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Season Preview: Will internal turmoil bring Newcastle down?

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Newcastle at a glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 2 (last: 1959/60)

FA Cups: 5 (last: 1954/55)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up 1974/75)

FA Community Shield: 1 (1909/10, runners-up 5 times)

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Newcastle’s biggest enemy is itself, and this year might just be the year it brings them down for real.

Soccer’s Jerry Jones has taken flak for years as the Magpies slowly consume themselves from the inside out, yet Mike Ashley continues to trudge on stuck in his ways. No Premier League team would produce a bigger inferno upon relegation than Newcastle. Championship title winners just two years ago, Rafa Benitez has milked everything he can out of a paper-thin squad for the last two years, but if relegation becomes unavoidable, Newcastle’s biggest asset would most certainly walk, and the doom and gloom would spread like wildfire.

It’s somewhat surprpsing that relegation talk swirls after a 10th placed finish last year, but that’s the Benitez effect. The team continues to punch above its weight on paper, all thanks to their all-star manager. Yet the summer transfer window has been another one of frustration, and thus the fan unrest continues.

Can Benitez push the Magpies away from the bottom-tier maelstrom or will Newcastle be pulled into the unescapable cyclone?


Newcastle will finish away from the drop because…everything good Newcastle has stumbled upon the last two years has been attributable to Benitez. With the Spaniard around, most anything is possible. The defense is thin but talented, and the attack has promise. If Newcastle can avoid the injury bug, they can go places.

Newcastle will be relegated because…the squad is razor thin. Florian Lejeune is already out with an ACL tear, and if an injury leaves either Jamaal Lascelles or Martin Dubravka on the sidelines as well, the back line becomes swiss cheese. At the other end there’s a little more depth, but much of the creativity falls to Ayoze Perez, and an injury to the wrong place in that department could bring the team down as well. Mike Ashley hasn’t done enough this summer to instill confidence in fans.

Best possible XI:

———————Dubravka———————

——Yedlin—Lascelles—Schar——Dummett——

——Ritchie—Shelvey—Diame——Atsu——

—————Perez——————

—————Gayle——————

Transfers In: Yoshinori Muto ($12.4 million, FSV Mainz), Fabian Schar ($4.6 million, Deportivo La Coruna), Martin Dubravka ($4.6 million, Sparta Prague), Ki Sung-Yueng (Free, Swansea City), Kenedy (Loan, Chelsea).

Transfers Out: Aleksandar Mitrovic ($23.3 million, Fulham), Mikel Merino ($12 million, Real Sociedad), Chance Mbemba ($9.2 million, Porto), Matz Sels ($4.6 million, RC Strasbourg), Massadio Haidara (Free, Lens), Stuart Findlay (Free, Kilmarnock), Jack Colback (Loan, Nottingham Forest).

Ranking their offseason: C

Newcastle received nearly $25 million for Aleksandar Mitrovic from Fulham – a total that was basically a foregone conclusion for weeks, pending Newcastle securing his replacement in Muto – and promptly sat on it. While useful players have been brought in with Schar replacing the injured Lejeune and Dubravka likely to start in net, the team wasn’t necessarily improved in the transfer market, and the squad still has plenty of holes. If they go down, this transfer window will be largely viewed as a big reason why.

Star player: While Ayoze Perez is the lifeblood of the Newcastle attack, nobody is more important to this squad than Jamaal Lascelles. Newcastle resisted heavy interest for his services this summer, and they will be far better off for it. The 24-year-old has developed into one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and was heavily considered for a spot in the England World Cup squad this summer. If anything happens to him, this squad will come crumbling to pieces, and he would likely leave if they are relegated.

Coach’s Corner: While Lascelles is the most valuable player, nobody is more important to this team than Rafa Benitez. Mike Ashley’s greatest accomplishment was convincing the Spaniard to commit to the club through the one season in the Championship, and it has paid off since. Still, Ashely does little to back his manager, and Benitez has not held back. After a 4-0 defeat to Braga in preseason, Benitez said, “The fans have to be concerned, we are concerned. I’m really worried.” Should the club misstep at all this season, Benitez would surely depart for a bigger club. He’s certainly earned the right.

PST Predicts: While much of this preview has been quite doom and gloom, Newcastle has enough prized possessions to stay up this season. The most concerning part of this offseason has to be the newly promoted clubs spending vast quantities of money to improve, but there should be enough teams worse than Newcastle to prevent the Magpies from suffering heartbreak. Just enough. They should finish around 15th in the table after quite the scare.

