Thursday, May 26, 2022

Newcastle get much-needed boost in Premier League relegation battle as transfer window deadline nears

With the transfer window slamming shut in nine days, Newcastle United needed something to sell their vision of avoiding relegation to hopeful arrivals. The team has struggled so far under Eddie Howe, scoring the fifth-fewest goals in the Premier League since he took over in November with 10. But for a moment against Leeds United, you could feel the belief in the air with the Geordie faithful.

Leeds United had the ball for the majority of the Saturday’s match but were unable to do much with it, and a mistake from Diego Llorente gave Newcastle the chance to score a winner. Llorente fouled Javier Manquillo while he was completing a run to give the Magpies a free-kick opportunity in a dangerous area.

Jonjo Shelvey stepped up and rose to the occasion, knocking the free kick in for the 1-0 lead that would eventually hold to secure Newcastle’s first away win of the season.

It was a gritty performance during which Newcastle United lost Joelinton, Paul Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles to injuries, but they rallied together — a testament to Howe’s management of the situation. 

With the win, Newcastle rise to 18th in the Premier League, one point behind Norwich City for safety. With the red line so close that they can almost touch it, getting Diego Carlos in from Sevilla would be enough to secure safety. With Norwich’s victory on Friday, Newcastle are in a tough spot as teams around them finding form could be an issue if the side isn’t strengthened properly.

Premier League relegation standings

16. Everton: 19 points (-11 goal differential)

17. Norwich City: 16 points (-32 GD)

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18. Newcastle United: 15 points (-22 GD)

19. Watford: 14 points (-17 GD)

20. Burnley: 11 points (-11 GD)

Can the Magpies stay up?

While Norwich showed that every team has a chance to get their heads above water, Burnley need to play three makeup games and pick up points as soon as possible. Usually, games in hand are a good thing but for the thinnest squad in the Premier League, fielding players for some of these matches could be tough.

Getting Maxwel Cornet back from the Africa Cup of Nations soon will help things, but his minutes will need to be managed as he has already had a few hamstring injuries on the season. If Burnley doesn’t bring in a forward during this window, it’s hard to see a cast of Ashley Barnes, Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez getting the job donw.

Watford has been a fun team to watch, but Claudio Ranieri is running into the same issue that he faced with Fulham when they were relegated in 2019. Winless in eight after their epic victory over Manchester United, belief is fading for the Hornets and his seat is getting hotter. A cloud of AFCON hangs over the team as Emmanuel Dennis has been injured and kept off the scoresheet since Ranieri kept him from international duty and Ismalia Sarr is a major question mark.

It wouldn’t be surprising for Watford hire their third manager of the season by the end of the international break, which doesn’t scream of a team that can avoid the drop. The Watford board will need to take a long look at things with their next appointment as Xisco was one of the best managers that they’ve had in recent history and the team has been lost since he was let go. But chopping and changing managers isn’t the way that things should be done.

Looking at Norwich City, hiring Dean Smith has stabilized things as he has integrated young players and gotten the defense going. If he can unlock Josh Sargent and Adam Idah at the same time while Teemu Pukki heads into the twilight of his career, that’s quite a feat after being dismissed by Aston Villa earlier in the season.

Newcastle are the hardest team to predict as with their current roster, I would pick them to be relegated but with time left to go in the transfer window, we could be looking at a different team on February first that has enough in tow to avoid the drop.

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