NEWCASTLE: Premier League football feels like it is on the verge of yet another reduction in the coronavirus disease pandemic – and Newcastle United fans suspect it won’t maybe not a bad thing for their club.
The growing number of COVID-19 cases and the positive test results recorded among top flight players have seen behind-the-scenes talks point to a breaker shutdown in the UK as early as next week.
While the health and safety of players, officials and fans is the priority, the timing for this final break would not be a disaster for the Magpies’ ambitions on the pitch.
Last night’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool, just four days after a 4-0 hammering at Leicester City, pushed Newcastle deeper into the relegation quagmire.
Their 37 goals conceded are the worst in the division; they are in 19th place with 10 points, with just one win in 17 games and a series of very tough games on the horizon.
Things are so gloomy that a new variant of the coronavirus sweeping the nation almost looks like a silver liner in an otherwise dire situation.
If the league were sidelined for a fortnight, it would allow cases to fall into the secure Premier League bubbles. It would also likely see Manchester United’s visit to St James’ Park, Rafa Benitez’s trip to Everton and a traditionally tough game at Southampton in the tall grass.
If the cutout is deployed, it is likely that United will not see the Premier League again until Watford at home on January 15. That would give the club’s new owners 15 days to strengthen manager Eddie Howe’s hand in the transfer market – almost half the window, in fact.
And while January is unlikely to see the transformation many Newcastle fans have dreamed of for years, it doesn’t have to be. Pragmatism and division are the order of the day at Tyneside.
While the backlog is a problem for everyone, it is certainly better for Howe to have a stronger hand to play, with new signings on board, than to face Everton and Man United with this squad.
Watching the Magpies at Anfield on Thursday night, there was a lot to like about them. Howe disciplined them to their ballless form, and able to break and transition at high speed with him. We are far from the disorganized chaos served week after week under former boss Steve Bruce.
But it’s also fair to say that they run almost empty.
The core of that squad – Jamaal Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie and others – were either signed to promote United in 2015/16 or retained to maintain them.
Almost six years after that triumphant day in May 2016, when the Magpies beat Brighton and Hove Albion for the league title on the last day of the campaign, much of the same core remains, being asked to do the same job year after. year with little or no plan or investment around them.
While the investment part of this issue will change next month, unfortunately, many players will change as well.
United’s fate remains real, although for a man they can hardly be faulted for their fiery spectacle at Anfield.
There were a lot of positives despite the score of 3-1; Like Sunday’s loss, it wasn’t a one-sided game, as everyone predicted the Magpies would be swept away by Jurgen Klopp.
Instead, after Shelvey’s shocking first goal, the game turned with Diogo Jota’s equalizer, when referee Mike Dean refused to stop play despite Isaac Hayden falling in the box. repair with a head injury.
“I couldn’t believe the game hadn’t been stopped. For me, this is a key moment in the game, ”said Howe. “The priority must be the safety of the player. There is a lot of talk at the moment about head injuries and I felt it was a bad decision.
“There was no actor on the part of the player. He was down. He couldn’t continue and we paid the price. We were treated very harshly today and it follows a pattern. similar, really, to other games where we haven’t had the friction of the green or the decisions go against us for some reason, ”he added.
Mohamed Salah added a second soon after, before long-distance cracker Trent Alexander-Arnold reached the late third goal.
Seven goals conceded in a week, no sign of pushing out of the Premier League’s last three, and still just one win in their 17th opening of the top-flight campaign. Yet a sense of hope remains.
This hope, born at the beginning of October, outweighs any feeling of frustration in the face of a situation which promises to be more and more dramatic with each high-level meeting.
There is an acceptance now, although it presents an incredible paradox, that this United are much better than the ones presented for almost 15 years under Mike Ashley.
In Eddie Howe they have a young manager with unprecedented promise and in the Public Investment Fund, RB Sports and Media and PCP Capital Partners they have owners who finally care about the club. For the first time in a long time, every branch of the football club is pulling in the right direction.
That direction next month must be to sign players, and a lot of them. Even those who will likely be replaced owe at least that, as they’ve strained every tendon day after day, season after season.
While January represents an opportunity and omicron a kind of welcome break, the Window is also the first major test of the new owners’ muscle, expertise and intentions.
Do it right and the world is their oyster, opening the door to future success. If you’re wrong, Newcastle United will look like an investment mistake, with trips to Old Trafford and Anfield traded for cold, rainy nights at Stoke.