With 18 points earned before the end of November, everyone agrees that Newcastle are well on their way to safety in the English Premier League. But they should have at least 20. They were given two lesser opponents at home this week. In the first game, they failed to show up. In the second game, they couldn't sustain the offensive momentum that would have earned the breakthrough goal that they needed. These are not inexcusable offensives, but they have hurt the team.
Newcastle need 35 points to declare their season a success. They should have over 20 points right now. In fact, they should have 26 or 27 based on their failures to beat Stoke, Wigan, Fulham and Wolverhampton. They could have been printing the 'Mission Accomplished' banner right now. Instead, they are entering what could be the roughest patch of their 2010-2011 campaign.
Newcastle have seven games between now and the end of December, and the vast majority of them are against superior opponents. Newcastle's pattern this season has been defeats at home to lesser opponents, combined with wins at home and on the road against superior opponents. If that pattern continues, then Newcastle are going to be fine. But before the season began, we all looked at mid November through December to be the most difficult stretch of the season.
Of their next seven games, the only one I am confident about is their visit to West Brom on December 5th. They played well against West Brom twice last season in the Championship, and the Baggies seem to have a weak offense this year. Now one win out of seven would be dismal. But one win between now and New Year's would give Newcastle 21 points, just four wins shy of their goal. And if they couldn't bag four wins between New Year's and early May, then they really would be hopeless.
And that's the one thing Newcastle have not been this season, despite three painful home losses to Blackpool, Stoke, and Blackburn. In this upcoming seven game run, they could defeat the bigger clubs of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottingham. The way they have been playing on the road, they very well might. But I simply cannot get too comfortable with this team, because I have this fear their tremendous success on the road has been a streak of luck. And that luck could run out at any time. Maybe it's the Red Sox fan in me.
So what do you think? In this 2010-2011 campaign, has Newcastle been really good, or just a very lucky team?