Six points from safety with just six games to go, Newcastle United look set to suffer their second relegation in the last seven years. How did it go so wrong for the Magpies?
Rewind a couple of months and things seemed to finally be looking up for the long-suffering of Newcastle United. Having escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the season, owner Mike Ashley openly stated his ambition to win things with Newcastle much to the amazement of Magpie fans. The limited ambition of merely surviving in the Premier League over the last few years was to be a thing of the past and Newcastle United could look forward to a bigger and brighter future.
Fast forward to today as the Premier League season nears its conclusion, and to say that Newcastle United have failed to perform would be a gross understatement. With games against Manchester City, Liverpool, as well as Spurs on the last day of the season still to come, a repeat of last year’s escape is unlikely.
When the dust eventually settles, three main factors stand out as why Newcastle United are in such a mess.
Squandered transfer fees
To be fair to the largely unpopular Mike Ashley, he was true to his word as Newcastle United opened up their cheque book this season after years of being tight-fisted. A combined total of close to £80M pounds was spent on a number of players as Newcastle looked to relive the glory days.
During the summer, in came former PSV captain and Dutch international Georginio Wijnaldum, feisty Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, promising French winger Florian Thauvin as well as Congolese defender Chancel Mbemba to improve the squad. The January transfer window saw Swansea’s Jonjo Shelvey and Spurs Adros Townsend join up, together with Henri Saivet from Bourdeaux and Seydou Doumbia on loan from Roma as Newcastle splashed the cash in a desperate bid to stave off relegation.
Wijnaldum aside, whose nine goals and five assists represent a decent output for a player adapting to the Premier League while playing for a struggling side, every other player signed has flattered to deceive this season. Mitrovic, who began the season picking up more cards than goals, has only just started to show his value in the last few games. Both Mbemba and Thauvin have looked woefully out of their depth and the only thing worth mentioning about the pair was that they somehow thought it was a good idea to arrive to matches in tuxedos. Despite their Premier League experience, both Shelvey and Townsend have contributed little to the side while Saviet and Doumbia have barely even featured.
With a net spend higher than everyone bar Manchester City this season, Newcastle United have truly wasted several pots of gold.
An abysmal away record
14 defeats from 17 away from home makes for truly horrific reading as not even rock bottom Aston Villa have played as poorly as the Magpies have on the road. In their 17 games, Newcastle have managed a meagre ten goal while conceding a whopping 39.
On top of a 6-1 defeat to Manchester City back in October where Aguero managed 5 goals, Newcastle have also been demolished 5-1 by Crystal Palace and Chelsea in a season where their travelling fans have had little to cheer about.
With such demoralizing capitulations a regular affair whenever Newcastle travel away from Saint James’ Park, it is little surprise that no one seems able to bail water out of their sinking ship.
A lack of character from the players
By far the most damning charge levelled against the Newcastle players is that they consistently display a downright lack the passion, effort and character. With a team packed full of seasoned internationals like Daryl Janmaat, Fabricio Coloccini, Moussa Sissoko, Cheick Tiote and Pappis Cisse should not be mired in a relegation dogfight season after season.
Some fans even pointed fingers suggesting that players only performed against the bigger teams because they knew that there was a far larger audience tuning in. In spite of over 50,000 fans at Saint James’ Park cheering them on week in and week out, many players merely see Newcastle United as a shop window for them to make a move to a bigger club like how Yohan Cabeye left for PSG and Matthieu Debuchey for Arsenal.
The best efforts of several managers, Newcastle have flirted with relegation in four of their last five seasons. Having changed managers to no avail, the fault clearly lies with the players who’s attitudes are a disgrace to the fans who regardless of the results, don the famous black and white strip with pride.
With time quickly running out and just one point from three games, Rafa Benitez looks set to join the likes of Steve McClaren, John Carver, Alan Pardew, Joe Kinnear and Sam Allardyce who have tried and failed to revive a once proud club. If they fail to get three points against Swansea this weekend, the sobering reality is that Newcastle are looking sure bets to spend next year playing against Rotherham United and Brentford in the Championship.
If they fail to get three points against Swansea this weekend, the sobering reality is that Newcastle will spend next year playing against Rotherham United and Brentford in the Championship.