What a ridiculous festive period it has been for Newcastle United.
A win over Queens Park Rangers a few days before Christmas gave manager Alan Pardew and his underperforming squad some much-needed respite, but since then what has happened in matches involving Newcastle has been absurd, even for a club that has had its fair share of eventful fixtures over the years.
Somehow, the Magpies have managed to go to Old Trafford and then the Emirates – an unfairly demanding ask over this busy schedule – score six goals and yet come away without a point to show for their troubles.
A last-minute 4-3 defeat to Manchester United was as heartbreaking as it was predictable (you knew the Red Devils were going to get that late winner, as they always do) but after leading on three separate occasions, you are entitled to think you can get something from the game no matter what the opposition.
But even more ludicrous was the 7-3 loss against Arsenal, where Newcastle were well in the game up until the final 15 minutes, before a dramatic late collapse from 3-3 saw them succumb to a heavy defeat that underlines the fact that Pardew has defensive issues he desperately has to address.
Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy looks set to bolster the defence over the next week or so and the backline needs reinforcing badly. Newcastle have let in 37 goals now, with only Aston Villa have conceding more, and if you are so leaky at the back it is little wonder you struggle to win games.
Because that’s exactly the situation Newcastle find themselves in. After last year’s exploits, the Toon have taken just 20 points from 20 games to sit only two points above the drop zone and Pardew is bemoaning not being more active in the transfer market over the summer.
And with Demba Ba seemingly on his way this month, it may be that things don’t improve significantly for some time.
The visit of Everton to St James’ Park for the first game of 2013 acts as a reminder of how different things were this time last year, when Manchester United were soundly beaten 3-0 in their first game of 2012.
And the way they are playing defensively (even if their attacking thrust has improved recently), I don’t want to know about the 21/10 on them beating Everton. That said, I’m not too keen on the 5/4 about the Toffees either, so it’ll be the draw for me on this one at 9/4.
Newcastle’s form – just two wins in 14 games in all competitions – is poor by anybody’s standards and you can’t be having them against a side that lose as seldom as Everton: the Blues’ 2-1 defeat against Chelsea on Sunday was only their third of the season.
But I have said it before and I shall say it again – Everton just do not win enough matches. David Moyes’ side have won only eight of their 20 Premier League games and that is not sufficient for a side with top-four aspirations.
By doing the maths, it means Everton have drawn nine times in the league – only Stoke have drawn more frequently – and that is why I am edging towards the draw at 11/5.
Everton look a better side than Newcastle, but with just three away wins in ten games, I can’t be backing the visitors with any real confidence.
The Toffees have failed to beat Wigan, QPR, Fulham and Reading, all teams that are struggling badly, on their travels, and if draws at Stoke and Manchester City are decent points, I need more than wins against Aston Villa, Swansea and West Ham to convince me to get on them up in the north-east.
Instead, it’ll be the draw for me at 11/5, the biggest price of the 3way market.