Promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking looks all but certain for Newcastle United following Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Huddersfield Town, which left the Magpies with an 11-point cushion above the play-off spots.
But while a huge win against promotion rivals was all about the three points for Rafa Benitez and co, the Toon’s performance highlighted the reasons they can more than survive in the top flight next term.
They won’t suffer striker pitfall
For the current newly-promoted Premier League crop, the issue of a reliable goalscorer looks to have been make-or-break.
Hull City’s main attacking outlet, Abel Hernandez, has managed just three top-flight goals this term. Middlesbrough’s Alvaro Negredo has scored once in his last nine games, causing the Teessiders to plummet in form. Only Burnley, who boast the impressive Andre Gray, currently look likely to survive.
Luckily for Newcastle fans, they have a reliable hitman in the form of Dwight Gayle. A genuine match-winner, the 26-year-old has improved all-round since his summer move from Crystal Palace, and closed the game out with an instinctive third at Huddersfield.
Having already enjoyed three decent – if unspectacular – seasons in the Prem with Palace, he knows the league well, and with 21 league goals and counting this term, he’ll return to the top flight a sharper and more lethal striker. Defences beware.
Rafa’s found a fine formula
While many managers struggle to find a tactical set-up to deliver success in the top-flight, Newcastle have a ready-made system under Rafael Benitez, with their 4-4-1-1 set-up now doing the business week-in, week-out, with the Championship’s finest having no answer to it.
Having won away at Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town in the past fortnight by utilising that system, there’s every chance that Prem outfits will struggle with the solidity of the Magpies’ set-up and its use of the creative Mohamed Diame behind any of Gayle, Daryl Murphy and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
That worked a treat again on Saturday, with a compact backline soaking up the Terriers’ pressure, before hurting them on the counter-attack. And the West Yorkshire outfit won’t be its last victims.
Low-possession wins are a positive
As a newly-promoted side in the Premier League, it’s fair to assume you’ll struggle for possession against a number of the top sides. But Newcastle showed yet again at the John Smiths’s Stadium, that they can win games on the road against high-possession opponents.
Benitez’s men recorded just 24 per cent possession at the weekend, and had fewer shots on goal and corners compared to their hosts. But they held firm when under pressure defensively, and were utterly clinical at the other end.
Having also won at Wolves last month despite enjoying a slim possession figure, it’s clear that yesterday was no fluke for the Magpies. That ability to win even when they’re not controlling the game – or the ball – stands them in great stead for potential trips to the Emirates, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge – and the like – next season.
Next up for Newcastle is a trip to Reading on Wednesday night, with the North-East giants 20/21 for victory.
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