Jamaal Lascelles is adamant Newcastle are not yet engaged in a fight for Premier League survival amid fevered speculation over the club’s future.
The Magpies slipped to a seventh defeat in eight games when they lost 1-0 to Everton at St James’ Park on Wednesday evening, and they have not won in the league since they beat Crystal Palace on October 21.
Their latest setback came as reports surfaced that Amanda Staveley’s proposed takeover is nearing completion, although sources close to the deal have since insisted fans’ celebrations were premature.
In the meantime, manager Rafael Benitez and his players face the task of keeping promoted Newcastle in the top flight with just one point separating them from the bottom three ahead of Saturday’s trip to Arsenal, although skipper Lascelles is not yet allowing himself to countenance the “R” word.
Asked if the club are already battling relegation, he said: “No, not yet. A lot of people would probably have been happy with the points we are on if they were asked at the start of the season, so I am not going to say we are in a relegation battle.
“There are still loads of games to play. It’s a long season. We are not looking at that, just taking things game by game.”
It is perhaps no coincidence that the recent poor run of results has come amid all the takeover talk, although Benitez has insisted all along that all he and his team can focus on is the football and that view is backed up by his captain.
Lascelles said: “We’re not focusing on that. It has nothing to do with us.”
The Magpies will head for the Emirates Stadium knowing they will have to improve significantly if they are to end their barren run this weekend, and with few punches having been pulled in the dressing room after the final whistle on Wednesday.
Lascelles said: “There were a few home truths said. I don’t want to leave it too late for things like that to be said.
“The reality is we are not in a great position and sometimes things need to be said that players do not want to hear. Hopefully it will get a reaction.”