Premier League: Are Newcastle Too Good to Go Down?
Having spent the vast majority of his career at St. James Park, defender Steven Taylor is one of the few players remaining in the squad who were relegated in 2008-09. As such a loyal servant and integral part of the club, he should be a good barometer for the current mood within the club.
Fortunately for Magpies fans, Taylor is feeling confident in his side's ability to defy the drop. The Sun quotes:
"I look around the dressing room at the players who I train with every day and what I am sat around is top-class.
"This definitely makes me believes we are going to do well.
"We are not looking down—we are looking up.
"We are looking at who we can catch and chase."
The implication appears to be that The Toon Army are too good to go down.
But is this the case?
After a home victory over Stoke three games ago, manager Alan Pardew felt confident in his side's survival chances. They were, after all, nine points clear of the relegation zone.
Yet two games and two defeats later, Newcastle now have a cushion of just three points keeping them from their second visit to the Championship in five years. No. 17 Wigan are just three points behind with a game in hand, while weekend wins for West Ham and Southampton have done them no favours.
Pardew still exudes an air of confidence, insisting they are still on course to reach his safety target of 40 points.
But the margins are getting much tighter.
With 33 points on the board, Newcastle have four more points than they did at this stage of the season when they went down in 2008-09. They also have a host of excellent French speaking imports on the roster, a fiscally sound stable operation and almost certainly the loudest stadium in the Premier League.
The Magpies have seven games left to reach Pardew's target of 40 points. Two wins and a draw will do it.
If results against those final seven opponents match the corresponding fixtures from earlier in the season, they will earn two wins and two draws and a final tally of 41 points. The only 20-team Premier League season in which this amount of points would not have been enough was 2002-03.
Yet Newcastle's run-in will be far from plain sailing.
Next up is a visit from Fulham, who are unbeaten in five league matches and have only lost once to Newcastle in their last seven attempts. The following week they welcome Sunderland for what could be one of the most crucial Tyne-Wear derbies in years. The Black Cats are also fighting for survival, and may be buoyed by the fiery passion of controversial new manager Paolo Di Canio.
After a trip to West Bromwich, a visit from a resurgent Liverpool side awaits. Then a potentially tricky trip to Upton Park. The penultimate game of the season is a visit to QPR. If the Hoops haven't been cut adrift by that point, they will be fighting tooth and nail to retain their Premier League status.
On the final day of the campaign, Newcastle will receive no quarter from an Arsenal side who should be pushing for Champions League football for the sixteenth consecutive season.
Nobody at the bottom of the table has an easy run-in; however, one would imagine Newcastle should be able to pick up at least two wins: at West Brom and against QPR.
Also working in favor of Newcastle's "too good to go down" ethos is the fact that a few teams below them are probably too bad to stay up!
For all their merits, Sunderland have played some dreadful football this season. They are also overly reliant on top scorer Steven Fletcher.
And save for a few flashes of brilliance, Aston Villa have given their fans a dismal ride in this campaign. They lean heavily on Christian Benteke, who has provided 44 percent of their league goals.
At the start of April in 2009, a threatened Newcastle United appointed club legend Alan Shearer to guide them to safety in their final eight games. He took charge of the team in 18th place, and, with a single win in his tenure, was unable to move them from that position on the final day.
By contrast, this season Newcastle are a better side with much more stability, and at least two teams below them who are more worthy candidates for the drop.
It would be arrogant to suggest Newcastle are too good to go down, but Alan Pardew and Steven Taylor's optimism is certainly not unfounded.
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