About two months ago, having seen a spirited Newcastle team defeat Chelsea 3-0 on the final day of a season which like many others, could be described as a rollercoaster of a year, it has to be said that I was optimistic. A tenth place finish in our first season back in the top flight was certainly an achievement for a so-called ‘Championship squad’ (which by the way, I completely disagree with), and from my seat in the East Stand, I was hopeful for 2018/19 and the years following that. However as I sit here in July writing this, I have to say that a good amount of that optimism has disappeared. Yet again the summer has been one to forget in terms of activity on Tyneside. That cockney tyrant has once again not invested in the club he owns, despite there supposedly being a big pot of money available from all of the television deals and other sources. We’ve even let the likes of Mikel Merino and Chancel Mbemba depart, which surely adds more to the pot. Anyway before I go on a rant, I’ll get to the point. What do I think will come of all this in the upcoming season? Will it be better, worse or just mediocre?
I certainly believed in May, that this season could be where we finally re-emerge as a force in the top half of the Premier League. I’m not saying that we would challenge for a title, definitely not, but I didn’t see why we couldn’t be hovering around the Europa League spots, if things went to plan this summer. So far though, they most certainly haven’t. I am very happy to see Kenedy and Dubravka back, and Ki-Seung-Yung, does look promising, along with Fabian Schar, who like Ki, was at the World Cup. However, it seems that once again we will fail to spend big on a player and break our transfer record which still stands from the purchase of Michael Owen in 2005. We are being outspent by the likes of Fulham and Wolves, and it is absolutely ridiculous.
With all that being said however, the pre-season matches have been some-what encouraging so far, especially the 0-0 draw against Portuguese champions and Champions League regulars, Porto. In that game Martin Dubravka and Jamal Lascelles shone, and proved their worth once again. The Braga match was very poor, and despite losing against FC Augsburg, we did create many chances and simply failed to put them away. Unfortunately, Lascelles’ centre-back partner Florian Lejeune has sustained an injury that will keep him out for at least half of the season. That is indeed a massive blow, but we do of course have cover in Ciaran Clark and the new arrival Fabian Schar. Rafa may even look to bring in another replacement at the last minute if possible. Mitro has of course left for Fulham permanently now, with the arrival of Yoshinori Muto now confirmed. Solomon Rondon could also be on his way, with the possibility of Dwight Gayle heading to West Brom in exchange. It certainly has been an interesting window, but not what we were hoping for yet again.
So, looking at the current situation, where will we realistically finish in May? Personally, I believe that another mid-table finish is on the cards. I think the side is too good to go down, (don’t quote me on that one), but not good enough still to reach Europe, although you never know. If I was to be specific, I’d say 9th (and that’s being very optimistic). We’ll certainly know come May, and let’s hope things are good when we get there.