Divided and static Newcastle look a value bet for bottom-half finish

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Despite finishing 20 points shy of seventh-placed Liverpool last season, Ladbrokes outright markets judge Newcastle the eighth-best team in the Premier League, and rate them at 6/5 to return to the top 10.

Far more tempting is the 4/6 on them spending another campaign below halfway, particularly as – with less than five weeks to go before the start of 2013/14 – they are in no healthier a position than when ranking a dismal 16th in May.

Whereas Aston Villa and Sunderland, the two fellow underachievers who lined up either side of the Magpies in 2012/13, have signalled their intention to avoid a repeat with at least six signings each, Newcastle have yet to make a senior purchase.

James Perch and Danny Simpson, who made a combined 60 Premier League appearances last term, have departed. The only incomings have been 16-year-old Olivier Keman, Joe Kinnear as director of football and a return of the uncertainty, distrust and dissatisfaction that polluted their 2008/09 relegation campaign.

It is unfair to dismiss Kinnear’s ability for the role that he has inherited entirely, but the chaos that his appointment has incited is undeniable, with many fans deeming it a backwards step and Alan Pardew’s authority clearly challenged.

Even if the storm is calmed and the transfer work conducted over the next month and a half proves savvy, there is still a large gulf to bridge to reclaim top-half status.

Last season’s top seven have all placed 10th or higher in the last five editions so, theoretically, there are at best three vacancies to fill.

The trio that seized those spots in 2012/13 have shown ambition to stick around in this window, West Brom recruiting Nicolas Anelka, Swansea snaring Wilfried Bony and West Ham making Andy Carroll’s loan deal permanent.

Newcastle’s stunning ascent to fifth in 2010/11, the foundations of which were laid by finishing a point off the top-10 pace 12 months earlier, represents their sole top-half showing since a seventh in 2005/06.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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