Jamaal Lascelles insists struggling Newcastle United are not in a relegation battle – yet.
The Magpies loss to Everton in midweek was their seventh in eight games – a run which has seen them slide from the upper reaches of the Premier League, to just one point outside the drop zone.
Only Swansea City, who are bottom of the top flight pile, have lost more than United’s tally of 10 this season.
But skipper Lascelles, who returned to action in the Toffees defeat after more than six weeks out of the side, does not believe Rafa Benitez’s men are in a relegation battle at present. Well, not just yet, anyway.
“No, not yet,” he said, ahead of the trip to Arsenal tomorrow.
“I mean a lot of people would probably have been happy with the points we are on if they were asked at the start of the season so I am not going to say we are in a relegation battle.
“There are still loads of game to play. It’s a long season. We are not looking at that, just taking things game by game. We’re not really looking at those other teams around us.
“All we can control is who were are up against. And we are focusing on the weekend.”
It will come as a shock to few that United’s switch in fortunes this season coincided with Lascelles injury.
He departed the field midway through the late, late 1-0 loss to Bournemouth in November with the score still at 0-0 and with United nestled comfortably in ninth place in the table. The gap to third bottom was then six points.
The landscape he returned to could not have been more different.
But what has changed? Lascelles believes one of the issues has been with organisation, although he is certain the Magpies have the character to turn things around.
“I thought our organisation wasn’t great – for the last couple of weeks, it hasn’t been great,” he said.
“There was not much talking on the pitch. It did not seem like there was much on the pitch in terms of talking and organising but we had that on Wednesday, I feel.
“We had chances but just lacked that bit of quality. It’s just about finding the balance. We will do it, we will find it.”
The 24-year-old continued: “Of course there is (the character at Newcastle).
“As human beings, you look at the table and see where you are and when you keep getting bad results, it is going to knock you a little bit.
“But I think now is the time for characters and big personalities to come out of their shells.
“Take the game by two hands and say ‘come on, lads, roll your sleeves up and let’s go’ because that is what it is going to take to get out of it. It all boils down to that.
“I do not want to be having this conversation about the situation we are in but that is how it is. We have got ourselves there so we have to get ourselves out of it.”
Heading to the Emirates United will have to cut out the individual errors which are costing them points, week after week. Lascelles’ good friend Karl Darlow was the latest player to aid in United’s own downfall, spilling Aaron Lennon’s header before Wayne Rooney tucked home Wednesday’s winner.
Addressing the situation, Lascelles said: “You do not want to be conceding goals from individual errors.
“If you are going to be conceding goals in this league, it should be by your opponents playing world class football.
“At the start of the season, teams were scoring goals against us which had us holding our hands up saying ‘OK, that’s great football’ but in the last three or four weeks, we have been making mistakes. “We definitely have to sort that. It’s unacceptable.”