Newcastle have earned an extraordinary 19 points in 9 league games. They still need 40 points to ensure safety in the league. However, given how weak the Premiership seems to be this season, Newcastle should race to that total before the ground thaws in the spring of 2012.
But are they really good enough to qualify for an UEFA tournament next season? So soon? They are going to remain in the top six so long as Tim Krul remains brilliant in net, and the defense and midfield continue to develop as a unit. But their first league defeat has to be on the horizon. If not against Stock, then Everton, or Manchester City. The first league defeat is coming. How the squad deals with it will help define this season and the team's spirit.
Two highlights from Saturday's match against Wigan sum up the game. In the first half, Tim Krul made a tremendous save against Wigan's Vctor Moses, who fired a rising shot that was labeled for a spot under the crossbar. Then, late in the second half, the French midfield finally produced a goal. In the 80th minute, Sylvain Marveaux fed a beutiful pass backward to the outside center-right of the box, where Yohan Cabaye fired a rising shot into the top left corner. It was a perfect shot, perfect finish. Game, set, match, Newcastle.
Here' wat my favorite NUFC blogs had to say:
Pardew had what he referred to as "<em>a little chat</em>" with the players at the interval - not quite the stirring oratory of half-time in February's meeting with Arsenal, you'd imagine, but certainly enough to urge them into a hungrier and more purposeful second-half performance.
Cabaye's character is already shining through at Newcastle and long may it continue.
It was an undeserved victory for a United side who had struggled all afternoon to create any chances of note and also to keep out a Wigan team who looked far more impressive than their lowly-position would suggest.