Newcastle needs to worry about relegation after seven straight losses

Last season, one club from England’s North East put conventional wisdom to shame, mounting a late surge to defy predictions it would fall out of the Premier League. This year, the other side of the country’s Tyne-Wear derby seems intent on reversing that feat, with today’s 3-2 home loss to Swansea City sending Newcastle United to its seventh straight league loss. In 14th, six points above the league’s relegation spots, the Magpies are putting a new twist on a springtime tradition – declaring teams safe or doomed far too soon.

Last year’s twist came courtesy of Newcastle’s rival, Sunderland, who climbed out of last place over the season’s final weeks with wins over Chelsea, Cardiff City, Manchester United and Swansea City. Coming on the back of a surprise draw at Manchester City (England’s eventual champions), the run proved an increasingly salient adage: One good, well-timed stretch can save a season.

Thankfully, the opposite isn’t necessarily true for Newcastle. Despite seven straight losses, the team will end the weekend out of the bottom three, the 35 points the team collected before this collapse keeping its head above water. But with four matches to go and little indication interim coach John Carver can turn this around, might Newcastle be in danger of another shock relegation? Maybe there’s still time for Alan Shearer to make a cameo.

Ostensibly, the gap Newcastle’s built on the bottom three should hold up, but the team’s current form says otherwise. Not only has the Toon claimed zero of the last 21 available points, but the team’s only led once in that span: today, when Ayozi Pérez had Newcastle up after 20 minutes. True to form, though, the Magpies went on to lose … at home, against mid-table opposition. During its seven-game slide, Newcastle has been outscored 15-4.

There are, however, two silver linings. The team’s run-in is easy — at Leicester, home to West Brom, at QPR, then home to West Ham — and when you look at the club’s competition, it’s difficult to see three of the six teams below it going on runs:

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Dah, numbers! I know they suck, and once I explain them, they’re going to suck even more, but consider this a quick-and-dirty way to add context. If the eight teams in England’s relegation picture stay on the course they’ve charted from game one, Sunderland, QPR, and Burnley are doing down, with 34-35 points the projected safety line. If Newcastle lose out, it will be right on that line, but in this scenario, the team ends up with 39 points.

If, however, current form carries over to Newcastle’s last four games, the Magpies will end their season on 35 … but still safe, if you use the same projection for the other teams. In that world, Burnley and QPR still go down, but they’re joined by Hull City. The Tigers, however, end up with 34.8 points by this method, practically identical to Sunderland and Newcastle’s 35 points.

(Granted, there’s nothing scientific about making prediction off a 4-5 game sample. That’s not what we’re doing here. This is merely about playing out a premise. If form and momentum do matter, Newcastle is in trouble.)

The number 35 keeps coming up, partly because that’s where Newcastle sits now. Given how Carver’s team is playing, that’s where it might sit next month – a level that’s been precarious over the last 10 seasons. Thirty-five points has only guaranteed safety four times in the last decade. Five times, that total would have sent a club down, while goal difference would have served as a tiebreaker on the last occasion.

Of course, none of this factors in strength of schedule, but as Sunderland showed us last season, form may be more important. If you’re playing well, you can take three points from anybody. And, as Newcastle is showing now, if you’re playing poorly, zero is your most likely result.