Before I become engrossed in the off season, wondering and hoping what signings, or lack of, Newcastle will recruit this summer, it seems an appropriate time to look back and assess Newcastle United’s season of discontent. I’ll try not to dig up too many painful memories and instead, to borrow a Roberto Martinez phrase, I’ll ‘take the positives’. So, who was Newcastle’s best player in a season that left me close to admittance to the RVI’s Critical Cardiac Care Unit…
A lot has contributed to Newcastle’s fall from grace this season. We are all aware of the lack of investment in to the playing squad last summer, the injuries we’ve suffered, coaching failures, the effect playing in Europe on a Thursday night, before a weekend Premier League game… I could go on. The players themselves can’t escape blame either. The season’s disappointment has been a resulted from a combination of all factors listed above.
However, despite the playing squad generally performing inadequately throughout the campaign, it would be a mistake to say that every player has played badly in every game. There have been some good performances, even some great performances amongst the dross in fact. Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at the contenders for the CarryingCoals: NUFC Player of the Season Award and see if I can jog your memory…
Well, I know many won’t be fond of an ex Newcastle player being a candidate for the title, but how can we ignore the contribution of the man who finished as our highest goal-scorer?! I suppose Ba’s inclusion is a testament to just how poor of a season we’ve endured.
Ba netted 13 of our 45 Premier League goals, so to put it in perspective; he was responsible for 29% – almost a third! A third of our goals from half a season, it really does say it all!
Santon’s place in the side has come under threat from the emergence of Haidara in the second half of the season, although we mustn’t forget that for the first half of our campaign, Santon was our standout player. His ability to get up and down the left flank at pace and the improvements to his all round game stunned us at the start of the season, as he showed us how much he’d grown and gained on last season.
Santon however remains far from the finished article of course. Defensive slip ups cost us dearly in the second half of the season, particularly in the Europa League. He is still young though and still learning his trade. What’s more is he genuinely seems to be enjoying life on Tyneside amidst never ending rumours, circulating around him leaving the club to return to Italy.
Perhaps our most improved player rather than player of the season, although it’s certain to say he has shone brighter than some of his team-mates with bigger names this season!
Ok, here’s the controversial one for you! This year, Jonas has seemed to split fan opinion like no other. Is he a reliable work horse who gives you that needed 100% every week, or he is an absolute donkey who can’t get a ball in the box?
For what it’s worth, I’ll give my opinion. I’ve always liked Jonas, he has flair which we love here and he stayed loyal to us by helping us win and get out of the championship. He has lost a yard (or two) of pace and doesn’t threaten enough as a winger should. After all, that his primary duty and role for the team. I firmly believe he is a good squad player to have, due to his commitment and versatility but I certainly wouldn’t unquestionably start him week in week out as our left winger.
I do not dispute the fact Jonas has been poor this season although this might be interesting to know… he won more tackles, more ground duels and more free kicks than any other toon player last season, and by the way. What’s an even bigger shock is that his crosses, statistically, were more effective than Ben Arfa’s (21% vs 18%). Now there’s something for you to think about!
Cabaye’s season has been out of sorts, much like the majority of Newcastle’s squad in fact. However there is no questioning the influence he has on the team when included, especially in the build up of attacking play.
He began the campaign very much out of sorts, citing burnout as the reason. He’d never played so much footballing in his life, going from an arduous Premier League campaign, straight in to the European Championships and then back in to the demands of the new season without much rest or recuperation. Many thought his head had been turned, maybe it had, but Cabaye did emerge as an important player as the season went on.
Despite being missing from the middle of November to the beginning of January, the stand in captain for Coloccini did go on to make 35 appearances for Newcastle this year, scoring 6 goals. Perhaps his best game was in the crucial away win at Aston Villa whereby he scored a cracking goal, one of few memorable highlights for toon fans this season!
To put things further in to perspective, Cabaye has played as a deep lying play maker this season, for me, he has been nowhere near high enough up the pitch, yet he’s till managed 6 goals from his 26 Premier league appearances. Our number 9 and striker Papiss Cisse got 2 more goals but by playing in 10 more games (8 /36). People mustn’t forget the contribution Yohan has made to the side, that’s for sure.
Cabaye has summered from fatigue, injury, loss of form and arguably poor positional placement from the coaching staff this season. However he remains a quality player and one of Newcastle’s most important first team presences.
