Chris Knight praises Newcastle's response to demoralising derby defeat a month ago, and believes Europe could now beckon for Alan Pardew's men.
Just over a month ago, Fabio Borini's stunning strike condemned Newcastle to a second consecutive derby defeat and marked a new low to an already inconsistent season. Solid away victories at Aston Villa and Cardiff and a battling draw against Liverpool had been cancelled out by performances against the likes of Everton and Hull. Another season of struggle amongst the lower reaches of the division beckoned.
Fast forward a month later and three consecutive victories have completely transformed the outlook at the club. A rousing home victory over Mourinho's Chelsea was followed by a gritty win at White Harte Lane, inspired by Krul's heroics in goal. Saturday's 2-1 victory over Norwich was comfortable if unconvincing, yet it kept the points rolling in on this recent run.
Newcastle's climb up the table has almost gone unnoticed by the media and the club now find themselves sat in eighth position. Only two points off of the Champions League spots, the Magpies have even managed to open a gap of five points to those in mid table. For all the praise that has correctly been lavished on Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton, they are only two points better off than Pardew's men. Martinez's Everton only sit a point ahead of the Magpies. Tottenham, who until recently had been viewed as a monotonous model of consistency, are now below Newcastle, albeit on goal difference. In the space of a month, Newcastle have elevated themselves to the upper echelons of the division.
Recent quotes from Loic Remy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa on the topic of Europe illustrate the changing mood on Tyneside. Although talk of the Champions League is far too premature, competing for a Europa League spot has emerged as a very real possibility. A month ago, fans had been prepared for a season looking anxiously downwards rather than talking of European ambitions.
After Pardew was rightly the subject of much criticism over the last year, it is only fair that he is praised for his role in this recent run. Rather than tinkering with a formation to accommodate the unpredictable talent of Hatem Ben Arfa, Pardew took the brave decision to drop the popular winger to compact the midfield. With Papiss Cisse misfiring and Yoan Gouffran's work-rate required out wide, the manager turned to Shola Ameobi up front and has been rewarded with a series of powerful displays. Mike Williamson was drafted in from the cold and has now earned Pardew's faith and position in the starting eleven, at least for the time being.
Of course, as this is Newcastle United the recent run has inevitably been shrouded by tabloid talk on the future of key individuals. Coloccini's reiteration of his desire for a return to Argentina and the uncertainty over Yohan Cabaye and Remy ensure that a tension remains on Tyneside. It also wouldn't be untypical for Newcastle to be plagued once again by inconsistency and lose at home to West Brom on Saturday. Right now though, the recent run shows the transformative difference a month can have in football.
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