A comparison of our results from 2012/13 against 2011/12 and one of things most noticeable is the difference in our home record between the two seasons. Fortress St James’, where we only lost on three occasions in 2011/12, had turned into a sandcastle in the space of a year, losing nine times in 2012/13.
In 2011/12, we won well against Everton thanks to a fantastic goal by Ryan Taylor, won comfortably against Manchester United, where Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones struggled to compete with the strength of Demba Ba and Shola Ameobi, and also beat Liverpool 2-0, much to the delight of the home fans, who witnessed Andy Carroll embarrassing himself in his first return to St James’ Park by diving in front of the Leazes end. To add to the enjoyment, Pepe Reina was sent off for a headbutt on James Perch and Jose Enrique had to don the keeper’s gloves on at the same end. A year later, all three teams avenged for their defeat for the previous season; Liverpool thrashing us in an embarrassing 6-0 defeat.
To add to those defeats, we struggled against teams below us too. A spineless performance against Sunderland and an inability to hold a one goal lead with twenty minutes remaining against Reading saw both teams leaving St James’ with all three points.
There were ten points difference (38 v 28 pts) in just our home form. Due to the closeness of the teams in mid-table, gaining ten points last season would us seen as finish in a lofty 8th place and arguably just as important, another £6 million in prize money. Whether that would have gone into the transfer kitty for this summer or Ashley’s back pocket is something well never know.
Our away record in the Premier League has been usually poor in recent seasons, but last season was quite unusual in the fact that we gained points in the majority of games away from St James’. Our record of 8-3-8 turned ino 2-7-10 (27 v 13 pts) – a pale comparison and was a significant factor in the reason why we were caught up in a relegation battle.
Looking at the results against teams season on season, our biggest swings were against Manchester United and Swansea; both losing four points on the fixtures compared to last year. Both teams, doing the ‘double’ on us, as well as Manchester City and Arsenal. Last season, only Manchester City could claim that achievement. Ourselves, the only team we beat home and away were relegated QPR. The season previous saw us doing the double over Stoke and relegated Bolton and Blackburn.
It has been commented that perhaps we overachieved in 2011/12 and we regressed to the mean last year. With the quality of the players that we have at our disposal – although, perhaps not the depth that we’d like – I don’t think we should be languishing in the lower half of the league. We do have the quality and ability to be certainly challenging for a Europa place on a regular basis. Last year we had a lot of injury problems and coupled with extra games in the Europa League, the frailty of our wafer thin squad started to take it’s toll. With a bit of good fortune, 2013/14 should be a better season for Newcastle United.