In last week’s article I predicted (or more correctly hoped for) a 0-0 draw. Within about 45 seconds I thought that was a forlorn hope, but fortunately VAR intervened as the ball had gone fractionally out of play when Newcastle thought they had scored within the first minute. But not to be deterred they came straight back at us and a minute or two later we were 1-0 down when Wilson ran on to a through ball that split our centre backs. I have to admit that at that point I feared the worst.
Not many teams score against the meanest defence in the Premier League (they have conceded far fewer than anyone else), particularly at St James’s Park. But the early setback seemed to spur us on and for much of the first half we were the better team and it was no surprise when Paqueta equalised from a corner well taken by our new corner taker Declan Rice. Is there anything that he doesn’t do well? The statistics at the end of the first half showed that we had eight shots compared to the home side’s two. Very promising.
The second half was more even but we held on well and by the end of the game we had collected a well deserved point in a 1-1 draw against the draw specialists. That was the Magpies tenth draw in 21 games. The shots count at the end was 10-8 in our favour and we were the better side in the expected goals (xg) statistic too. An excellent point in our fight for survival which we are very definitely still very much involved in. The point gained was very welcome but the most important thing for me was the overall performance which pleased me immensely.
In previous articles I have been analysing the position and current form of the bottom teams. I was concentrating on the seven sides closest to the foot but now I will extend it to nine as Palace in twelfth place are only six points clear of the relegation zone. The points of the bottom nine (all with 17 games still to play) are:
Palace 24, Forest 24, Leicester 21, Wolves 20, Leeds 19, West Ham 19, Everton 18, Bournemouth 17, Southampton 15.
The points gained in the last 5 games shows Forest well ahead of the rest, but we have now risen to third in this guide to current form:
Forest 11, Wolves 7, West Ham 5, Leicester 4, Everton 4, Leeds 3, Southampton 3, Palace 2, Bournemouth 1.
A couple of tough games coming up starting with the visit of Chelsea this weekend in the early kick-off. By the standards of recent times our visitors have had a poor season so far and are one of seven teams to relieve their manager of his position in the last six months. Graham Potter, after winning many plaudits for what he had done at Brighton, took over from Thomas Tuchel, but their fortunes have not improved whilst the Seagulls have continued with their impressive start and sit in sixth place, four clear of ninth placed Chelsea.
I read that everything seems to happen in the last five minutes of our Premier League games against Chelsea, more than in any other fixture. Each of the last three games has been settled by a goal in this time, and it has happened seven times overall with winning goals coming this late. Yarmolenko and Masuaku strikes stand out in my memory, but the finish of the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge earlier this season is one that was not good from our viewpoint. Do you remember that game played early in September?
Antonio scored the opening goal of the game about half an hour from the end before Chilwell equalised fifteen minutes later from a virtually impossible angle that Fabianski would have saved easily had he not advanced trying to narrow it even further. At 1-1 with the game almost over Cornet (remember him?) should have equalised but managed to hit the post before the ball went down the other end for Havertz to score what turned out to be the winner. We thought we had equalised in the last minute (Cornet again) but the goal was disallowed by referee Madley after a VAR check decided that keeper Mendy had been fouled by Bowen. Ridiculous in my view and many others thought the same too. Our manager described it as scandalous. That was one of the unlucky decisions that went against us in the early season games.
There’s a lot that annoys me about Chelsea. It goes back around 40 years when I was threatened with a knife in the Stamford Bridge stand at a Chelsea v Newcastle Division 2 game, when I was there with a Geordie friend. Back in 1983/4 neither of those two teams who now have some of the richest owners in the Premier League were in the top division. I dislike the fact that the Blues, bankrolled by billionaire owner Todd Boehly, have spent money outrageously in January, dwarfing that of every one of the teams in the German, Spanish and Italian leagues combined. More than the rest of the Premier League combined too. It just seems to be a continuation of the Abramovich era.
I find the spending outrageous, obscene even. It is not good for football. And at a time of a cost of living crisis too it seems even worse. There always used to be an argument that the vast amounts of money in the Premier League found its way down the leagues and into grass roots football. But does it? Somehow wealthy clubs such as Chelsea spending record-breaking eye-watering sums don’t get touched by Financial Fair Play. Somehow they manage to keep within the regulations. For me there must be something wrong with how the fair play rules are constructed. Nothing fair about it at all and the ruination of fair competition.
Despite their indifferent recent form (they have only picked up five points from their last five games – the same as ourselves), the visitors are favourites with the bookmakers to win the game at 5/4. A West Ham win and the draw are both priced at 23/10. I hope that we beat them. I think that we can. What are the chances of the game being settled once again with a West Ham winner in the last five minutes? I do hope so.