I’ve put the Rob Elliot, AKA The Dilsh, in here because I genuinely believed he has provided some heroics for us this season. Not a big name by any means but he has actually really surprised me this season. I remember writing a piece about him when Krul first got injured and I was more than sceptical about having him in between the sticks, but to his fairness, he hasn’t done much wrong at all. He’s even claimed a few man of the match ratings as he’s gone on.
Look at the established big names players at Newcastle, Elliot has certainly outshone the likes of Cisse and Tiote for example. I think he deserves praise under immense pressure and he deserves a place on this world famous shortlist no doubt!
With Newcastle’s Premier League safety far from secure at the season’s end, Elliot gained his side a vital point, performing heroically at West Ham in the penultimate away game of the season. One of few players who can undisputably come out of this season with his head held high.
Still far off ousting Tim Krul from the number 1 slot, Elliot has certainly emerged and shown us he’s more than a podgy kid in net that’s there because nobody else fancys it!
Colo has spent a lot of the season on the sidelines and he could very well have left the club in January. However, our captain remained and Newcastle benefited from it.
Injured at the beginning of march with a back injury, having attempted a gravity defying overhead kick clearance, Colo missed a crucial part of the season. Newcastle were without him for 8 Premier League games during the period and he also missed the Europa games with Anzhi and Benefica.
It’s worth arguing that had Colo been in the side, Newcastle would probably have endured a far less worrying end to the Premier League season and perhaps could even have snatched a result against Benefica, with defensive ill-discipline being the team’s downfall during the tie, especially in Portugal.
Colo brings an aura of certainty to the team. He has calm and commanding presence, soothing an erratic backline which features incredibly attacking fullbacks, the Premier League inexperience of Mbiwa and the sometimes manic Steven Taylor. Unlike most centre halves known for their physical brutality and ability to be strong in the tackle and comfortable in the air, Colo plays the game completely in his own way.
It’s his anticipation, his marking, his awareness and positional class that shows him to be our standout defender. He’s a defender’s Roger Federer, someone who can elegantly sweep the ball up, use their class and experience and make the whole routine look overwhelmingly easy.
When Colo returned to the side at the end of the season he instantly stood out, fans and pundits alike were all quick to comment. Imagine what it would have been like if he wasn’t there – bearing in mind Mbiwa had to play LB with Haidara and Santon being injured. Had Colo not come in to the side, Mr Mike Williamson probably would have…
And The Winner Is…
Well, you might have guessed it… I’m giving the title to Coloccini. Yes, granted, he only played 22 Premier League games this season (Perch played in 27!) but when he has, most of the time, he’s been the difference.
This season Newcastle were woefully dumped out of domestic cups, got to a Europa league quarter final and finished 16th in the Premier League. At the end of the season, we had to play for our Premier League survival. It was an ending nobody wanted and an ending that many thought would end in disaster. Coloccini’s return kept Newcastle in the league.
You can’t underestimate how important he is.
In a season of few highlights for Newcastle fans, a few individual performances have stood out. A very select few that is. My personal favourite would be Coloccini’s defensive performance away to Sunderland, but how long ago was that?! Sissoko’s brace against Chelsea and leaving Ashley Cole for dust instantly springs to mind too. Although after a promising start from the Premier League’s ‘new Vieira/Yaya Toure’, he faded in to obscurity with an anonymous end to the campaign. Cisse’s last minute goals in a string of games got fans off their feet but they can’t exactly atone for Papiss earning a football league record of being offside 74637263462 times in a single season!
Unfortunately, we didn’t see enough of Ben Arfa, Cabaye has been out of sorts, Jonas looks a shadow of his former self, Colo has been missing, Krul has been missing, we haven’t had a consistent flat back four, we lost our top scorer in January and it’s just all been a bit of a mess to be honest.
It’s been a year of turmoil. A year of hope flickering but then fading. Thankfully, Newcastle will be playing Premier League football next year. That’s, erm, something.. isn’t it? Plus as drastically bad as it all was, we still managed to finish above the mackems…
Anyway well done Colo, can we forget last season now?!
They’re calling it football’s equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to retire this week has shocked the footballing world, with paper after paper producing a plethora of articles, commemorating the unrivaled achievements of British football’s most successful manager.
Though rather than add to the eulogies of Fergie’s footballing passing, I instead want to do a smaller study and look at how Sir Alex and Newcastle United have enjoyed (or struggled to enjoy) a relationship during his 26 years as Manchester United manager.
Since Fergie’s appointment in November 1986, Newcastle have played Manchester United a grand total of 50 times, drawing 14 and losing 29. So of the 50 clashes with the great gum-chewer, Newcastle have managed 7 victories. Yes, a measly, meagre 7 wins. That’s it!
