After failing to pick up all three points in a crucial Tyne-Wear derby last month – and subsequently losing to major relegation rivals Norwich City in somewhat unforgivable circumstances last time out – Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez certainly has a major job on his hands in simply restoring some much-needed positivity around St. James’ Park this week.
The Magpies have failed to portray themselves in a promising light for the duration of the 2015/16 campaign, and aside from one or two impressive displays from the increasingly concerning Tyneside outfit this season, Newcastle deserve nothing more than their current lowly position in the Premier League’s dreaded relegation zone.
So then, with fewer than 10 games to go between now and the culmination of the current season – are the determined Magpies already destined for the Championship next term, or can Benitez somehow turn things around in dramatic style?
Well, from the moment Newcastle United made the less than assuring decision to hire former England, Middlesbrough and Derby County boss, Steve McClaren, they were doomed.
McClaren was clearly the wrong man for the job when all is said and done. No other right-minded Premier League club would have seen fit to offer the ill-fated 54–year-old tactician a role in the English top-flight this term, regardless of whether or not there was a distinct lack of viable alternatives available at the time.
Benitez remains a strong coach with a strong managerial record to fall back on, that’s for sure, but as the widely admired Spaniard was thrown in at the deep end with very little time to implement his own plans down on Tyneside, whilst also possessing little to no experience of fighting his way out of a gritty relegation dog-fight in the past, such a coup for Newcastle may not be enough to save their Premier League status in the end.
Yet even though the Magpies have certainly been hindered from a managerial point of view this season, the first-team squad available down at St. James’ Park isn’t fit to uphold their hard-earned position in the top tier.
Despite spending close to £80m on a succession of supposedly talented players with bags of potential, this is a team that have somehow only served to worsen as the 2015/16 domestic proceedings have played out.
The likes of Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum have blown hot and cold, while players such as Yoan Gouffran, Emmanuel Riviere and Vurnon Anita haven’t been plying their trade at a high enough level in a long time. Aside from the unmistakably passionate Aleksandar Mitrovic up-top for Benitez’s struggling outfit, very few Newcastle players have looked up for the fight down on Tyneside this season.
The Magpies can’t seem to score enough goals in order to maintain their current status in the Premier League, and their defensive line has looked far from organised or resilient across the entire campaign.
Relegation therefore seemingly beckons whichever way you look at it.
So, whilst a dramatic last-minute escape from the dreaded drop zone could still theoretically await the loyal Magpies following come the end of the current season, this team have looked destined to make their way back down towards the Championship for a long, long time…