Paul Merson believes Newcastle United are now “safe” from relegation following our 3-2 victory against Southampton – also picking out Arsenal loanee Joe Willock for special praise after watching Saturday’s big win.
As things stand, we are currently 10 points clear of the dreaded drop zone but have two tricky trips to Chelsea and Manchester United up next, with Fulham having a game in hand and Everton and Burnley to come over the next week.
That said, the Sky pundit believes we have shown more than enough going forward to protect our Premier League status for another season – and hopes we continue with this attacking style of play after we get tough away days at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford out of the way.
Here is what he said on Gillette Soccer Saturday following our win, praising Willock for his all action display on debut and our sudden change of style:
“Willock had a good debut.
“He scored his goal, worked very hard and when they went down to 10 and nine men he kept the ball well, he bought time and got a couple of free-kicks.
“That is perfect and then when you have Almiron with pace and Saint-Maximin with pace, they are direct and they have a go.
“With Willock and then Wilson up front there are goals there. They played really well and then they had to defend.
“When it went to nine men, they had the whole nine of them within 25 yards of their goal and that is hard to break down.“
He also picked out Dummett for praise following his rock solid cameo and hopes to see us kick on from this and continue with the front-foot football:
“Paul Dummett came on and headed everything away and it was a massive three points for Newcastle.
“It’s a huge three points.
“You hope now that once they get these two games out of the way (away at Chelsea and Manchester United) they can go and play entertaining football for the fans because I personally think they are safe now.”
While things don’t look as precarious as they did a fortnight ago, the landscape in football changes pretty quickly and another bad run could land us back into bother if we aren’t careful. After all, things will be close again if we lose our next two (which is very likely) and Fulham pick up a few points in the mean time (which is also very possible).
We have looked a lot more productive going forward and that is a huge positive for us. The days of being negative and inviting teams onto us – no matter who they are – appear to be over and the last four or five games have actually been enjoyable to watch, for a change.
Despite agreeing with Merson that we won’t get relegated, I wouldn’t jump the gun and confirm us as “safe” just yet – especially after the latest set of injury blows could keep our star striker, best right-back and only ball playing defender out for the foreseeable future.