Where should Newcastle United aim to finish next season? This question or some derivative will have been discussed between or asked to all Toon fans over the past few months. Will I, a distinguished nobody, be able to answer this successfully, given the complexities of the upcoming season? Let’s give it a go aye?

There are too many areas to go through them in-depth in a single article, however, there is enough scope to have a look at a few possible influencing factors.

The most logical place to start is with a well-established theory, first popularised for Football in “Soccernomics”. Which is that the more money a club spends on wages the higher their final position in the table. This theory is based on a trend over a number of years as we know there are always outliers season on season. However, looking at last season’s wage bill from a few sources puts us between 10th and 12th in the league. Using the figure(s) from the website Capology offers our wage bill of £69,920, 00 p/a, well behind the “top 6” with Arsenal spending over £98m.

So, this suggests we should expect the club to finish around mid-table; this doesn’t mean that it’s a certainty however and can’t be outperformed.

Next season will also be a season of change, and probably an outlier due to the World Cup mid-season. One change that will be implemented next season is the 5 substitutes rule. This is a rule that is widely suspected to favour the “bigger sides” with “stronger squads” and therefore it could widen the gap between the top six and the rest of the league. Although this argument makes logical sense that having the ability to add 5 “better” players per match will give you an advantage, it’s likely too much of a nuanced change to discuss in broad strokes until there is a year or two of data.

It may well widen the gap but it can also provide managers with a greater tactical influence or ability to change matches. We have seen first-hand how it was a factor in Joe Willock’s goal-scoring run and under a prepared coach like Howe it may allow for a greater degree of game management. If managed well, it could also allow for the management of injury-prone players like Callum Wilson during times of high game volume or risk of injury, which longer term could greatly benefit us this coming season. It will of, course allow other clubs to work towards the same benefit(s) and risk(s) if unlucky or managed poorly.

I feel we could be described as entering our tricky “second season” and therefore at the mercy of the much highlighted “second season syndrome”. We have had a half-season of outperforming expectations and other clubs will be able to analyse our game further, which could prove difficult moving forward. However, Eddie Howe has spoken about his pragmatism in our style of play over the last 6 months.

His side has shown elements of his Bournemouth style yet have been far more dynamic and solid than expected. Howe has spoken about spending time with Atletico Madrid in his time away, could we see the implementation of a “Chowelismo” on Tyneside? The adaptation of the side will prove vital, should we adapt and progress as expected there is no reason we can’t be one of the season’s overachievers but this, again, is no guarantee.

The likelihood long-term is money and investment are going to be the greatest factors in our overall progression. In the short term, it will likely help more than it will hinder us. Bluntly, because it will let us sign players, but, it will also open us up as an option to a wider range of players. Yes, we may not be spending as much as it’s reported daily, in almost every media outlet, and yes, we may end up refusing some moves due to unrealistic demands but it’s going to start more conversations than it ends.

How the money is spent, is what could help us aim higher this season. We can expect the unseen benefits from developments at the training ground and in the stadium,but the real difference-maker will be on the pitch. Even under the previous owners, we have shown that a successful transfer window can propel the team to success.

The summer of promotion followed by our 5th place finish showed that a good couple of transfer windows can lead to success. The Cabaye-Tiote midfield tandem gave a solid base which allowed the Senegalese strikeforce (Ba-Cisse) to propel us forwards.

Even the panicked January signings of Sissoko amongst others. allowed us to steer ourselves to safety. Trippier, Targett, Bruno, Burn and Wood. provided the platform for improvement, the raising of standards and performance.

Could similar signings join us this summer and in January we could continue to build this momentum, and perform a Leicester-style miracle?

I could go on, but for your sanity, I won’t. The most realistic aim for us should be a top 10 finish as a minimum. With a continuation of our January transfer policy, adaptation in style, solid management and luck there is no reason we cannot finish in a European place or higher, but that would be an over performance.

Nothing that wouldn’t be gladly accepted by the fans but won’t be widely anticipated.

James McGovern