With 10 games to go of the Premier League season, Newcastle are languishing precariously close to the relegation zone: the surprising thing is that it is no longer surprising, having spent the last two seasons doing a similar thing.
Perhaps the most concerning part now is that we have not been blessed with a run-in quite as “easy” as the previous two seasons.
Last season, Newcastle achieved 15 points from their last 10 games. I do not think that is an attainable figure this season. But I do believe there are enough points on offer for us to stave off relegation once more.
After one of the flattest performance you’ll ever see against Bolton, Newcastle produced a very impressive display against Manchester United, which most would agree was worth a point. Both these matches indicate where Newcastle need to improve, and who will be the most important players in their prospective survival.
Firstly, it is clear that Shola Ameobi is not good enough to play in the Premiership; brilliant close control is nothing without the awareness to make something of it afterwards.
Moreover, Steven Taylor is utterly overrated and shows nothing of the promise and hope of two seasons ago. His horrendous backpass in the United game serves as one example from an endless list of peculiar decision-making and erratic defending on his part. Hurry up and return, Habib Beye.
Whilst Ameobi and S. Taylor flatter to deceive, the performances of Lovenkrands, Jonas and Enrique have been promising. Lovenkrands has performed fairly well throughout his short Newcastle career, providing pace and a couple of goals to boot.
The performances of Jonas Gutierrez are very exciting, who is playing brilliantly having recently come back from injury. His man of the match performance against Man U was fully deserved. Enrique is finally coming into form having struggled to acclimatise to Premier League Football.
Coloccini, the only player to have played every game this season for the Toon is a consistent performer, although his calamitous display filling in as a central midfielder against Man City left a lot to be desired. As long as he remains centre back, I have few complaints.
The crucial players have to be Owen, Jonas (who I have already discussed) and Martins. Martins' pace and skill are rarely given the time to shine, and his consistency is less than satisfactory—but on his day he can trouble the best teams.
But it is Michael Owen who is likely to be the key to our survival. He has been prolific this season when not injured and his eye for goal is what we have lacked for the majority of the season. His return against Hull could trigger our fight and success against the drop. Here’s hoping.
It is crucial for Newcastle to take at least a point from the matches against Hull, Stoke, the Smoggies (Middlesbrough) and Fulham. Our main rivals for the drop are M’boro, Stoke, Sunderland, Bolton, Hull and Portsmouth in my opinion, and to surrender all three points to any of those teams that we have left to face, would be criminal.
Our record against Tottenham is good, we beat them 4-1 in the same fixture last year and generally perform well against them which is promising. Portsmouth and Villa are difficult games, even with the strife that Portsmouth have faced this season.
I dare to suggest we may sneak a point from Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool but predict that we won’t.
I believe Newcastle ought to be able to take 12 points from their last 10 games if they perform well, and our star players take to the task readily. With that, they should retain their Premier League status, while Stoke, M’boro and WBA go down.
But who knows, I reckon Arsenal are going to come 6th this season on the basis of their final fixtures and the excellent seasons Villa and Everton are having.
Anyway, as Owen said earlier today, the Hull match is truly our cup final: it is one of the most important fixtures of our recent history.
Howay the Lads.