When I found this out, I could only name 3 from memory. Like any avid Newcastle follower the first game which sprung to mind was of course the 5-0 (20 Oct 1996), Philippe Albert chipping, Kevin Keegan celebrating, St. James’ Park walloping, rout dished out to the Red Devils in 1996.
Another game fresh in mind is last season’s 3-0 (4 Jan 2012) destruction at St. James’ Park, a game which seems longer ago than it actually was, having been subjected to this season’s long and miserable slog. That game was the first time we’d beaten the Red Devils in over 10 years. So what else could I remember? We always lose against Man U…
There was however a rip-roaring classic back in 2001, when Alan Shearer scored the winner, to put Newcastle 4-3 (15 Sep 2001) up, in Sir Bobby Robson’s 100th game in charge of the toon. The game is also remembered for a certain Roy ‘dog walking’ Keane attempting to punch Big Al, only for the disgruntled Irishman to see red, making the defeat all the worse for Ferguson.
But what else? 4 more wins in 26 years, any ideas? There is another 21st Century triumph in there, a 3-0 (12 Feb 2000) demolition over one of Fergie’s greatest sides, a team who in only the season prior had completed the famous treble. Goals from Shearer and Big Dunc sealed the win in a game which also saw another NUFC legend, Gary Speed, making his 100th game for the club. This was at a time where Sir Bobby was building a team firmly in the ascendancy and boy do we miss those times on Tyneside. It really was fantastic stuff!
Surprisingly, we did record another victory of Sir Alex’s men during my lifetime, a 2-1 (26 Oct 1994) League Cup win, although you will have to forgive me from failing to remember it – I was only 3 years old! Paul Kitson and Albert scored for the toon that day, in a line-up consisting of 8 English players, a far cry from circumstances today! Albert the Belgian, popular ‘keeper Pav Srnicek the Czech and Swiss defender Marc Hottiger were the 3 foreign players to help crash Sir Alex ‘s side out of the cup. Surprisingly however, Newcastle didn’t lift the trophy…
The other two victories against Fergie came in his first full year in charge, 1987, before the Premier League era. A 1-0 (26 Dec 1987) and a 2-1 (18 Apr 1987), with both wins coming at home. In fact, during Fergie’s tenure, Newcastle have never gone to Old Trafford and picked up a win. Never. The last time Old Trafford witness a black and white victory on their doorstep was as far back as February 1972. Sigh.
The great Scot has consistently got the better of us, there’s no doubt about that. Though on some occasions, we have managed to frustrate and even humiliate one of simply the best managers the game has ever seen.
The thing is however, I’ve grown up not expecting to beat Man U, but instead to be on the end of a thrashing, even when they’re not at their best. So when we do get a result and we do manage to beat them, it’s extra special and feels more than just a 3 points picked up for the table. Perhaps that’s a little sad but it’s just how it is. If you’re a Newcastle fan and you’ve seen the lads beat the team who have dominated English football for the past 20 years, you enjoy it. You remember it.
As I said at the beginning of the article, the media have understandably been relentless in the Sir Alex retirement testaments, for me however, I’ll remember him as an enemy in battle, a tormentor and begrudgingly – a winner. There are however battles to reminisce, the times when we did manage to get the better of Fergie.
So you can snatch titles from us, you can call us a wee club, you can beat us time and time again and you can burden us with Gabriel Obertan! But the Premier League won’t be the same without you that’s for sure. So long Fergie, maybe it’ll be Manchester United who will only record 7 wins over the toon in the next 50 games… Ok, I won’t hold my breath!
With Newcastle gaining a much needed point at West Ham this weekend and perhaps more importantly, Swansea City managing to spectacularly stage a 3-2 comeback win at Wigan this evening, Newcastle now hold the fate of their Premier League future in their own hands. Although whether Alan Pardew’s side are capable of gaining the vital points required remains far from certain…
The league table now looks like this:
Because Wigan can still gain a potential 6 points, no team in the bottom half of the table are technically yet safe. Wigan might be known as the Premier League’s perennial great escape artists but with their remaining fixtures being against Champions League chasing Arsenal and Paul Lambert’s resurgent Aston Villa side, few will back Wigan to do the impossible once again. Tonight truly was a ‘must win’ game for Wigan tonight and whilst they still have hope, it’s certainly fading fast.
Anyway I digress, back to more important matters – What do Newcastle United now have to do?
Whilst Wigan’s defeat tonight will most probably be the result that condemned the little rugby club to an 18th place finish and Championship football next season, Newcastle still need points of their own to ensure we keep our place in the division.
