Somewhere something has gone wrong. The system is broken, or at least deeply flawed. What has pushed me to the brink? The fact that Michael Owen scored twice in one game without his knee disintegrating on the spot? Not quite. Fernando Torres scoring twice, missing a shot that even super editor Matthew Wall could have buried, and getting a red card…and somehow Liverpool fans still say it’s the easiest 50 million they’ve ever made? Close, but still no. Sadly, it’s a quiet revolution clad in the never-changing black and white of the Newcastle jersey.
Where did I have Newcastle finishing in my preseason prediction? In the relegation battle. Perhaps barely surviving, but definitely being hard pressed to accomplish anything beyond the top 15. “How could they do anything but drop?” I argued. They lost Carrol, their dominant front man. Then Enrique followed the left-footed giant to Anfield, right around the same time that Joey Barton traded the black and white of Newcastle in for the blue and white of QPR. With three transfers, Newcastle had lost, arguably, the best player at every section of the field before the season even began.
Six games in and the magpies are in the top four. Currently undefeated and looking as if the relegation battle will never darken their doorstep within this season. Who are the other undefeated teams? Manchester United, Manchester City, and Aston Villa (although Villa only have one win and 4 draws in their five games played). That’s pretty decent company, and to think that this team was in the Championship a few seasons ago makes this current run even more impressive.
How have they gotten this good start? Defense. They’ve only allowed 3 goals so far (the fewest in the EPL) and they started the season off with a massive draw with recently sputtering Arsenal.
They’ve also avoided losing points in the games where they had to get results. When you play the teams that generally finish in the lower half of the table, you have to leave with at least a point or you won’t be in the hunt for anything by the time next spring gets here. Just ask Liverpool and Chelsea. How does Man U snag all the titles? They win the games that they are supposed to win, and so far Newcastle is following that pattern
However, before you start buying Champions League tickets to see Newcastle play, a few words of warning. Newcastle have only faced one team with title aspirations so far, and they caught Arsenal at the best possible time. They also have only scored seven goals this season, with three of those coming against Blackburn this past weekend. This means the loss of Carrol and Barton may be felt sooner rather than later.
Can the Toon keep this pace and find themselves in the top four in at the end of the season? Doubtful. This start has been fantastic, but when Newcastle hits the tougher part of their schedule then we will see their true colors. In fact, they face Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea in a three week span right around New Years. If they come through that and even have a slight view of the top of the table, then there may be hope for them yet.
It sure would be a sad day for me if my predictions are this far off at the end of the season. I was really hoping to quit my day job and become a fortune teller, but I suppose I could always wait until next season to correctly predict someone’s banishment into the dark depths of the Championship. You win this round EPL, but I’ll be back!
Written by: Andrew McCole, soccer guru, soccerprose.com
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