Video: Ayoze Perez stuns with back-heel strike in Newcastle training

Owen Humphreys/PA via AP
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The Premier League season may be a few weeks away from kicking off, but Ayoze Perez looks to be in fine form for the Magpies.

[ MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo won’t travel to U.S. with Juventus ]

The Newcastle attacker scored a wonderful flicked back-heel during a recent training session with the club (below), potentially giving fans a preview of things to come this season.

Perez, 24, is entering his fifth season at St. James’ Park, and with goals like this, the Spaniard will have expectations raised even further under manager Rafael Benitez.

Newcastle United smash listless Chelsea, finish 10th

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  • Chelsea winless in last 5 at St. James’ Park
  • Newcastle has won four of those
  • Perez scores twice
  • Gayle opens scoring

Ayoze Perez’s two-goal day led Newcastle United past listless Chelsea as the Magpies clinched a top-half finish with a 3-0 win at St. James’ Park on Championship Sunday.

Dwight Gayle also scored for the Magpies, who finish 10th with 44 points. Chelsea will end the season fifth with 70 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle’s fifth minute free kick came from a promising angle, but Chelsea cleared the effort with a powerful header.

Jonjo Shelvey stung a ninth minute effort at Thibaut Courtois, but the Belgian parried for Cesar Azpilicueta’s clearance.

And Mo Diame forced a similar save, though his rip appeared to be going wide of the goal. A short corner was sent away, but Newcastle came back.

Newcastle indeed opened the scoring, with Jacob Murphy‘s intense pressure forcing Courtois to slap the ball onto the path of Gayle for 1-0. And Shelvey sent a shot just wide moments later!

Joselu took Gayle’s place early in the second half. It was Chelsea who got its first shot on target of the match when Olivier Giroud forced Martin Dubravka into an outstanding tip save.

Shelvey’s long drive was deflected in by Perez to make it 2-0, and Newcastle made it 3-0 (!!!) on a free kick. Florian Lejeune headed to the back post to square for Perez’s tap-in.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Watford 2-1 Newcastle: Early goals lead Hornets

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  • Both teams on 41 points
  • Goal, assist for Pereyra
  • Perez scores again for NUFC

Roberto Pereyra and Andre Gray scored early goals as Watford clinched another season in the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at Vicarage Road.

Ayoze Perez scored Newcastle’s goal, as the Magpies poured it on but couldn’t complete their comeback bid.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford took the lead within two minutes, as Paul Dummett‘s tepid touch cued up Abdoulaye Doucoure’s cut pass to Pereyra. 1-0.

Martin Dubravka made a close-range stop on Pereyra minutes later, the rebound blocked by Troy Deeney before a follow-up shot sailed wide of the goal.

The Hornets grabbed insurance when Pereyra’s cross was misjudged by Martin Dubravka, nodded over the line by Gray.

Paul Dummett gave away a penalty to Gray with an ill-time slide, but Dubravka stopped Deeney’s attempt and the rebound.

United pulled one back through Perez’s slick outside of the boot finish of a Javier Manquillo cross.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Newcastle comes back to top Arsenal

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  • Lacazette scores early
  • Perez levels, assists winner
  • Slimani impacts off bench

Matt Ritchie‘s second half goal helped Newcastle United to a 2-1 comeback win over Arsenal at St. James’ Park on Sunday.

Alexandre Lacazette and Ayoze Perez traded first half goals as Newcastle stayed unbeaten at home in 2018.

The 10th place Magpies now have 41 points, 13 clear of relegation with five to play.

Arsenal remains sixth with 54 points.

Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were among the Arsenal players rested after completing its defeat of CSKA Moscow in Europa League play on Thursday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Though Newcastle was on the front foot, with Kenedy forcing an early save out of Petr Cech, the Gunners went ahead when Lacazette feasted off the work of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka stopped to collect an Alex Iwobi effort in the 20th minute as the Gunners grew further into the control.

Newcastle went level through Perez, who flicked DeAndre Yedlin‘s cross past Cech as the match reached the half hour mark.

Arsenal quickly regained control, and probably should’ve been ahead on multiple occasions including a point-blank miss by debutant Joe Willock.

Ritchie put Newcastle ahead in the 69th minute, with substitute Islam Slimani winning a header that Perez nudged to the Scot.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]