In August you would have been hard pushed to find a Newcastle fan who believed their side would be sitting just five points from Champions League football and level on points with Chelsea going into the final seven games. Yet this is the position in which the club find themselves after a season that has been nothing short of remarkable. Although the club still have aspirations of sneaking into fourth spot, a place in the Europa League appears more likely, with the club currently comfortably in sixth which would be, as it stands, enough to secure a spot in the tournament.
However, there is a feeling of caution surrounding a place in European competition for the Magpies next season, with the added fixtures having the potential to derail the side from the North East. The strain of Thursday night games has had a noticeable effect on the clubs which have taken part over the past few years, with their league form often suffering due to the sheer amount of matches and travelling time over the course of long periods of the season.
Although Alan Pardew’s men have been impressive this term, the lack of depth in the squad may come back to haunt them if they are to secure their spot in the competition. The club have a very strong starting eleven, with a solid core of talented players, but beyond this there is a lack of experience. Tim Krul has been, arguably, one of the finest goalkeepers this term, and sits behind a decent defensive partnership of Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor, when fit. Beyond the back line Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have cemented a strong relationship allied to the creativity of Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, who are backed up by the tough tackling Cheick Tiote. This core has been so impressive throughout the current campaign, and although back-up players have allowed the form to continue, the added pressure of extra fixtures and increased expectations next term may well hinder the performances of players asked to step into the first eleven next term.
The financial benefits of Europa League football, through prize money, television rights and extra ticket income, may well allow the side to invest, but the stringent financial approach adopted by Mike Ashley is likely to prevent large scale spending on new playing staff. Love or hate the Newcastle owner, he has secured stability for the club, bringing them out of an uncertain period, and building solid foundations away from the field of play. As a result it’s unlikely that the club will break the wage structure to bring in big name stars, or invest heavily in talent to pad out the squad, with the threat of slipping down the table.
Newcastle deserve their spot in European competition next season, as they have consistently produced exciting attacking performances and outshone many established Premier League units, but the added fixture load is one which shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s going to be a pivotal summer in the future of the Tyne club, who need to stick or twist when it comes to their future aspirations. Both come with their dangers, as increased investment could ultimately land the club in financial hot water, while failure to spend at all will see the current resources stretched to near breaking point next term
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