MCFC v. NUFC: No Reward For Improved Play

Sunday cost Newcastle United more than a point, it cost them their best midfielder.

A reckless tackle by Manchester City's Nigel de Jong broke Newcastle midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa's left leg in two places, in what is unquestionably the most serious tackle and injury in the English Premier League so far this season. Ben Arfa might return in April, or he might never appear in a Newcastle squad again. It's serious.

A poor penalty call, plus two crucial non-calls sealed Newcastle's fate, despite improved defending and passing over their last few League games.

Newcastle moved the ball very well. And Jonas Guitierrez scored a goal they way they should be scored - by sending the ball back where it came from off of a deflection. Spiderman dribbled the ball into the box and took his shot. It was deflected back to him and he put the ball decisively into the top right corner. It was a very promising sign, and it is Jonas' first ever goal in the English Premiership.

Another defensive collapse involving Joey Barton and Jose Enrique resulted in a second Man City goal. But despite that lapse, Newcastle still should have come away with a draw.  Unfortunately, in his third controversial moment in the match, referee Martin Akinson opted not to reward Newcastle a penalty following the blatant tackle of Shola Ameobi inside the box.

So the task before Newcastle remains: They need a minimum of 35 points to avoid relegation. I went a step further to argue that they need 10 wins (30 points), in addition to whatever draws they earn. Yesterday should have been their third draw of the season.

Now they have just three league games remaining in October against Wigan (at home), West Ham (away), and archrival Sunderland (at home). Newcastle can regain their pace to meet their wins target if they can win two of those games.  In fact, considering how wobbly both Wigan and West Ham are at the moment, Newcastle really must win those two games, and then do their best to earn a draw against Sunderland at home. They don't know where the points will come from in November and December. So they have to take all the points they can this month. Doubling their points total from 7 to 14 before the end of October would do a lot to make them more relaxed and confident entering the more difficult fixtures of November and December.