After playing 22 matches this season, Newcastle United are 13th in the table and are temporarily on track to complete phase two of the Rafalution.
The Rafalution series is back and there is plenty of ground to cover as the Magpies played seven matches in December and are on track to complete phase two of the Rafalution this season.
As a quick summary, the Rafalution is a process that aims to gradually transform Newcastle United from an under-achieving mid-table club to a top six contender. The Rafalution is comprised of three phases – Promotion, Survival and Ascension. With phase one in the books as a result of Newcastle earning promotion to the Premier League last season, Rafa Benitez and his Magpies look to fulfill their phase two objective – avoid relegation.
December was a busy month for Newcastle United as the Magpies played seven matches, four of them at St. James’ Park and three in London. Below is a list of results from the December fixtures:
December 2: Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle United
December 9: Newcastle United 2-3 Leicester City
December 13: Newcastle United 0-1 Everton
December 16: Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle United
December 23: West Ham 2-3 Newcastle United
December 27: Newcastle United 0–1 Manchester City
December 30: Newcastle United 0-0 Brighton
Newcastle United only managed to earn four points out of a possible 21 from seven matches. Despite the club’s poor form last month, the Magpies have been fortunate as several bottom-half clubs have also struggled in December.
Rafalution Progress Report
With five months remaining in the season, Newcastle United have their work cut out for them as they face an uphill battle to avoid relegation. Having played two lenient matches in December and taking four points in those fixtures, Newcastle United showed that they can compete with the entire bottom half of the table.
However, a major problem for the Magpies is that they only have five matches remaining in which they have a good chance of claiming victory as Newcastle take on Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Huddersfield Town and West Brom over the next several weeks.
This creates a dilemma for the Magpies even if they were to win those five matches because it would lead to a total of 37 points, which is not enough to guarantee survival in the top flight. It is also wrong to assume that Newcastle will win those five matches as the Magpies were only able to earn two points from a possible nine against Brighton, Bournemouth and West Brom earlier this season.
If Benitez wishes to keep his club in the top flight, he must prepare the Magpies to steal points from teams that are superior on paper, but have displayed mediocre form this season, such as Southampton, Everton and Watford.
The losses to Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City were expected, but the way Newcastle lost to Everton and drew with Brighton at home is inexcusable. The Magpies must play with more intensity, confidence and composure between now and May to earn their spot in the Premier League next season.
Phase Two Status
Currently in 13th place with 22 points, the Magpies are in a decent mid-table position, but the club is only two points above the relegation zone. Newcastle United are on track to avoid relegation, but the Magpies could fall back into the bottom three if they suffer successive defeats from Manchester City and Burnley this month.