I remember vividly the match on Saturday 12 November 2022, Chelsea the visitors.
Indeed, I remember the build up, it felt it could be a real pivotal game. For both teams potentially.
It was the final Premier League game for both teams before the Qatar World Cup, Newcastle United went into the game third in the table, 27 points from the first 14 games of the season. Chelsea were on 21 points from 13 matches.
If Newcastle United won at St James’ Park, they would be guaranteed to stay in third place until at least Boxing Day, they would also move nine points ahead of Chelsea, who would have a game in hand.
A win for Chelsea at SJP would of course have put them on 24 points going into the World Cup break, only three points behind Newcastle and with that game in hand.
Eddie Howe’s team were excellent, they dominated Chelsea and Nick Pope only had one routine save to make in the entire game. At the other end Newcastle went close on a number of occasions before finally on 67 minutes, some great persistence from Almiron helped the ball into the path of Joe Willoock who hit a beauty (see above) into the top corner.
St James’ Park exploded.
There have been many great moments this season but that was definitely a contender to be named very best, so far…
After good performances early in the season had only produced a mediocre number of points, October and November was class. That win over Chelsea made it 22 points from a possible 24.
As for Chelsea, their new owners had sacked the club’s Champions League winning manager Thomas Tuchel after only six Premier League matches, as he had ‘only’ picked up 10 points from a possible 18.
It was all very bizarre, the new Chelsea owners had broken all Premier League records with the biggest spend ever in that summer 2022 window, more than any other PL club had ever spent in any previous window. Then to sack your manager after only six PL matches? It didn’t exactly suggest that Thomas Tuchel had been allowed much say on the numerous expensive signings.
Graham Potter had a bit of a honeymoon / new manager bounce period, winning his first three Premier League matches after significant compensation had been paid to Brighton for his and his backroom team’s services.
Two PL draws then followed, before defeats to Brighton (4-1!!!) and Arsenal (1-0) preceded that defeat at St James’ Park.
After the Qatar World Cup, I have been intrigued by the very different coverage Chelsea and Newcastle United.
I must be missing something here but it feels like any remote positive concerning Chelsea is blown out of all proportion by the media, with the opposite where Newcastle United are concerned – any negative seized and made into something far far bigger than the actual reality.
Considering that then Chelsea smashed all previous records for a January transfer window as well, whilst Newcastle United brought in only one big signing in Anthony Gordon (as well as £3m Harrison Ashby), to me it just makes the respective coverage of the two clubs even more bizarre.
This taking small Chelsea positives and small Newcastle negatives, then blowing them out of all proportion, reached an absolute peak very recently, only eight days ago.
At that point on 11 March 2023, Graham Potter’s side had just managed consecutive Premier League wins, against relegation strugglers Leeds and Leicester.
Now bear in mind, this had followed only two wins (against two other relegation strugglers – Bournemouth and Crystal Palace) in their previous fifteen PL matches.
Nevertheless, the media reaction was absolutely hysterical, or should that be…hilarious.
The (London!) media was full of what a massive turning point this surely was, Graham Potter and the countless very expensive signings suddenly gelling perfectly…apparently.
I even read some journalists and pundits predicting that now Chelsea had clicked into gear, it was very possible they could even win all of their last twelve Premier League matches, showing their class, clinching a top four spot.
I found it unbelievable, forget about this being Chelsea. To suggest any team would win two of fifteen Premier League matches and then suddenly win fourteen in a row is…quite bizarre.
As for Newcastle United, the (London!) media wanted to see a club rapidly on their way down now. The promise swiftly fading, Newcastle’s luck running out, a team that had flattered to deceive, playing above itself, now set to fall away.
I even read a number of journalists / pundits talking about Eddie Howe now under pressure, potentially set to lose his job if things continued in this downward trend…yeah right.
This was based on a few recent draws that Newcastle hadn’t been able to turn into wins despite generally dominating, with them defeats to Liverpool (a daft 12 minutes but NUFC the better team for 70+ minutes even with 10 men) and at champions Man City, where the home side scored with two of their three shots on target and Newcastle wasted half a dozen or so decent to very good opportunities in front of goal.
Since 11 March 2023 (eight days ago), Newcastle United have been by far the better team and deservedly won against Wolves at home and at Forest (who hadn’t lost at home since mid-September).
Meanwhile, the final Premier League match on Saturday was at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea leading twice but very weak (very expensive!) defenders allowing Everton two equalisers.
The media’s dream of 12 Premier League wins for Chelsea to finish off the season, crashing spectacularly at the first hurdle.
That leaves the Premier League table looking like this on Sunday morning:
As you can see, Chelsea remain down in tenth place, Newcastle eight points ahead of them and with a game in hand.
Now I am not counting any chickens here yet, I know how quickly things can change, especially for the worst, in football.
However, on all known evidence this season and indeed the second half of last season (NUFC picked up 38 points in the final 19 games of 2021/22, Chelsea 33 points), it is Newcastle United who continue in the ascendancy. The only notable ascendancy you can see at Chelsea is the ever increasing amounts of money that are spent on players.
Incredibly, just as it was under the disgraced Roman Abramovich, the (London…) media have almost zero negativity to put out about this crazy spending and the sheer number of new signings, quite clearly with Graham Potter having minimal say on any of them, the same as Thomas Tuchel.
Yet with Newcastle United and Eddie Howe, every signing is talked about negatively, NUFC buying success and all the rest of it, you couldn’t make it up! The media repeatedly talking of Alexander Isak’s £59m signing as having proved very disappointing, refusing to even mention that injury and fitness / recovery issues had played a massive part, the Sweden international has still only started seven Premier League games for Newcastle, scoring six goals!
Pundits / journalists suddenly saying that now they can tell Alexander Isak could be a decent striker after three goals in a week, which sums up how useless the media is these days. As before getting injured, on his debut back in August, Isak was thrown in at the deep end at Anfield, where he tormented the Liverpool defence, scoring one brilliant goal and having an even better one very unluckily / undeservedly disallowed. You could see then the sheer top quality he possessed.
Much has been made of Newcastle United supposedly having disastrous form since the Qatar World Cup but as well as winning four League Cup matches in a row against Premier League opposition before that unlucky final defeat v Man Utd, Eddie Howe’s side have now picked up 17 points from 11 PL games since Christmas, whilst in the same time period Chelsea have picked up 17 points in 13 PL matches.
Yet despite all of the above, the media wanting to push Chelsea as some big positive story of a club / team that are sure to now swiftly rise towards the very top.
I take it as a compliment that Newcastle United have got the likes of Chelsea and their London media mates so worried, long may it continue.