Newcastle United’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Saturday well and truly confirmed that the Magpies’ unbeaten start to the Premier League is over. But just as the 11 games without losing did not offer a fair reflection of Alan Pardew’s side, neither do the results of the past three fixtures in which Newcastle have taken just a point.
If anything, what the last handful of games have revealed about Newcastle is something universally true about every side bar Manchester City – that a few injuries and suspensions leaves the ranks looking thin. With that in mind the January transfer window cannot come quickly enough. Injuries to Cheick Tiote, Leon Best and now Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez’s suspension have threatened to rip the heart out of Pardew’s team. Re-enforcements are required next month. Ryan Taylor, ably deputising at left-back while the rest of Newcastle’s ranks were at or near full strength, has also been exposed in recent weeks, and replacing Jose Enrique is near the top of the manager’s priorities. That would also release the versatile Taylor to cover other areas if needed.
Despite the stumble of the last few weeks Newcastle remain in a strong position, sixth in the Premier League, three points ahead of Liverpool and level with Arsenal. And, on paper at least, the next three games look as straightforward as the last three were challenging. Away to Norwich City is a potential slip but few would be surprised if Newcastle returned from Carrow Road with three points, and then come to home games before Boxing Day against Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion. The points dropped – and it could be strongly argued Newcastle’s last three results represent a point gained, at Old Trafford, considering the strength of the opposition – could be made up almost immediately.
Newcastle’s recent performances might not have been rewarded with the points they justified but there has been plenty of encouragement on show. Chelsea were on top in the first-half but Newcastle powered back in the second, eventually undone by Taylor’s injury as much as anything the visitors did, and it is that kind of fortitude that will be needed to keep Newcastle in the mix for European qualification. If Pardew can add even more quality to an already talented side and retain the fight currently within, more results such as the start of the season are likely to arrive.
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