THE common consensus is that one more win should be sufficient for Newcastle United to guarantee their Premier League safety. If, as looks likely, Cardiff City lose at Manchester City tonight, the Magpies might already have enough points on the board.

For Isaac Hayden, however, the survival target has remained unchanged all season. Since the Premier League adopted its current format in the early 1990s, only one team (West Ham in 2002-03) has been relegated with more than 40 points. As a result, Hayden will not be breathing easily until Newcastle add another five points to their current tally.

“Everyone’s going to have their opinion on it, but in my opinion, until you reach 40 points, that’s the guaranteed mark really for safety,” said the midfielder, who has emerged as one of the Magpies’ most influential performers in the second half of the season despite his ongoing desire to leave the North-East in order to move closer to his partner and young daughter.

“Until it’s mathematically impossible for you to go down, or until you go above 40 points, you can’t really take your foot off the gas or think too much about it because anything less than that, you’re relying on other results.

“As players, you don’t want to be sitting in the changing room relying on other results; you want to just do it yourselves, and then you can relax a bit more.”

There wasn’t much chance of Newcastle ‘doing it themselves’ on Monday night as they slipped to a tame 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.

For all that Rafael Benitez might instinctively favour a conservative mindset, Newcastle have prided themselves on their ability to compete with the best this season. Aside from their Boxing Day thrashing at Liverpool, they had established a reputation for troubling the ‘big six’, so Monday’s meek surrender stood out like a sore thumb.

Evidence of slackening commitment with the survival line in sight? Rafael Benitez argued otherwise as he addressed the press after the game, and Hayden agrees with his manager’s assessment. Newcastle didn’t fail because they had taken their eye off the ball – they were merely beaten by a better team, buoyed by the momentum generated by their best run of the season.

“It’s always difficult when you play Arsenal at their place, and there are always pockets of space which are just so difficult to cover,” said Hayden. “They had players almost everywhere in certain positions, so it was difficult to cover all of those gaps. During the first half I still thought we had our chances - it was just the final ball that was lacking.

“If we’d had that final ball, we could have caused a few more problems. But coming away to the Emirates, where only Man City and a couple of other teams have taken points from them, we knew it was going to be a difficult task, we stuck to our game-plan, which worked to an extent, but we just didn’t cause them enough problems in attack.

“It’s always difficult to win away from home, but we’ve come on leaps and bounds in 2019 so far, we’ve really improved, and we’re not going to be a Man City where we win every game or get points every game. Against Arsenal, we’re disappointed with how we played, but we’ll find some positives to take and not just focus on the negatives.”

Newcastle return to home comforts at the weekend, with the visit of Crystal Palace representing one of the best opportunities to edge closer to the survival target.

Palace solidified their own position when they confirmed Huddersfield Town’s relegation at the weekend, but Roy Hodgson’s side have lost three of their last five matches in all competitions while Newcastle have claimed maximum points from their last five Premier League home games.

“The home form is brilliant,” said Hayden. “Hopefully, we can take some confidence from that, but even against Arsenal there were a lot of positives to take, even if there were quite a few negatives as well.

“We have to remember we played Arsenal, who are a quality side with lots of really good players, and that can happen in the Premier League. Other teams have gone to the Emirates and folded a lot worse than we have, so it’s one of those things.”

Hayden failed to complete Monday’s game after injuring his hip, and the midfielder will be assessed at close quarters in the next few days as he attempts to prove his fitness for the weekend.

“I was just uncomfortable in my hip area,” he said. “I tried to keep going during the first half when it was a little bit sore, and then I tried to carry on after the break but just didn’t quite feel comfortable enough to sprint or anything. So the manager made the decision to take me off.

“I don’t know how it’s going to react until I see when I return to training really. It’s just one of those things where I took the ball during the first half, and felt a bit tight around my hip area. I wanted to play on and said I wanted to carry on, but during the second half I just found it really hard to move and the manager took me off.”