WHO’D have thought it? The mighty Mags soaring high with England’s elite once more – perched in the misty echelons of fourth place in the Premier League!
This is the best start to a top fight season for Newcastle since the 2011-12 Papiss Cisse, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba showcase where they amassed the same total of points after five games.
You have to go all the way back to the year 2000 for a better points total at this stage – Bobby Robson had the Toon off to a flier that year.
After a disappointing start to the campaign losing 2-0 at Old Trafford, the Mags went on to beat Derby, Spurs and Coventry before drawing 0-0 in their fifth game at home to Chelsea.
The last time NUFC competed in the Premier League they sat rock bottom after five games, having sapped up just two points AND the the season prior saw them do exactly the same with just three.
So it’s fair to say Newcastle fans are a little happy at the start they’ve made!
Are we deluded enough to think we’ll stay there? Absolutely not.
Our man of the moment, Jamaal Lascelles, warned recently: “We don’t want to get carried away and think that we are flying – that won’t achieve anything. We must stay humble and keep playing.”
I think the same can be said for the state of mind across the fanbase too.
Sunday brings around a familiar foe in Brighton.
We managed to take six points off them last season and deservedly so over the two games.
And with them having an indifferent start to their first ever Premier League campaign, Rafa Benitez will be looking at this as a good opportunity to keep his side’s wonderful start to the season going.
Brighton got their first win of the season last time they came out at the Amex, beating West Brom 3-1 and grabbing their first goals in the league.
They’ve since lost two on the bounce, both away to Bournemouth in league and cup, and overall accumulated just 0.7 goals per games this season thus far.
Sitting twelve places higher with five more points, Newcastle United come into this affair having won three Premier League games in a row for the first time since November 2014, and with an average 1.3 goals per game – nearly double that of Brighton – they would appear to be the more dangerous outfit.
However, there’s a lot more to it than the stats suggest.
The Magpies feature near the very bottom of the league for possession and passes, happily allowing the opposition to have the ball, but knowing what to do when they get it.
Benitez has them exceptionally well-drilled in this strategy and Newcastle have the pace and finesse in the team to really hurt teams on the break.
One player who will want to make amends for a disappointing show last time out will be Joselu.
The Spaniard fluffed a host of gilt-edged chances and was trying too hard to make an impression against his old team.
Newcastle will need to be smart in how they provide the service though, as Shane Duffy will sweep away any lumps and hoofs with ease.
He’s proven so far that he will contest very well aerially and in both boxes.
But fortunately for Newcastle, they have a player who is probably doing it a little better!
Man-of-the-moment Lascelles has shone in the Toon’s last two victories.
A sliding goal line clearance stopped former NUFC target Tammy Abrahams from opening the scoring two weeks ago against Swansea before the skipper leapt to meet Matt Ritchie’s 76th minute corner to snatch all three points.
And, if that wasn’t heroic enough, the 23-year-old did the same again last weekend against Stoke, this time from Matt Ritchie’s corner.
Lascelles has been a stalwart for Rafa so far this season and Brighton will need to bring some decent firepower to break the confidence of him and his partner Ciaran Clark.
Ritchie has been another ‘outstander’ for NUFC this season – only Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan has more assists in the top division – and Rafa looks to have unearthed a gem in Under-21 Spanish centre midfielder Mikel Merino.
Brighton definitely have their own threats though.
Anthony Knockaert always seems to raise his game for these showdowns, although he hasn’t really shown his capabilities in the Premier League yet.
It will be down the sides where Brighton will try to do their damage though.
Solly March has been a bright spark in their side so far, so Newcastle will need to be weary in the full-back positions, especially left-back where they have no ‘specialised’ personnel.
All in all, this one could be a tight affair for long periods but I think Newcastle’s edge could show in the latter stages of the game, especially having been well-rested this week, where some of the Seagulls will have endured extra-time in their league cup exit.
Prediction – 1:2, the Mags to go marching on… for now!