Newcastle United half term report - Champions League ambition.

After a promising 19 games, we assess Newcastle United's season so far.

Prediction at the start of the season

After a disappointing campaign last season, we expected Newcastle to struggle especially with only one notable signing in the summer transfer window and Yohan Cabaye being linked with a move away from the club. We expected them to stay in the Premier League but be looking over their shoulders.

How have they been so far?

It’s safe to say we have been proved wrong so far as Newcastle have taken some big scalps even if there has been the odd disappointing performance in there. They definitely have a chance of getting into Europe, maybe even the Champions League places after what has been a very impressive start to the season. After their January shopping spree, it appears those players have settled down and adapted to life in the Premier League.

Manager rating?

8/10 for Pardew as his side look capable of improving on their strong showing two seasons ago where they pushed very hard for a Champions League place. He has made his side very difficult to play against, they’re energetic and can be quite good to watch. A vast improvement on last season already.

Best game they’ve been involved in?

Newcastle United 2-3 Hull City. Maybe not the best for the supporters, but from a neutral point of view it was quite entertaining as Newcastle went down to Premier League newboys Hull City. Loic Remy twice put the home side in front only for the Tigers to peg them back - leading to a Sone Aluko volley leaving Newcastle empty handed.

Their stand-out player?

It might be the obvious answer but when Yohan Cabaye is in the side, the Magpies just look a far better unit. It was summed up during their 3-2 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park when the French midfielder came on at half time with his side 3-0 down.

New signings – how are they getting on?

Their only major signing was Loic Remy on loan from QPR for the season, and so far he has proven to be a shrewd piece of business as he is currently the side’s top scorer in the league. He has provided them with end product and some good movement in the top end of the field.

Most significant win of the season?

Newcastle 2-0 Chelsea - though some would say their win at Old Trafford was more significant. The context of the Chelsea victory was huge given the Blues wanted to put pressure on at the top whilst Newcastle showed that St James’ Park is a very difficult place to go.

Their low point so far?

Sunderland 2-1 Newcastle United. There isn't anything much more painful than a defeat to your fiercest rivals, especially when you are their first scalp of the season as Sunderland got the better of the Magpies in an intense Tyne/Wear derby.

Where do they need to strengthen in January?

They could probably do with a central player in each part of the field. Another central midfielder to cover Cabaye, the centre of defence has sometimes looked a little makeshift and a solid experienced centre half would be a useful addition to the Newcastle squad - and a bit more firepower up front could be useful though goals seem to be coming from all parts of the team this season.

What can we expect from them for the rest of the season?

It's difficult to say. Newcastle just look very difficult to beat, and they have goals in the side so they will comfortably finish in the top half of the table, and it will be no surprise if they upset the apple cart towards the top of the table and finish in the top seven.

image: © mickyb59

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