Last year, Newcastle United were the stand out team in the Premier League. They managed to finish in an unexpected fifth place, which meant they would get European football this year. They also managed to finish above teams such as Chelsea and Everton. This happened is just their second season after promotion from the Championship. During last season, Newcastle provided some truly great entertainment, and managed to beat both Manchester United and Chelsea. However, Newcastle have struggled to even slightly replicate their form from the last season, and they could even be pulled into a relegation scrap as the season draws to a close. Why is this happening though?
Injuries have played a huge part in Newcastle’s downfall this year. Some of their key players have struggled with injuries and suspension this year; these players include Cabaye, Tiote, Ben Arfa and Cisse. These players were all crucial to Newcastle finishing fifth last season, so the lack of depth in their squad has been a real problem. They were quite lucky last year in terms of injuries, and perhaps it was a bit foolish of Alan Pardew, to think that Newcastle could get away with having hardly any injuries again this season. They have had to fall back on players such as Anita and Birigimana, who at the moment are lacking the quality to play for a Premier League side.
As great as European football is, it comes with its negatives as well. The games which have been added to Newcastle’s fixture list has been a real problem for Newcastle this year, and it is one of the reasons that Newcastle have struggled with injuries this season. The Europa League has dealt a serious blow to Newcastle’s Premier league hopes, as they have only managed to pick up seven points in the games, which follow their Europa League matches. It is always hard for mid-table Premier League teams to challenge on both fronts, as most of the time these teams have quite small squads, or squads which lack in quality if you look behind the first eleven. Stoke have been one of the victims of this in recent seasons, and the fact that Newcastle didn’t properly strengthen their squad in the summer, meant that they would inevitably find it too taxing.
Newcastle have also had a striking dilemma this season. Papiss Cisse has been disappointing this season, and hasn’t been able to replicate the heights he achieved last season. This may be because Ba was the main striker for the first half of the season, but he still hasn’t flourished since Ba has left, meaning that he probably isn’t as good as the media were making him out to be. Also Ba has now left Newcastle, meaning the pressure on Cisse to perform is very high, as their two back ups are the Ameobi brothers. I don’t feel that the Ameobi’s are cut out for the top division. They need to hope that they will be able to get by until the summer, but then they will need some strengthening in the transfer window.
One of the most worrying factors as to why Newcastle have not done as well as last year could be the fact that last year they were overachieving. This could quite easily have happened as they did not bring in any star players in the summer, and the key players they have at the moment cannot carry what is in reality quite a mediocre team. When they finished fifth, Newcastle should have used that as an opportunity to build on the success that they had, and add to the number of star players that they already have in their squad. An area that could have been strengthened a lot is the defence, where Debuchy and Coloccini are the only defenders, which can be counted as top class players. They have slightly improved their squad by adding to it in January, and getting players like Sissoko, who will help the team massively in the future. Although they sold Ba, arguably their best striker to Chelsea, so it balances itself out. However, even though they did not significantly strengthen in the summer, their squad still possesses the ability to be higher than fifteenth in the Premier League.