The unseen, the unexpected and the logical Premier League drop approach – Liam Kennedy's SEVEN Newcastle United takeaways
Three points is what Newcastle United required – and for a change, this time they actually delivered.
When it matters the Magpies produced a result which their season so craved and desired, even if it was without the fluent performance. Beggars can’t choosers.
Now, with the help of the enigmatic Allan Saint-Maximin, there is a real air of positivity around the Magpies, who sit six points above 18th-placed Fulham with a game in hand, and their best players now fighting fit.
In a matter of seven or so days the landscape on Tyneside has shifted immeasurably – to think United dropped into the bottom three for 17 second-half minutes before the Cottagers capitulated at Villa Park last Sunday.
So what’s changed? Here Liam Kennedy takes a look at the SEVEN key takeaways from the Burnley win…
The unseen psychological switch
On 57 minutes the Magpies made a decisive double switch. It was to prove game-changing.
Goalscorer Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson were both thrown on with United chasing the game – and within seven minutes the match had been flipped on its head.
With ASM on and Wilson to contend with, Burnley’s usually rock-solid backline retreated a yard or two further back, more fearful of the threat posed to them now, no disrespect to Dwight Gayle and Joelinton.
The boost to see the duo, reunited with Miguel Almiron for the first time since early March, on the pitch saw United’s attacking confidence swell also, and push them that little bit more advanced. Long may it continue.
Stick or twist for West Ham?
It will be interesting to see whether Steve Bruce rejigs his frontline this weekend, which he chose not to do last.
ASM, with another week under his belt, has to be knocking on the door to start, while Wilson will no doubt be keen to get on from the off himself.
Will Bruce again resist the temptation against David Moyes’ Champions League-chasers? It’s hard to imagine he will.
Why wait so long to bring back rebooted Sean Longstaff?
One of the biggest positives from the last few weeks has been the re-emergence of Sean Longstaff.
Cut adrift by Bruce after the Sheffield United debacle, the young Geordie is now back in the side and making a BIG impact all over the park.
One of Longstaff’s biggest attributes – and he has many, despite what his critics may say – is that he never goes hiding, always shows for the ball and never gives up his job of tackling, hassling and keeping things moving.
He was everywhere on Sunday. A few more senior pros in the ranks could learn a thing or two from Longstaff.
Murphy new deal a must as he makes role his own
Newcastle need to tie down Jacob Murphy to a new deal. Of that there is no doubt.
Out-of-contract in the summer he will have plenty of willing suitors should United not get him back around the table for extension talks.
Murphy was only reintegrated into the squad in the summer, after two seasons on loan. And he had A LOT to prove, with doubts about his confidence and his ability to consistently perform in the top flight.
Even up to recent weeks those question marks remained. But he now looks a player who can make a consistent impact in this division and has made the right wingback role his own this season, beating off competition from campaigning right-backs in the process.
Matt Ritchie back with a bang
Matt Ritchie’s return to the side was not seen by many, some, including I, thought he was a spent force at United. He’s anything but.
The former Scotland international has brought a competitive edge and energy to the side, which it severely lacked without him. Not only that, his deliveries from the left are still second-to-none.
He’s proven a real asset in the last two games.
The unexpected defensive headache
Losing Jamaal Lascelles is a big blow, but you could argue that, on paper, United’s back three looked as strong as it possibly could seeing Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez back in the side.
The trio struggled, though. And it will be a cause for concern for Bruce and his coaches moving forward.
Fernandez, in particular, lacked sharpness on the day – no surprise given he’s been ill and injured for much of the year. It was more a form thing with the other two as Clark and Dummett looked totally out of sorts at times against the physicality of Chris Wood and the craft of Matej Vydra.
Points-per-game – the logic
Fulham have so far picked up 26 points from 32 games in the Premier League. Newcastle have 32 from 31 games.
The Magpies have, so far, despite their struggles managed to keep above the point-per-game ratio often seen as a route to safety in the top flight. Using United’ stats so far they’re likely to end the season on around 38 points, gave or take a few.
Fulham on the other hand are below the point-per-game threshold. If they were to hit that in their final games of the season – taking six points from their final six games – that still only gives them 32 points. At present they’re on course to end the season on 30 or 31 points, give or take a few.
One further win is likely to be enough for United to stay up, but in this life or death time of the season nothing, of course, can be discounted.