It was announced on Thursday that the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle United had collapsed. BBC Sport report that the consortium ran out of patience with the process, due to the time being taken for the Premier League to conduct the Owners and Directors Test.
A plethora of issues have mired this takeover and it has been a painstaking process for all involved. The issues have involved piracy, human rights concerns and a geopolitical spin war. For supporters, it has been incredibly difficult to separate the truth from the fiction. Ultimately, it has ended with Mike Ashley remaining in charge of the football club, which will provide more frustration for the fans.
There will be more details about this failed bid become public over the coming days and weeks, now that the non-disclosure agreements are in play. The Premier League may choose to comment, while the buying consortium are already leaking things about the process.
However, Newcastle United and the current owner Mike Ashley have perhaps the biggest spotlight on them, as they plan their next move. It has become clear for a number of months that we are now in the end game of his ownership. He is looking for a way out, but for the time being, he needs to ensure his asset retains a high value.
That will be very difficult based on the previous 12 months. Newcastle may have avoided relegation with comfort under the much-criticised Steve Bruce, but the performances were very troubling. The underlying performance metrics didn’t support the results that the team achieved and show the Magpies as one of the worst teams in the league.
According to Understat, Newcastle had the second lowest expected goals (xG) for during the recent Premier League season with 36.49. Only Crystal Palace had a lower xG for in the entire division. There was a slight improvement following the lockdown, as they had an xG for of 10.57 from nine matches, which was the 10th highest in the division.
In the Rafa Benitez era, the team were considered to be well structured defensively and difficult to break down. This view has been maintained since Bruce’s arrival, but it isn’t supported by the numbers. Newcastle have an xG against of 67.03, which is the fourth worst over the course of the season. Post lockdown, there was a slight improvement and they only rank as the sixth-worst defence based on xG conceded with 14.7.
Although there was an improvement towards the end of the season, Newcastle remain a team that doesn’t have a guarantee of remaining in the Premier League. Based on the numbers above, Bruce was very fortunate to have finished as clear of the bottom three as he did.
In the short term, there needs to be investment in the playing squad, but the speculation is that there won’t be a lot of money to spend. Last season, Jonjo Shelvey finished as the team’s top scorer in the Premier League with six goals. Meanwhile, £40 million record signing Joelinton scored twice in 38 league appearances. It will be difficult to survive another season with this trend.
Anybody that has watched Newcastle regularly over the last 12 months will agree that the club desperately needs fresh direction. There is little ambition in the current ownership and remaining in the Premier League is the focus, with a future sale in mind. The fact that Ashley has overseen two relegations during his ownership shows the issues that this lack of ambition can bring.
The attendance numbers were dropping before football was being played behind closed doors. This trend is likely to continue once supporters return to grounds. There is nothing for the supporters to buy into.
Newcastle United are a club that is purely existing at the time of writing. The recent takeover attempt provided a reason for supporters to hope for a better future. Now that is gone, the Magpies instantly become one of the favourites for relegation next season. Their performances during the 2019/20 merited it. Meanwhile, the growing rift between supporters and club will do little to improve the mood around the club. This could seep onto the pitch.
Mike Ashley won’t be at the club forever. Supporters need to be reminded of that. The end will come one day. However, for the time being, there is little to be excited about as a Newcastle supporter. The previous season has only just ended and staying up next year already looks to be a very tall ask.
This isn’t where Newcastle United should be. This is just another day in the miserable Mike Ashley era. Let’s hope it ends soon. It simply has to.