Pardew Problems Piling
So just what does Pardew do in light of Wigan’s defeat and in preparation for the QPR game on Saturday? If Newcastle can get a point from the next match and Wigan fail to beat Arsenal next Tuesday, following their FA Cup final game this weekend, Newcastle will survive and Wigan will go down.
Although can Pardew afford to go to QPR and play for a draw? I mean in all probability he will do exactly that. Looking at our recent away games at West Ham and West Brom, both games were very similar in the sense that Newcastle played a good first half of football, only to find themselves frantically hanging on for a point in the second half, offering little to nothing going forward.
If this trend continues and Newcastle again ride their luck, rather than maintaining an attacking and game winning intent, against a team already relegated and set to finish bottom of the league, then what kind of message does that send to fans?
Each week, more and more of us lose patience with Pardew. I’ve never been a big Pardew critic and I still applaud the fact that I genuinely believe he understands what football means to the area and that he has immersed himself in our unique footballing city culture in Newcastle, but the fact remains – his tactics, team selections, substitutes and mentality installed in to the first team have been simply baffling and not at all good enough. Admittedly, Pardew’s passion cannot account for his failure to manage a talented group of players to the required standard.
So what I’m saying is, if Pards continues to approach away games in the same vein as the displays at West Ham and West Brom, playing for a point rather than a win, he will not only be lamented by frustrated and disillusioned supporters, he will also then have to hope Wigan slip up. Paradoxically, the safe option of being conservative is in fact a risk itself!
The reason I’m calling it a lose/lose situation though is because if Pardew does go all out in winning the game and QPR come away with all the points, Pardew will get berated for not playing for a point when Wigan are likely to get nothing from the Emirates! Catch 22 Monsieur Pardieu!
That is the difference between being a manager and a fan of course. Whatever the manager does, he will be criticised by the fan who is pressure free. There is a possibility that Pardew could go all out for the win on Saturday and indeed bring the 3 points back to St. James’ but if recent results are anything to go by, I’m not too confident of that at all – yes, even against a side set to finish bottom of the league!
This is all speculation of course, fans will eternally dispute what is best for their team and for many, whatever Pardew does is irrelevant now, having already lost the faith of many of the club’s supporters.
What is more certain is the fact that Swansea City did Newcastle a colossal favour in managing to beat Wigan tonight, I think most of us are in agreement that this is the result that probably keeps Newcastle up.
Of course Wigan could lose to Arsenal and beat Villa on the final day of the season, meaning Newcastle would need a point from QPR to stay up. The possibilities are almost endless; it could even be a team seemingly safe in the bottom half who could yet slip. Norwich, Sunderland, Southampton, Aston Villa, Fulham and even Stoke could all face the Premier League trap door, every team is still in desperate need of picking up points…
I don’t know what is going to happen but I know I wouldn’t want to be in Alan’s shoes right now. I can only hope he picks the right team to go to QPR and get a positive result. Swansea gave us a lifeline tonight, let’s not let it go to waste.
The relegation rollercoaster continues to twist and turn, I just pray there are no unexpected drops for Newcastle around the corner…
What do you think, should Pardew play for a draw on Saturday or should he play a more risqué strategy of going for a win no matter what? Are Newcastle even capable of winning their second away game of the season? Will our dismal goal difference play a part? Will Remy come back to haunt us? Can Sunderland get another point without their three top scorers? Can Wigan be their typical selves and beat Arsenal away?! Will Tony Pulis ever look like he hasn’t been dragged through Sports Direct backwards and thrown in to the dugout?! Have the toon got the bottle to beat the league’s bottom side? Will my rhetorical questions ever be answered?!
Until the weekend, that is if my heart can take anymore…
It doesn’t get much worse than losing to Sunderland 3-0 at home. But to lose 6-0, against a Liverpool side without their talisman, and to lose in the manner which we did was simply unforgivable. Newcastle United are on the brink of relegation.
Before the game began yesterday I was confident we’d get a result against Liverpool. No seriously, I was. We showed at West Brom that we can attack and unsettle teams and looking at which players are fit and available, I really thought we’d give them a game at least.
Remember this is a Liverpool side who previously hadn’t won in April, with their forward line coming under much scrutiny for their woeful chance conversion rate. Surely with a returning Ben Arfa and a Suarez-less Liverpool, we’d have a chance right?!
But no. No we did not. In fact, we were doomed from the start…
I, like every other toon fan yesterday, was in utter disbelief looking at the starting 11 yesterday.
