Pts: 25 (7-9-4)
Preseason Prediction: 11th
Accuracy: Almost Perfect
The jump from the Championship to the Premiership is never easy, so many teams (even teams that won the title in the Championship) have proven that in the past. But so many of the Newcastle players have previous Premier League experience that I think that should be less of a hindrance and more of a help with this club. They remember how good it was to be in the Premiership and learned their lesson from two years ago.
There are still big question marks: Who will be the playmaker? Who will score goals consistently? Is the defense ready for some of the best strikers in the world? But people forget (although they have no one to blame but themselves), it took a lot of things coming together at the same time to get Newcastle relegated two years ago, including only 22 home points (as opposed to 59 last year). In 2008-2009, they were 11 points out of 11th place, and I think the second time around, that’s about how much they will improve.
Some of those questions have been answered, although some remain. Chris Hughton getting fired was a joke, but Alan Pardew is reasonably competent, at least competent enough not to screw things up too badly. The goal scoring question has been answered: Andy Carroll has stepped in nicely with 11, thank you. The defense hasn’t been great, or even good for that matter, but they’ve done enough, at least against the weaker teams in the league. It looks like they’re headed for mid-table. Five years ago, Newcastle supporters might be up in arms. This season, it’s not bad at all.
Preseason best new signing:
Dan Gosling – Gosling, recovering from an ACL injury last season, has not appeared yet for Newcastle since his move from Everton, but should be back relatively soon, which should give Newcastle a boost. Honors now would probably go to Ivorian Cheik Tiote – who despite a rash of yellow cards – has solidified the midfield since his move from FC Twente.
Preseason key player:
Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll (tie) – That’s a pretty good call, Carroll and Nolan (8 goals). I even said, “it might be time for Carroll to become a household name”. Hey, even a blind squirrel, well, you know. Seriously, after sharing goal scoring honors with 17 each last season in the Championship, that’s a pretty good haul, and I’m pretty sure neither one is going anywhere anytime soon.
Key player now:
Joey Barton – He’s only got 3 yellow cards and no reds so far this season (although he has served a 3-game suspension), and you can see what he brings to the game: energy, energy, and more energy, which makes Newcastle a much better team. Obviously, though, he needs to stay in control, and that’s a daily battle for Barton that he needs to win for the next few months.
Inside the numbers:
1 – Number of red cards Newcastle has been shown this season, and that was Fabricio Coloccini, not one of their other players. They’ve been in control this season. So far.
Yes, the defense is still a little soft, but I don’t see any reason why Newcastle can’t finish where they are right now. They’re better than the teams below them. But it is Newcastle.