Beating the drop a in the Premier League is no easy feat, it takes talent, determination and a whole lot of money! But even that isn’t always enough…
Take Chelsea for example, defending champions, with a squad worth close to £300m and a manager who has guided his team to the title on three previous occasions OR a club like Aston Villa who’ve never been relegated from the Premier League since its inception in 1992. Find themselves 8 points adrift.
Moral of the story: No Team Is Too Big For The Drop
Those of you who read my post last week, ‘Why Newcastle Are Going Down’, will be well aware that I rated Newcastle’s chances of staying up as slim to none (at best), but given recent events I wouldn’t be too surprised if they were able to pull off another great escape.
Good business in January. know I said that the Newcastle’s business in the January transfer market was a case of ‘too little too late’ and I still stand by that statement, but that takes nothing away from the quality of their new recruits.
All three of Newcastle’s January dealings have one thing in common; they were all out of favour at their previous clubs. This means that Newcastle could have either signed a player with a burning desire to prove himself or one who’s completely demoralised – they’ll be hoping it’s the first one.
The signings of Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend are just what Newcastle needed, pace, creativity and experience. Townsend has a track record of hitting the ground running, as a result of the numerous loan spells he’s had during his career (been on loan 9 times in the last 6 years), so it shouldn’t take long for him to start paying back the reported £12 million Newcastle spent to sign him.
Jonjo Shelvey is a mixed bag, very talented, but has a tendency to float in and out of games. However, when he does manage to get his act together he’s proven at his previous clubs (Liverpool and Swansea) that he’s more than capable of winning a game on his own.
Apart from keeping Newcastle in the Premier League, both players have an ulterior motive for signing for the Toon – Euro 2016. As it currently stands Townsend and Shelvey are on the periphery of England’s Euros squad, but if they can string together a few good performances at this stage of the season their chances of making the squad go up massively. This added incentive will also work in Newcastle’s favour because it guarantees that these players won’t take their foot off the pedal at the business end of the season.
Perhaps the riskiest of the three signings is Seydou Doumbia- reflected in their decision to sign him on loan and not on a permanent basis. The Ivorian striker had a terrible time at his previous club Roma and is short on confidence, moreover he hadn’t kicked a ball in England before his move to Newcastle, but his spell at CSKA Moscow and Champions League experience suggests that he might be the firepower Newcastle fans have been crying for the season.
Been Here Before. Unfortunately for Newcastle fans, this isn’t the first time that they’ve been in this position. Just last season Newcastle survived the drop by the skin of their teeth on the final day with a 2-0 win over West Ham. This experience may have been nerve wrecking for their fans, but for their plays it will be vital to their chances of staying in the Premier League this time around.
Teams who have experience of relegation battles generally have the edge oflver their rivals; Wigan Athletic flirted with relegation for 7 straight seasons before finally going down.
The core of Newcastle’s first 11 remains the same, players like Moussa Sissoko, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini will be unphased by the prospect of another relegation battle, in fact they’re likely to gain confidence in the knowledge that they’ve been there and done it before. The teams in and around them (e.g. Norwich and Bournemouth) with the exception of Sunderland can’t say that they’ve had experience scrapping it out for survival and this will stand Newcastle in great stead as they look to secure another season in the top-flight.
Return To Fitness Of Key Players. In Newcastle’s ranks they have a dutch maestro with 4 Eredivisie titles to his name, equally as adept scoring goals upfront as he is at providing them from midfield, his name? Siem De Jong. Now you’re probably wondering who he is and I don’t blame you.
Siem De Jong was signed from Ajax for £6 million in the summer of 2014, but not long after making his debut he suffered a serious thigh injury which kept him out for several months. Once he finally recovered from that he was hit with another injury blow, a collapsed lung which kept him out for the rest of last season and the first few months of this one.
After a terrible start to his career at St James’ Park De Jong is injury-free and his return to the first 11 will be like a brand new signing for Newcastle. They’ll be looking to him to make a huge impact in their bid to stay in the Premier League.
Another key player returning to fitness right in time to save Newcastle’s season is their midfield enforcer Cheick Tiote. The Ivory Coast international has only featured on a handful of occasions this season due to persistent injury problems, but in recent weeks Tiote has made a few appearances off the bench. He will be keen to turn in the type of performances that earned him the title of one of the best midfielders in the league a couple of seasons ago.
New Manager. The biggest reason or my sudden change of heart is Newcastle’s decision to change manage. Normally I would advise against changing manage in the middle of a relegation battle but when the outgoing manager is Steve McClaren and the incoming one is Rafael Benitez, the decision can’t be faulted. Not to say that Steve McClaren is a terrible manager, but Rafael Benitez is a better one.
Benitez’ Premier League credentials include three 3rd place finishes and one 2nd place finish, in fact if it wasn’t for a nightmare spell at Real Madrid, Newcastle probably wouldn’t have been able to secure a manager of his caliber. Just the sight of a manager of Benitez class in the dugout will breathe new life into Newcastle’s team, knowing that they have a manager at the helm who has managed the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Cristiano Ronaldo will give them confidence in his abilities to lead them.
As well as the psychological impact his appointment will have, Newcastle fans can also expect a drastic improvement in their organisation. Benitez’ teams are generally well organised, with each player knowing his role as an individual and as part of the team, this should likely put an end to Newcastle players wandering aimlessly around the pitch without any plan of attack.
Although Rafael Benitez has never been in a relegation battle before, his pedigree and experience of succeeding in the Premier League could be enough to keep them on the league or at least improve their chances!