We were subjected to the usual 4-5-1 with players playing in the most unfamiliar roles once more.
Debuchy Taylor Mbiwa Haidara
Sissoko Tiote Cabaye Perch Jonas
Subs: Harper, Williamson, Anita, Ben Arfa, Gouffran, Gosling, Ameobi
We were at home, far from Premier League safety and needing to win one of the very few remaining games. So why the negativity?!
- Cisse needs a strike partner, he gets little service from the wings as it is. Why persist in isolating him for another 90 minutes?
- Sissoko is a box to box midfielder. Not a right winger. Not a right forward.
- Jonas, for all he is a likeable character, has been abysmal as a left winger this season. Why is he there AGAIN?
- What does Anita have to do to get a game?
- Why are we playing Perch and Tiote together?
I could go on…
Simply put though, my biggest qualm is the omission of Gouffran and Ben Arfa. A fit Ben Arfa. A Ben Arfa who was on the cover of the match day program, with the main feature of the program being about how he is ready to play!
Granted Newcastle will have to set up conservatively away from home, but this was our last shot at showing a real attacking display at home and taking a risk, because we’ll have to be sensible in our last home game against Champions League chasing Arsenal.
Now I’m under no illusions that I’m a frustrated spectator with the benefit of hindsight but I think it’s more than fair to say that we all knew team selection and shape was terribly, terribly wrong yesterday. It was the root of the problem. Maybe if we’d set ourselves up a little more like this (see below) we’d have had a better chance than a JAMES PERCH HEADER. I mean come on, when a James Perch header is your best goal effort for 90 minutes you know something is seriously wrong!
Debu Saylor Mapou Hairdryer
Anita Cabaye Sissoko
We could even have introduced Shola in the second half or Tiote if the midfield was over run. But we hardly played football in the Liverpool half yesterday. From the off we had no chance. I’m not saying Pardew is fully to blame, but perhaps he was the root of the problem. I believe so at least.
The players must shoulder a lot of the blame for yesterday’s defeat. Perch and Tiote were poor and did little to break up the intricate passing play from a Liverpool midfield carving openings throughout. Cabaye was equally anonymous. Cisse was uninvolved. Jonas didn’t want the ball, when he had it he drove it at the box without even looking who was there.
Then there’s the defense which was completely at sea. Haidara was off the pace, Mapou was turned inside out and Steven Taylor actually looked way out of his depth. Then there’s Debuchy who clearly couldn’t handle being on the pitch to finish the game.
It was dire. It was disgraceful. In fact, you could study the whole D section of the dictionary to pick out words to describe that disgusting, diabolical and discreditable ‘performance’! No wonder I’m disillusioned at our prospects of survival…
Where do we go from here?
We have 3 Premier League games remaining.
West Ham (away)
3 points would put us on that magical, though not guaranteed, 40 point safety mark. Question is, can we beat 1 of these three teams.
Pardew has come out and said he’ll have to use more experience in our next game. SO what exactly does that mean?! A 30 minute Shola to start, Jonas to stay in the side, an unfit Coloccini to be thrown straight in to the deep end? Or maybe we’ll just stick in the 39 year old Steve Harper in somewhere to make the numbers up!
Since the final whistle went yesterday I’ve read a lot of anti-Pardew/Pardew out rants, I’ve heard joke after joke about horses going in to hiding and even the witty ‘had Suarez played it could have been ate’ one liner. But nothing can bring a smile to my face right now because I cannot see where that win we desperately need will come from.
The near future
Next week we go to West Ham. Allardyce will love putting the club that sacked him closer to the trap door, similarly Kevin Nolan will also want to show why he was an un-appreciated asset by the Newcastle hierarchy. Then there’s the horse headed, ex number 9, Andy Carroll who will revel against a fractious Newcastle back four in his current form.
So then we turn our attention to QPR. A bunch of overpaid mercenaries under the control of the droopy faced fella, who turned down the chance to manage Newcastle all those years ago… By the time we meet QPR, I think they’ll have officially been relegated. But the players will still want to showcase themselves to potential suitors, playing against a Newcastle side with just ONE away win all season. It doesn’t look good…
Could it come down to the last game of the season? Wenger’s Arsenal, who have never failed to make the Champions League under his management, most probably needing 3 points to ensure they get 4th.
A season to forget
This has been a season to forget for us toon fans but if we do go down, it’ll certainly be unforgettable. When we were last relegated we managed to keep the core of the playing staff with the right character to group together and get us straight back in to the Premier League.
