Have the Premier League’s financial rules affected Newcastle?

While the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules might have lost a shade or two off their teeth with the news today that Everton have had their 10-point penalty reduced to six on appeal (though they have another charge to dodge), that doesn’t mean they’re not having an effect. The desolate January transfer market in England was mostly pinned on teams being fearful of breaching PSR, perhaps seeing what happened to Everton and what might happen to Nottingham Forest as meaty warnings.

One might wonder if that is what has kept the Saudi PIF from turning Newcastle into PSG North. Or maybe this is what would have happened to PSG had they played in the Premier League instead of Ligue 1.

Newcastle had their ass rubbed in the moonshine by Arsenal on Saturday night, which was the second time a title-challenger — which Newcastle fancy themselves only a half-notch below considering their supposed financial might — had punted them into the sun in the past couple months, as Liverpool swirlied them for 90 minutes on New Year’s Day. They’ve also recently suffered two draws at home to Bournemouth and Luton, surrendering six goals combined to two teams in the bottom half of the table at what is supposed to be Fortress St. James’ Park. They’re ninth in the table and 10 points off even fifth place, which only might be a Champions League place for next season (and Spurs have a game in hand on them).

Newcastle will point to their absentee list as the main reason their season is going balls-up. And that’s fair enough. Their main purchase of the summer, Sandro Tonali, played a handful of games before a gambling suspension ended his season. Harvey Barnes has been injured for most of it. Joelinton is out now. Callum Wilson can’t stay on the field to even back up Alexander Isak at center-forward, though injuries are kind of the deal with Wilson .

Sven Botman has missed time, so has key depth piece Jacob Murphy. But then again, everyone has injuries, and Saudi owners are supposed to overcome that. And yet those owners haven’t been able to purchase the depth that would allow Newcastle to overcome the injuries they’ve had.

Looking over the past couple seasons, how many truly world-class players have Newcastle been able to bring in? Bruno Guimaraes, sure. And then? Tonali is really good, but not at that level. Isak is a useful striker for sure but world class? Barnes is a good player, but probably only a depth player on a true, consistent Champions League team. Kieran Trippier may have been once, but is he now?

And Newcastle might have their hands tied for some time yet. They posted a loss of $93 million last season. As every fan knows by now, a club can only lose somewhere around $133 million over a three-season period. They may need to sell Guimaraes or Isak to get more depth, which might keep them running in place. There will be some shoving-players-to-the-Saudi-League shenanigans again to be sure, just like they did with Alain St. Maximin last summer, but that won’t be enough.

It’s going to be a longer project on the Tyne than many would have thought and their fans would have hoped.

What else went down this weekend in Ol’ Blighty?

4. Arsenal are strutting

It wouldn’t be fair to pin Newcastle’s paddling on simply their failings, because Arsenal were once against brilliant. Just as they were against West Ham, just as they were against Burnley, just as they were against Liverpool. They’ve won six in a row in the league by a combined 25-3. It’s a little daunting.

Mikel Arteta had a new wrinkle to open up space for his midfield, this time deploying Jorginho as basically the only holding midfielder, allowing Declan Rice to play more as a No. 8 than where he normally plays. Although Newcastle certainly helped. With Rice consistently pushing up the field, Newcastle weren’t sure where to be. Look at how much space Jorginho has to pick out Gabriel Martinelli to set up Arsenal’s second goal:

Arsenal v. Newcastle United | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 2/24/2024 | NBC Sports

Everyone knows the one thing Jorginho can do is pick the ass off a fly with a pass if you give him time. When Eddie Howe is out of a job in a couple months (at most), you’ll know why.

Arsenal v. Newcastle United | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 2/24/2024 | NBC Sports

Before this Saka chance, look at how much space is between Newcastle’s midfield and defense. Odegaard, Martinelli, Rice, and Havertz are all allowed to just loiter there like Cheech and Chong in front of the drugstore, and there’s only one way this is going to end.

Rice’s versatility gives Arteta so many options on how to manipulate their normal 4-3-3, and so does Havertz’s even if we like to chuckle at his finishing skills. Yeah, Arsenal are on a heater right now (those 25 goals in the past six have come on 16.3 xG), but it won’t end for a bit. Up next is Sheffield United and Brentford.

3. Aston Villa are back to sexy stuff

Yes, Nottingham Forest are always an easy tableau to play some artsy football against, but this second goal for Villa is a five-course dinner:

Aston Villa v. Nottingham Forest | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 2/24/2024 | NBC Sports

All 11 players touched the ball in this move and Jacob Ramsey’s awareness to pass up the shot to find Douglas Luiz is out of this world. It’s a huge win for Villa, considering what we’re going to talk about next, as they’re now nine points clear of United in sixth and it’s still quite likely that five teams will get into the Champions League next year.

2. United are back to form

The thing about consistently winning on hail marys is that eventually they fall incomplete, or a team is going to hit one against you:

Alex Iwobi stuns Manchester United with 97th-minute winner for Fulham | Premier League | NBC Sports

This wasn’t a hail mary, as Fulham fully deserved to win at Old Trafford. And if a team lets Adama Traore do anything productive, as Harry Maguire does here, then it deserves nothing. United got an equalizing goal from Maguire, who shouldn’t have been on the pitch, further extending their lucky streak. Then again, if he hadn’t been on the field, he couldn’t have pulled off his coup de stupid to lose the game:

Without Rasmus Hojlund up front, Marcus Rashford looked completely lost as a No. 9, which shouldn’t happen, but continues to. And he didn’t seem to bothered by it:

Fulham were without maybe their best midfielder in Joao Palinha and still bossed the center of the park as Bruno Fernandes spent 90 minutes pouting, Casemiro misplaced his cane, and Christian Eriksen was a comedy act once he replaced Casemiro.

Water always finds its own level.

1. Over to the League Cup

Yeah, it’s the Premier League wrap, but there was the first trophy to be handed out this season at Wembley, which Liverpool took from Chelsea in extra time. The easy narrative is that Jurgen Klopp deployed academy kids throughout the second half which then outplayed Chelsea’s $1 billion squad, but that’s a little too easy to reach. One, the age difference wasn’t actually all that much between the two sides that finished the game, and it’s not the Chelsea players’ fault what they cost. Two, Liverpool still had one of the best central defenders on the field to lead and eventually to score the winner, while one of Chelsea’s main problems this season is they don’t have any veterans who can stay on the field and play well enough to lead (Thiago Silva can’t do it when he’s got tire tracks on his chest most games). Third, yes, Chelsea showed a lack of aggressiveness in extra time and gave all the younguns in Liverpool’s midfield time to settle and get comfy and confident, but it’s also asking a lot for them to press furiously after 90 minutes and the defend-and-counter method had already gotten them more enough chances to win the game.

Still, the most stark difference between these two teams was laid out by the goal that decided it, and it’s how a club makes those big purchases. Van Dijk at the time he was bought was the most expensive defender in the world, and soon became the best defender in the world and the bedrock upon which Liverpool would win five major honors in the next five seasons while barely missing out on another two Premier League wins and two Champions League wins. Mykhailo Mudryk was one of the most expensive wingers in history, and he doesn’t know how to play soccer and was the one van Dijk beat for the winning header.

That’s the difference. 

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