the going gets tough. It is worth noting in 2018 we have only lost to the top two teams in Man City and Liverpool as well.
We also finished strongly in 2015/6 but he arrived too late to turn the sinking ship around and this season already we have dug out results when we really needed. A few spring to mind, such as West Ham home and away, Stoke away and Man.Utd at home, where just when it was getting bleak Rafa has helped us get key wins to keep our heads above water. Let’s hope we do it again on Saturday.
We don’t lack fight
We lack quality but certainly not work rate and desire. This is an essential ingredient and something some of our rivals don’t have. We’re up for the battle and like Man Utd at home, I can see us being right at it at St James’ Park between now and the end of the season. The likes of West Ham and Southampton don’t look like they’ve got the same levels of desire when I’ve watched them recently and West Brom seem to have checked out already.
Strong base and Slimani to come
We look strong at the back and our attacking threat will improve – Lejeune and Lascelles look like a strong partnership, Dummett has been so reliable on his return and Dubravka has added some calm and class to the GK spot. We look very well set here, but we’ll be set for a boost in attacking areas soon too.
Slimani will give us what we’ve lacked all season when he’s eventually fit (Huddersfield 31st March penciled in) and his style may also suit a resurgent Ritchie who’ll thrive on putting balls into the box for him. Dwight Gayle has also got back in amongst the goals recently.
Tough run in – but in our hands
It’s a tough run in but I see several opportunities to get 3 points – Southampton, Huddersfield, WBA at home and Watford and Everton away are all big chances – especially when the latter two may be guaranteed safety and on their holidays when we play them.
I also think Arsenal and Chelsea at home are big chances for 3 points. Both look woefully out of sorts and they’re due to be played late on in the season – it’ll be huge for us but their players may well have one eye on the world cup so may shirk any big tackles we’ll be sure to put in. Brighton showed last time out Arsenal are having a very poor season for their standards.
There are worse teams than us
Teams around us are in worse positions than us – I look at Stoke and think they could be joining WBA in going down. They’re 2 points behind us (make that 3 with bad GD) and Man city, arsenal and spurs to play in 3 of their next 4 – if we beat Southampton on Saturday we could effectively go 6 pts clear of them. West Ham looked very poor at Swansea and seem on the slide. I still also think Huddersfield will be in real danger come May.
Let’s also not forget Crystal Palace – last night’s defeat to Man Utd from 2-0 up is a huge blow. They also have Chelsea and Liverpool in 2 of their next 3. If we can extend our lead over Southampton on Saturday then we may just be able to open up a gap.
It’s always a big if with it being Newcastle, but it’s a huge opportunity for us. They key is that 17th is all we need to do and we continue to keep out the relegation place, even if it is only just.
Are you feeling confident?