If we were to go down this time around, there would be a mass exodus and the players we’d be left with isn’t even worth thinking about.
We must now group together and the players must show their true talents. Good luck Mr Pardew, this may be your last hurrah.
What do you think? Should Newcastle part with Pardew?
Despite a spirited performance from Newcastle United inside a packed St. James Park tonight, Geordie dreams of Europa League glory were cruelly snatched from them, following a heart-breaking last minute goal from a resilient Benefica side to decide the tie.
Newcastle went in to the game seeking a 2-0 victory over the Portuguese league leaders, having lost the first leg of the tie 3-1 in Lisbon a week prior. Alan Pardew knew his side faced a colossal task in progressing to the semi-finals of the competition. With the onus firmly being on setting the side up to not only score two goals, against a team who began the season drawing with Barcelona in Europe’s elite competition, Alan Pardew also had to employ a degree of caution, as a Benefica goal would all but end the tie for certain.
Making four changes from the team who began the game in Lisbon, Pardew introduced Bigirimana, Anita, Mike Williamson and a fit again Massadio Haidara in to a conservative looking starting 11. Being sure to mention the importance substitutions would have in deciding the tie, Pardew set the side up with the intention of trying to keep the game deadlocked until the last twenty minutes, to then introduce flair players from the bench in a final roll of the dice.
Keeping forward favourites Sylvain Marveaux, Shola Ameobi and the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa on the bench, Newcastle fans were in for a nervy game, hoping Pardew’s game plan would be allowed a chance to come in to fruition. Benefica boss, Jorge Jesus, predicted Newcastle would actually start with Ameobi alongside Cisse in attack although it seemed Pardew had other ideas on how to be the only other side in Europe, apart from Barcelona, to overcome Benefica 2-0.
However the night was almost ruined for the home side inside the first three minutes of the game, as Lima almost opened the scoring for Benefica, had Tim Krul’s legs not been equal to the effort. In fact Newcastle were under the cosh during the game’s opener as Melgarejo’s cross come shot almost dipped under Krul’s crossbar.
Newcastle managed to get a foot hold in the game, following Benefica’s early scares, when Moussa Sissoko typically made a mazy run in to the opposition half. Although as apparent throughout much of Newcastle’s first half build up play, Sissoko failed to garner enough support in the final third to really impact Benefica’s backline.
Newcastle’s best chances came through the creativity of young Gael Bigirimana finding Papiss Cisse, though the number 9 failed to truly convert. In a frantic first half it was certainly the away side who had the best chance however. Pacey Benefica trickster Gaitan managed to round Krul, gaining possession in front of an unguarded net and unleashing a shot only for Haidara to scramble back and clear the ball from the goal line.
With Benefica looking the better of the two sides once more and having the best of the first half chances, Newcastle almost gained a 1-0 lead on the stroke of half time. The linesman however correctly ruled Papiss Cisse’s close range effort offside, after Bigirimana sent over a looping ball. With 45 minutes to play, Newcastle had it all to do.
Having won the midfield battle in the first half, Benefica began to grow further as the second half got underway. John, Gaitan and Salvio managed to play their way through the Newcastle team, although Salvio wasted the created opportunity, having shot first time inside the box.
With Newcastle needing to push for goals, Pardew introduced Shola Ameobi at half time for Bigirimana and brought on Ben Arfa for Anita on ’63 minutes. Ben Arfa’s introduction was met with vociferous applause from the Geordie faithful, as the Frenchmen immediately installed hope in to players and staff alike.
Soon after Ben Arfa’s introduction, Cisse again had the ball in the back of the net, only for the linesmen to again correctly deem the effort as being offside. Cisse’s frustrations were visibly growing as he receieved a yellow card in the aftermath for dissent and it seemed it simply would not be the Senegalese hitman’s night.
Newcastle though, for all their frustrations, could not be accused of allowing the tie to pass them by. Constant effort, commitment and drive were on show from the home side, as players wholly shared the crowd’s frustration and growing desperation. However on the stroke of ’70 minutes played, Newcastle began to believe.
Subsitutes Ben Arfa and Ameobi combined to cut through the Benefica defence, with Papiss Cisse finally being able to convert a legitimate goal, this time from a close range header. As the stadium erupted, Newcastle now needed a single goal to progress and fulfil Pardew’s strategy of giving a final gung ho approach at the game’s close.
With fifteen minutes to go Cisse was again at the centre of controversy. Convinced he should have been given a penalty following a collision with Benefica goalkeeper Artur. Although replays showed the ref made the correct call not to give a penalty, resulting in Newcastle being increasingly frantic in their panic to seek out a winning goal.
