United Have a Chance in a Two-Tier Division; THE AGENDA: Where Should Newcastle Aspire to Finish in the Premier League Next Season? the Premier League's Top Ten Looked Weak This Season - If They Do Things Right, Argues NUFC Editor Mark Douglas, Newcastle Can Gatecrash It

The Journal (Newcastle, England), May 23, 2017 | Go to article overview

United Have a Chance in a Two-Tier Division; THE AGENDA: Where Should Newcastle Aspire to Finish in the Premier League Next Season? the Premier League's Top Ten Looked Weak This Season - If They Do Things Right, Argues NUFC Editor Mark Douglas, Newcastle Can Gatecrash It


SO WELCOME back to the Premier League, Newcastle United. But which Premier League? Sunday's final round of top-flight games brought the curtain down on a pretty mediocre Premier League season.

Although Spurs applied pressure in the second half of the season, Chelsea emerged from a dearth of quality among the heavyweights to turn the title race into a procession.

Sunderland and Middlesbrough were dreadful and the relegation places were settled long before the final day.

The so-called race for the top four - hardly enthralling in itself - turns off neutrals. But there was something remarkable bubbling away beneath the tedium.

This was the year it became a twotier Premier League - the 15-point gap that separated seventh and eighth in the division a stark reminder of the gap in quality between the division's best and the rest.

Everton in seventh won 61 points: about right for a team that qualifies for Europe. But Southampton's 46 points - which earned them eighth - would have seen them finish 13th in each of the two previous seasons.

The Saints were the best of a fairly wretched bottom tier of the table this season. They didn't beat a single side in the top six in the league all season but they didn't have to.

Every single side below seventh had a negative goal difference.

Don't get it twisted. Southampton have finished above Newcastle in 10 of the last 11 seasons and if you ask Rafa Benitez now if he would accept eighth and a cup final next season, the answer - surely - would be that he would.

Yet Saints fans stayed away from the lap of honour and many are questioning whether Claude Puel is finished ninth, taking five points from an available 36.

This is not a vintage crop of Premier League teams: Brighton braced for a survival mission, which will surely be the height of the aims of whichever of Huddersfield or Reading win next Monday's Wembley play-off game.

them Newcastle will be under no illusions about which of the two tiers of the Premier League they are in - or the size of the job ahead to make them a credible Premier League force again.

Benitez talked of making sure ambitions were realistic next year, and, without aping Alan Pardew's knack of consistently talking the club down, he has a point.

History would suggest there is a lot of work to do to give Newcastle some relevance in the Premier League again.

The manager is battling more than a decade of topflight underachievement at Newcastle. …

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United Have a Chance in a Two-Tier Division; THE AGENDA: Where Should Newcastle Aspire to Finish in the Premier League Next Season? the Premier League's Top Ten Looked Weak This Season - If They Do Things Right, Argues NUFC Editor Mark Douglas, Newcastle Can Gatecrash It
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