The takeover saga continues to rumble on at Newcastle with no sign of any breakthrough on the purchase price between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley. It’s a situation that leaves Rafa Benitez in a state of transfer limbo and the ongoing impasse could spill on to the pitch with a lacklustre display against rock-bottom Swansea.
The Magpies haven’t won a Premier League match at home in six attempts with Bournemouth (0-1), Watford (0-3), Leicester (2-3), Everton (0-1) and Brighton (0-0) all returning satisfied from their trip to Tyneside. The Swans, meanwhile, should have a spring in their step as they look to preserve the bounce effect that has followed the arrival of Carlos Carvalhal.
Benitez has made it abundantly clear that he desperately needs reinforcements, imposing his own January 20 deadline to get deals over the line. But his sway in the matter is entirely superficial. Ashley has been out of the country and presumably couldn’t care less about the club, the manager or his list of targets - more so now than ever before.
It’s a sad state of affairs, but it would be folly for anyone to believe that Ashley is interested in anything other than simply holding out for as much as he possibly can in his negotiations with PCP Capital. Appeals for him to put his hand in his pocket during this window for the sake of his own investment - or better still, his legacy - smack of desperation.
The pervading mood around St James’ Park seems to be one of resignation. Fans are hopeful for what comes next, of course. But right now there’s an apathy that can work to Swansea’s advantage and their record against bottom-half opposition this season - 12 points from 10 matches, four points from four on the road - gives them a fighting chance.
The Swans have good reason to believe they can at least avoid defeat. Since Carvalhal picked up the reins, they’ve pulled off a late smash-and-grab at Watford (2-1) and held runaway Championship leaders Wolves (0-0) in the FA Cup, either side of a predictable home defeat by Spurs. They’ve also triumphed on three of their last four visits to this ground.
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Even more pertinent, perhaps, is the fact that Carvalhal knows Newcastle well from his time in charge at Sheffield Wednesday, which included doing the double over the Magpies last season. The Portuguese increasingly lost his way at Hillsborough, but the 1-0 win at St James’ Park a little over 12 months ago was arguably his finest hour.
Indeed, it was a fine demonstration of his ability to organise and inspire teams to stand strong and seize their moment in an underdog scenario. His problems with Wednesday mainly occurred when greater risks needed to be taken against passive opponents. Tactically, his ideas are basic and rigid in a way that gradually eats away at creativity and spontaneity.
But that’s not necessarily a concern right now. Swansea just need a plan they can understand and execute, and to believe they can fight their way out of the mess they currently find themselves in.
For all Carvalhal’s shortcomings, personality isn’t one of them. He has an endearing charisma that galvanises through the use of analogies and metaphors. And while his CV - 17 different clubs in 19 years - might resemble a horrendous motorway pile-up, he has at least been in this position of trying to impose his ideas on a new group 16 times before.
Swansea +0.5 on the Asian handicap at evens