I thought it might be interesting to compare NUFC's point total as it climbs throughout the season to the 'ghosts of Championship seasons past.' Five straight league wins under Benitez had created an early season sense by many that promotion was already a fait accompli. Of course that was coming on the heels of a slow start out of the gate and that momentum has come crashing back to reality a bit with the loss to Wolves. Clearly, Newcastle's only competition are the other teams in the league this year but, in view of their record, how do they compare to past teams at the same point in the season? Should we be excited? How special is their performance? How much are we simply glad the past few years of disappointment seem to be in the past? Tracking this through the season might provide an interesting perspective to determine how successful their performance is progressing.
I have analyzed the performance of the eventual top six teams in the Championship from the past three years week-by-week through their entire season as well as NUFC's performance back in the 2009-10 season (102 points). As a refresher, the list of other teams includes:
* 2013-14 - Leicester (102), Burnley (93), Derby (85), QPR (80), Wigan (73), Brighton (72)
* 2014-15 - Bournemouth (90), Watford (89), Norwich (86), MIddlesbrough (85), Brentford (78), Ipswich (78)
* 2015-16 - Burnley (93), Middlesbrough (89), Brighton (89), Hull (83), Derby (78), Sheffield Wednesday (74)
Through eight weeks there are few interesting points.
First, of the previous 18 teams to finish in the top six each year, only the 2013-14 version of Brighton started the season by digging themselves into a hole with two losses and ended up in the top six at the end of the year. As noted just above, they finished in sixth place and lost in the playoff.
As a more hopeful indicator, none of those 18 teams won five straight so early in the season. Last season's Middlesbrough won games 5-9, 2014-15's Bournemouth won games 11-16 and Bentford won games 15-19. In 2013-14, Burnley actually won seven games in a row pretty early on but starting from week 7 and going through week 13. Derby also won seven from weeks 15 to 21. So winning five in a row is not so unusual but starting the streak in week three is uncommon. That said, the 2009-10 NUFC team also won five in a row and actually started their streak in week 2.
15 points through either seven or eight weeks is also nothing too special. In 2009, NUFC beat Plymouth Argyle 3-1 to move to 19 points through the eighth week. Seven of the 18 teams over the past three seasons (over two per year on average) had more than 15 points by this stage in the year led by the 2015-16 version of Brighton and the 2013-14 QPR team, both of which had 20 points. There is some comfort in that neither of those teams won the league in those years. Possibly providing some further encouragement... in 2014-15, Bournemouth was the eventual winners of the Championship and had only 9 points and had the worst point total of the final top six through eight weeks. In each of the past three years, 15 points would have landed a team in third place at this point which is obviously exactly where Newcastle finds themselves this year. Certainly and to no one's surprise, nothing has been decided this early on.
I hope this line of thought provides you with some enjoyable and interesting reading and a more complete and objective perspective throughout the season for explaining to others how great (or not) Newcastle United is playing. HWTL!