Newcastle enjoyed a great spell of dominance with Ben Arfa looking confident in possession and the majority of players in black and white being camped in the opposition half. However Benefica did continue to threaten themselves, as the vastly impressive Cordozo, relieved the pressure on his side by turning Yanga Mbiwa inside out, managing to win a freekick just outside the Newcastle box.
Gaitan also persevered in unleashing shots at Tim Krul, whilst ex Chelsea man Matic continued to drive the Benefica midfield in their efforts to repel the Newcastle forward charge. Although Newcastle could have won the game if only Ben Arfa’s ‘89th minute shot had hit the target or Yohan Cabaye’s ‘92md minute freekick had tested goalkeeper Artur a little more.
By the game’s close, Newcastle had exhausted their attacking options, fielding a team going for broke and desperately piling forward. Sissoko, Marveaux, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Ameobi and Cisse relentlessly toiled for the game winning goal, although the night ended with a knock out blow from Benefica. Salvio got on the end of a slick Benefica passing move to fire past Krul in the ‘93rd minute and cruelly end the game 1-1 or 4-2 on aggregate.
Simply put, Newcastle could not have done anything more. The tactics employed were effective and much required, the players involved were included to win the game and the effort on show was there for all to see. Despite elimination, the Newcastle players sent their fans home proud. Benefica will now be looking to lift the Europa League, although over the two legs, they visibly showed why they should be competing in the elite Champions League competition.
Newcastle will now go in to Sunday’s game with Sunderland filled with confidence, following a performance which included much attacking dominance and excitement.
Match After thoughts:
Personally I didn’t expect to progress tonight and seeing the starting lineup I wasn’t filled with overwhelming confidence. But even though we went out tonight, nobody on the pitch let us down whatsoever. We gave everything and as fan, that’s all you can ask. We gave it out best shot – no doubt.
Pardew, for me, almost pulled off a masterstroke tonight. He knew we couldn’t go all out from the start, knowing that if Benefica scored the tie would be virtually over. So rather than go for broke and starting with Shola in a 4-4-2 for example, he stuck to a strict game-plan and approached the game in segments.
When Cisse scored and we had 20 minutes to grab a winning goal, the momentum was with us in a spell of dominance. Who knows, maybe on another day we could have actually done it. Ben Arfa had a great chance and the introduction of him, along with Marv and Shola gave us a real chance to get that elusive second goal.
Tonight our backline featured a regular starter in Yanga and three players who aren’t first choice starters. But it was actually Mbiwa who looked the weakest out of the lot. Regular scapegoats Williamson and Simpson did us proud and Simpson really showed the required desire and grit required for a game of that nature. Haidara too reminded us that he’ll probably oust Santon from starting left back in the future as he looked solid defensively.
In midfield Cabaye and Sissoko didn’t have one of their better games but it has to be said the Benefica midfield men were outstanding.
Cisse again endured much frustration but it’s great to see how much it means to him being a Newcastle United player. He continues to try for the cause and for that I love him. Yes he makes mistakes but he is undoubtedly a great character and a number 9 I’m proud to have wear the shirt.
The subs tonight made all the difference and almost gave us that final push we needed to get the result, here’s hoping they all feature against Sundeland, as the three of them, along with Gouffran who is set to return, will cause the Mackems so many problems.
Benefica would have gone on to the Champions League group stages had Celtic not pulled off a miracle and they are no doubt a team more than capable of beating Chelsea to the Europa League trophy. Cordozo, Salvio and Rodrigo are excellent and in the end, their late goal was really well worked and executed to perfection. Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up, over the two legs they were the better side. Good luck to them.
Well, we’re out of Europe and the remainder of our season will now be focused on Premier League survival, starting with a mouth-watering game against Sunderland on Sunday. The fans were brilliant tonight, absolutely tremendous and will certainly be just as good, if not better, for the derby.
I’ll be there ready to see us condemn Sunderland even further to Championship football next season and make up for the disappointment of going out tonight. Having said that though, the players did us proud tonight and for that, I congratulate them.
Now let’s go and shut little Paolo up! HWTL.
Newcastle deservedly beat a stubborn Fulham side at St. James’ Park this afternoon, courtesy of yet another last gasp strike from Papiss Demba Cisse.
Considering the club’s precarious Premier League position, floating dangerously above the relegation zone at the beginning of the day, home fans were under no illusions of just how vital securing 3 points would be.
