Premier League: What now for winless Newcastle after hitting rock bottom?

Newcastle boss rafa benitez
Could a lack of backing for Benitez cost Newcastle?

Saturday marked Newcastle's worst ever start to a Premier League season and without a win to their name, Ben McAleer is starting to fear for the Magpies' top-flight status...

"Benitez is effectively working with one arm tied behind his back and it’s resulted in a shocking start to their second campaign in the top-flight following their Premier League return"

Newcastle fans deserve better than this. Arguably the most passionate and loyal fanbase in the country, the lack of investment from club owner Mike Ashley has contributed to a disasterous start to the season. Rafa Benitez worked wonders to guide the Magpies to a 10th-placed finish last term and the summer was the time to invest accordingly not tighten the purse strings.

Benitez is effectively working with one arm tied behind his back and it's resulted in a shocking start to their second campaign in the top-flight following their Premier League return. Indeed, Newcastle foot the table with just two points from the opening nine games. After Cardiff's 4-2 win over Fulham on Saturday, the Magpies, along with Huddersfield, are one of two teams yet to win a Premier League match this season.

Newcastle were desperately unlucky not to beat Brighton

There was a huge slice of misfortune about their 1-0 loss to Brighton this weekend with Benitez's side dominating at St. James' Park, outshooting their opponents 27 to eight and enjoying 68% possession. Beram Kayal's goal should never have come to pass on Saturday with the ball last coming off Solly March that resulted in the subsequent corner the Israeli scored from.

There were 41 crosses, the second most in a Premier League match this season and you can be sure that, had Salomon Rondon been fit, he'd have gladly capitalised on any of those balls into the box. It could have been so different, too, had Ayoze Perez beaten Mat Ryan in the opening five minutes, a chance the Spaniard should really have scored.

On any other day, Newcastle supporters would have been celebrating a crucial three points not lamenting another defeat that plunges the club deeper into crisis. Benitez is yet to sign a new contract with the Magpies, a deal that expires next summer, and with Ashley in charge, the Spaniard's stance is unlikely to change anytime soon. With the club in disarray both on and off the pitch, Newcastle have drifted to 2.8615/8 to succumb to relegation this season. They may not be favourites to drop into the Championship, but those are tantalising odds to back.

Yet there's is a squad that is deeply underperforming even accounting for the tactical qualities of Benitez. A return of 10.2 shots per game is the fourth lowest in the Premier League this season, while only Huddersfield (4) and Crystal Palace (5) have scored fewer goals (6).

They have the fourth highest shots conceded per game at 14.7, but 14 goals conceded is lower than the likes of Manchester United (16) and Burnley (18), so bad luck is playing its part. Six of their seven league defeats have been by the solitary goal and you get the impression that once Benitez irons out this inability to overcome single-goal margins, then Newcastle will begin to surge towards safety. They are, after all, just three points behind 17th-placed Cardiff.

Insufficient backing over the summer is keeping the Magpies grounded

Coaxing the best out of the players at his disposal is proving to be easier said than done, though. By first off getting Newcastle promoted as champions and then guiding the Magpies to a mid-table finish, Benitez earned the trust and the backing of the board to match the financial windfall that came with the success he brought to St. James' Park.

However, the club didn't come close to troubling the club-record £16m capture of Michael Owen from Real Madrid and it wasn't until the 2nd of August, a week before the start of the campaign when Benitez openly admitted that "everything is wrong" at the club, that Newcastle finally properly dipped into the transfer market.

Yoshinori Muto, Rondon and Federico Fernandez all made the move to St. James' Park, yet by then, with a week before the season started, it was too late for the trio to get fully up to speed with the demands of the Newcastle manager. Rondon wasn't even a first choice target for Benitez and he only joined once Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dwight Gayle had departed. Kenedy's return certainly boosted morale, yet his rabona attempt in the 1-0 loss at Brighton summed up the defeat to the Seagulls in a microcosm.

Newcastle have hit rock bottom

The loss marked the club's worst ever start to a Premier League season and was a further indication of how far they have fallen, not just in recent months and years, but since Ashley took charge in 2007. This season, we could bare witness to Newcastle's third Premier League relegation in the last 10 years. A top-flight demotion had happened only four times in the 100 years prior to Ashley's reign.

For all the hard work he has put in, Benitez has done more than enough to warrant the full backing to improve the squad. He has it from the supporters, despite a couple of tactical hiccups, yet he crucially needs this from those in the boardroom.

The Spaniard is the third favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post at 5.04/1 and without any indication if he will be handed the chance to invest in January, those odds will only shorten over time, as will their odds of relegation if Benitez is unable to guide Newcastle out of this rut. The Magpies travel to Southampton next weekend, an unhappy hunting ground for Newcastle - they haven't won on the south coast since 2004 - and they'll need the luck they were so desperately missing this weekend to be on their side if they are to secure their first win of the season and put a key three points on the board.

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