The pending Newcastle United decisions on Alexander Isak and Allan Saint-Maximin ahead of Carabao Cup semi-final
There were a few statistics of note to come from Newcastle United’s visit to Selhurst Park.
The third-placed club is now a club-record 15 games unbeaten following yesterday’s goalless draw against Crystal Palace. It’s also never before kept six successive top-flight clean sheets.
Has there ever been, in the modern era, such a hard-to-beat Newcastle side?
Eddie Howe’s team have conceded just 11 goals in 20 Premier League games, and they haven’t conceded before the break since late August.
Yes, United were frustrated not to come away with all three points, having dominated the game and had a series of chances in both halves, but the point they took was still significant.
Remember when it was all about top-flight survival? Well, with just over half the season played, the club is just a point short of the traditional 40-point safety mark.
Of course, the “concern” at the moment for Howe is at the other end of the pitch.
Newcastle have scored just one goal in their last four Premier League games, three of which ended in goalless draws.
“Whenever you’re not scoring, it’s a concern,” said Howe. “We’re maybe not scoring in the numbers that we’d want to, but I don’t think there’s any concern about our style of play – or how we’re trying to approach the games.
“I just think teams are giving us a lot of respect – and putting a lot of men behind the ball.”
United had 61% of possession against 12th-placed Palace at Selhurst Park - and that’s unusually high.
Howe added: “For the away team here to have the amount of possession and control we did is unusual. But, credit to them for how they defended. It was a tight game, and teams will do that to us the more respect we get.”
Howe, happy with the “balance” of his team, must now decide whether to freshen up his starting XI for Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium.
Alexander Isak and Allan Saint-Maximin – who came off the bench at Selhurst Park – the two players who are likely to come into his thinking.
On the lack of goals in recent games, Howe said: “I don’t think it’s the balance in the team, or the balance of how we approach this run of games.
“We’ve been attacking, you could see that today. We’re pushing bodies forward all the time – and trying to play football. We’re trying to take the game to the opposition. The lack of goals isn’t in our preparation or in our intent.
"But it’s difficult to score against well-organised Premier League defences, and Crystal Palace are a very good team.”
The league table suggests that Newcastle are an even better team, and the fact that the club, perennially in and around the relegation zone, is safe at the halfway point says it all about the progress being made on and off the pitch under new ownership.
Of course, the club’s new owners want trophies, and Howe’s focus is now on the Carabao Cup.
And Howe now has to decide whether Isak and Saint-Maximin are needed from the start at the St Mary’s Stadium as he looks to ensure there are enough goals in his team.