You don’t have to be too old to remember the days towards the end of the twentieth century when Manchester City were in the third tier of English football around 25 years ago. They climbed back into the top tier by early in this century but they weren’t exactly pulling up trees with mid-table finishes for four seasons from the time they moved into their new stadium in 2003.
However in August 2008, the club was purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group. The takeover was immediately followed by many bids for high-profile players. There wasn’t a massive improvement in performance compared to the previous season despite the influx of money however, with the team finishing tenth, although they did reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup. During the summer of 2009, the club took transfer spending to an unprecedented level, with an outlay of over £100 million on players. Mark Hughes was replaced as manager by Roberto Mancini and City finished the season in fifth position in the Premier League, narrowly missing out on a place in the Champions League, and competed in the UEFA Europa League in season 2010–11.
Continued investment in players followed in successive seasons, and results began to match the improvement in player quality. City reached the 2011 FA Cup Final, their first major final in over 30 years, where they beat Stoke City 1–0, the club’s first major trophy since winning the 1976 League Cup. In the same week, the club qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Strong performances continued to follow in the 2011–12 season with the club scoring two goals in injury time to complete a last-minute title victory to deny their city rivals, City’s first in 44 years.
And just look where City are now. After that title success they have since been Premier League champions four times, and runners-up on three occasions. A further win in the FA Cup, six League Cup titles, and runners-up in the Champions League last season. They are strong favourites to win the Champions League this time around, and their 5-0 win over the Portuguese champions away from home this week put them virtually into the last eight.
In October 2021, Newcastle United, precariously placed near the foot of the Premier League, was bought by a group led by the Saudi Arabian government’s sovereign wealth fund. It is widely reported that the purchase made Newcastle the richest club in the world. So are Newcastle about to become the new Manchester City in the next decade or so?
Spending in the winter transfer window has been the spark that has lifted them out of the relegation zone. They are now four points clear of Norwich (who are 18th) as a result of 11 points from their last (unbeaten) five games, a record bettered in the top flight by only Manchester City (13), Liverpool (13) and Wolves (12). That’s impressive considering their opening 18 games this season yielded only 10 points. In comparison we have 7 points from our last 5 games.
They visit the London Stadium with an impressive record here too, where they have won 75% of their visits in the Premier League, and are aiming for their third consecutive away win at our ground. In fact Newcastle’s most wins in away games in the Premier League have come against us with 10, which is more than they have achieved against any other club.
Our season has been going in the opposite direction although we are still clinging on to fifth place with just 13 games to go (7 at home and 6 away). Arsenal, Wolves and Tottenham in 6th, 7th and 8th can all go past us with success in their games in hand so it is imperative that we start to pick up more wins to retain any chance of emulating last season’s sixth place finish or even better it.
We won 7 of the first 11 league games this season but have picked up the three points for a win in only 5 of the last 14. We have at least scored a goal in every one of the 12 league games we have played at the London Stadium this season, a feat we haven’t achieved before. And Newcastle on the other hand haven’t scored more than one goal in any of their away league games this season. So if this statistic were maintained we won’t lose!
We have scored 44 league goals so far giving us a ranking of 4th, but the 33 goals conceded puts us at 10th in that category – even bottom of the table Burnley have conceded fewer than we have, but on the other hand they are 19th when it comes to goals scored. The return of Zouma should help our defensive record, although Diop, so out of touch in some recent games, had perhaps his best performance of the season at Leicester, and both he and Dawson had sound performances. It would be harsh to leave either of them out. It was in the full back department (on both sides) where our weakness was found out in that game.
In Jarrod Bowen we have a player in superb form in both scoring and creating goals, but so many others appear to be out of form, or at least not at their best in recent games. Declan Rice has been his usual consistent impressive self but these two can’t win games on their own (as hard as they try!) and some of the others must step up to the plate.
David Moyes needs to turn the tide in home games against Newcastle where he has lost the last three. I think he will. It’s about time that Newcastle’s impressive recent run came to an end, and wearing my optimistic hat I forecast a 3-1 win that will lift us back into the top four. Hopefully we can stay there if Manchester United fail to win at Leeds on Sunday. It’s games like this one where three points will go a long way in us maintaining our challenge at the top. What are the chances?