Newcastle’s Premier League showing this season has been something more like what punters anticipated from them in the previous campaign. This failure to replicate the Herculean effort of 2011/12 makes backing them to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League a good bet.
With Liverpool improving week-on-week, the seven clubs guaranteed to occupy a spot in the top-flight’s upper echelons (that’s the ‘big six’ and Everton) all look like doing so, which makes Newcastle’s 21/10 the biggest price outside of this group.
The Magpies – who’re currently teetering between top and bottom half in 10th spot – were exceptional last time around and their fearless approach to games papered over the numerous and obscure off-field antics the powers that be at St James’ Park dabbled in.
The extent of their achievement is epitomised by the fact that Mike Ashley might have forgotten what it feels like to have a horde of rampant Geordies calling for his head before and after every match. He might have even been considering dusting off his replica shirt and jumping in the Gallowgate End with the proletariat again.
With things not looking quite so rosy at the moment, however, such a move would be ill-advised.
The big problem they’re struggling to adapt to is that the goals have dried up. While they were far from prolific last term, only five other teams have failed to score more goals than the six they’ve managed at home this time around.
These goalscoring shortcomings emphasise their over-reliance on the Senegalese Batman and Robin, aka Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, to bag the goals.
Unlike the comic book crime-fighting duo, they tend to share the roles of hero and sidekick. It’s currently Cisse’s turn to sit in the passenger seat of the Batmobile as he struggles to have the same impact with which he exploded onto the Premier League scene with.
Ba is doing a sterling job of leading the Newcastle line but he can’t be expected to do it all himself – what would Batman be without Alfred? Alan Pardew needs players in other departments to find the target with greater regularity to take the pressure off their frontmen.
However, with just two apiece from Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabeye, they’re clearly having issues with spreading the load and, should something befoul Ba, then they will be susceptible to a nose dive towards the division’s nether regions.
Relegation alarm bells needn’t be ringing – they’ve got too much quality for that – but finishing in the higher reaches of the bottom half is highly plausible and should be backed while these odds remain.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date