HomePremier LeagueNewcastle on course to gatecrash top six

Newcastle on course to gatecrash top six

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – Premier League – Newcastle United v Manchester City – St James’ Park, Newcastle, Britain – August 21, 2022 Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe applauds fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

LONDON (Reuters) – Newcastle United played like a top-six Premier League side to claim a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to champions Manchester City last weekend and with the prospect of more signings in the transfer window, it appears that is where they are heading.

Such is the incredible transformation since a 305 million- pound ($360.36 million) Saudi Arabian-backed takeover in October, Newcastle have gone from second-bottom in the table to a team who proved against City they can go toe-to-toe with the best.

Manager Eddie Howe, who replaced Steve Bruce last season and has enjoyed 150 million pounds worth of new signings this year, says Newcastle must dream big.

Long-suffering fans of the North East club need little encouragement to do just that but there have been too many false dawns over the River Tyne down the years.

Statistics show, however, that Newcastle are on course to break up the established top six of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

In 2022, they are averaging 1.95 points per match, according to data from analysts Gracenote, joint fourth with Arsenal in the Premier League and more than Manchester United (1.30) and Chelsea (1.71).

In 2021, they averaged 0.88 points per game, although in the 27 Premier League games under Howe last season that average rose to a very respectable 1.63 as Newcastle finished 11th.

Newcastle appeared close to signing Real Sociedad striker Alexander Isak for a club record fee of around 60 million pounds on Thursday, a move that if confirmed could accelerate Newcastle’s upward trajectory.

Should Howe’s team maintain their 2022 points average for the rest of the season, they would end with 74 points — a total good enough for a top-four finish in 23 of the 27 Premier League seasons.

Newcastle have improved across every department but Howe began by making them harder to beat, bolstering a flimsy defence with the signings of Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn and Matt Targett.

According to Gracenote, they are conceding 45% fewer goals per match in 2022 than in 2021, 19% fewer big chances and are making 14% more tackles and 11% more interceptions.

In attack, Newcastle are scoring 19% more goals per game in 2022 than the previous year and creating 25% more chances.

Their luck has also changed.

“Analysis indicates that Newcastle United may have had some luck in taking 1.95 points per match this year,” Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis, Nielsen Gracenote, told Reuters.

“The team’s underlying performance metrics are not quite those of a top-6 team, particularly in attack. But with the additional improvements to the team made by this summer’s signings, Newcastle’s underlying performance metrics could improve further, meaning that they may sustain this level of points taking until the end of the year.”

While the data looks good for Newcastle, Manchester United, despite their heartening 2-1 victory over Liverpool on Monday, appear to be heading in the wrong direction.

United’s 1.30 points per game in 2022 is 10th best in the Premier League and exactly the same as Brentford.

Monday’s win against Liverpool was only their eighth Premier League victory this year and they have not won two league matches in the same month since February.

United will hope to put that right when they travel to Southampton on Saturday and, however tough times have been of late for England’s most successful club, they may well look at Newcastle’s resurgence as proof of how quickly things can turn around.

($1 = 0.8464 pounds)

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)