Fans of Newcastle United breathed a collective sigh of relief on Saturday, after Hatem Ben Arfa scored a late goal to earn a first Premier League victory of the season for the Toon Army.
Despite their positive result at the weekend, there is a tangible sense of unease among the Newcastle faithful. Although losing 4-0 to a strong Manchester City side is no huge embarrassment, the manner of their opening day defeat to Manchester City was a serious concern. The side looked defensively weak, as well as short of ideas in the final third.
Ben Arfa's winner against Fulham represents Newcastle's only Premier League goal so far this season. They have acquired Loic Remy on loan in the hope that the striker will provide the goals that the team has lacked since Demba Ba's departure.
The return to the side of Yohan Cabaye should provide some much needed creativity, after the team drew a blank against West Ham and Manchester City in his absence. Keeping hold of the Frenchman in the face of interest from Arsenal easily represents Alan Pardew's biggest achievement in the summer transfer window.
The Magpies' brilliant fifth place finish in 2011/12 now seems a long time ago. Alan Pardew won the LMA manager of the year award for that particular achievement. In contrast, he began this season as the favourite to be the first Premier League manager to lose his job.
In players like Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle possess quality players who should be able to help them avoid a relegation battle. However, Newcastle United rarely make things easy for themselves. Should Alan Pardew and his team struggle to get some early points on the board, they may find risk dropping down to The Championship for a second time in four years.
The Europa League was certainly a distraction last season, and Newcastle will be looking for a better campaign this time around. Whether they improve on their 16th placed Premier League finish remains to be seen.
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