Newcastle United rounded of the week that was with a draw against West Ham as they nudged up to 40 points.
On another weekend of thrills and spills, they lost slight ground on Manchester United as they slipped to fourth but remain two points behind the Red Devils. They sit eight points clear of a European place with a game in hand in the Premier League table.
The question earlier in the season seemed to be: Can Newcastle could get into Europe or not? But now the poser seems to be: Which European competition will they be playing in next season?
READ MORE: Newcastle United 1-1 West Ham: Callum Wilson ends drought but Hammers dig in for a point
They still feel capable of reaching the Champions League of course but Tottenham Hotspur remain the biggest threat to the top four. After Saturday night's game, odds on who will finish in the top four were released and many of them now see Newcastle having the edge over Tottenham with a price of 4/5 with a clutch of bookies. Spurs are 5/2 with several bookmakers and have the Champions League knockout stages to think about.
The mere possibility of Newcastle getting to the Champions League would have been scoffed at last August. With 17 games left and a League Cup final also to look forward to, this isn't the time to be getting downhearted over a mere draw against West Ham.
Reaching 40 points wasn't celebrated but the speed it's been done this season should be acknowledged
For much of last season, Newcastle were threatened by the drop and it took them until April 20 to hit the 40-point mark thanks to Miguel Almiron's stunner. This season the Magpies have coasted to the same 40-point tally by February 4 after the score draw against West Ham.
That's an incredible transformation by Eddie Howe and his staff in just 10 months. For the record, Newcastle are now three points better off than the Magpies were in 1996/97 when they finished second.
They are one point better off at the same stage compared to the team that finished fourth in 2001/02 and two better off than the team that ended the campaign in third in 2002/03 during Sir Bobby Robson's finest years. As for Alan Pardew's side that finished fifth, they had four points less than Howe's class of 2023.
Anthony Gordon looked far from daunted on his debut
The £45million man looks like the ideal star to freshen things up for Newcastle as they approach the run-in. In just 21 minutes he made a big difference for the Magpies.
His main contributions were a superb through ball for Callum Wilson who went clean through at the Leazes End before being dispossessed by Nayef Aguerd who made an excellent tackle. And then Gordon had a chance of his own blocked late on.
Gordon is surely knocking on the door for a start away to AFC Bournemouth next weekend.
Eddie Howe's Allan Saint-Maximin observation
The Newcastle head coach felt that United should have got Saint-Maximin on the ball more after a testing afternoon for the Frenchman. The winger hasn't started since August and took time to settle into the game.
His only real chance came in the second half when his effort was blocked by a defender. But by the same token, he was afforded just 30 touches from his team-mates.
Howe said after the game: "We probably didn’t get him the ball enough, West Ham defended well against him. I think there’s a combination of factors, but I thought the application and effort were there. He’ll benefit from today."
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