Alan Pardew made one change to his side that lost in Lisbon on Thursday night, with Yoan Gouffran coming in for James Perch. The opening 45 minutes were uninspired for Newcastle however, with the home side struggle to retain the ball and get behind a sturdy Fulham back line, superbly marshalled by the towering force of Brede Hangeland.
Fulham almost took the lead inside the first four minutes of the game when Dmitar Berbatov saw his outside of the boot, swerving effort, narrowly go over Tim Krul’s crossbar. Newcastle were sluggish to begin with, failing to break down some neat Fulham interchanges, especially in the middle of the park. Berbatov’s one touch passing was at it’s best, although Yanga Mbiwa was at his best to stifle any openings carved.
The first half’s best chance came when Berbatov found Bryan Ruiz with a delightful through ball, although Mbiwa tracked the Costa Rican’s run and managed to get in a strong block to send the ball wide. Fulham continued to press and would certainly have gone 1-0 had Tim Krul not made a stunning block to deny Manoloev.
Krul and Mbiwa’s heroics thankfully allowed Newcastle to go in to half time at 0-0, however had Newcastle carried on in the same vein in the second half as they did in the first, the game would have undoubtedly been quickly lost. Although, to their credit, the home side managed to control the second half entirely.
Having had no clear cut chances in an abject opening 45 minutes, Newcastle produced a second half performance full of intent and toil. Vernon Anita, who was introduced in to the fray following Davide Santon falling victim to a hamstring strain, saw his deflected effort hit the Fulham crossbar on ’53 minutes. Finally, home fans had something to get up off their seats about.
On the hour mark, Newcastle truly began to threaten Fulham. Cisse squandered chances in quick succession, although positive signs for Newcastle were indeed evident, with the black and whites firmly camped in the Fulham half. On the ‘63rd minute Gouffran headed at goal from a corner, hitting Riether on the Fulham goal line, with the ball then falling to Cisse who hit the post from point blank range. Replays showed that Riether had actually handled the ball on the line and Newcastle had missed out on a stonewall penalty, amidst their spell of overwhelming dominance.
Fulham, to their credit, remained as a threat in the game despite Newcastle’s dominance. Tim Krul pulled off a world class save, justifying his return to the lineup at Rob Elliot’s expense, when he tipped a Berbatov goal bound header over the bar.
With twenty minutes left Alan Pardew subbed Gouffran, introducing Shola Ameobi in to the fray, pushing for a late winner. Whether Pardew thought Ameobi would be more of a goal threat than Gouffran is unclear, however it seems with the local derby fast approaching the Newcastle manager wanted to ensure the Mackem Slayer is primed and raring to go.
Ameobi however squandered a great chance ten minutes later as his header, from a surprisingly accurate Danny Simpson cross, missed from close range. Moussa Sissoko had a header of his own just before the ‘90th minute, although Mark Schwarzer fantastically kept the ball out with an astonishing save.
Indeed it seemed that it was simply not Newcastle’s day and that the Magpies would unfortunately have to settle for a point, however one man in particular refused to accept this. For the third time in the last four games Newcastle found an injury time winner, courtesy of the relentless Papiss Cisse.
Cisse had endured an afternoon of much discontent despite his energy and continued endeavour. With Newcastle players looking exhausted in the ‘94th minute, Yohan Cabaye shot from outside the box, only for Cisse to trap the ball, marvellously turn his markers and half volley the ball past Schwarzer’s flailing arms and in to the corner of the net. Unbelievable.
The relief echoed around the ground in scenes of true euphoria. Cisse ran in to the crowd, followed by Sissoko who had once again given his all to the Newcastle cause. Even Alan Pardew got caught up in the magical moment, leaping over barriers to jump in fans’ embraces in the terraces.
The passion showed by both players and staff alike made for truly inspirational scenes at the game’s close. With Sunderland losing at Chelsea , having led 1-0, Newcastle’s day could not have gotten any sweeter. What a way to win.
I’m still in shock, from a personal point of view I was annoyed with how slowly we started the first half. We lacked ideas and desire and Fulham looked as though their game plan was going to pay off. But that second half was incredible. We absolutely bossed it. Ok Berbatov had the header and Rodallega could have done better when he was put through but realistically, we did deserve to win that game. Newcastle showed great spirit, grit and determination. You can’t ask for much more than that. The scenes at the end were truly heroic and as a supporter there’s nothing better than seeing a last minute goal and your number 9 diving in to the crowd.
We again lost players to injury. Santon went off and it looked like Cabaye, Sissoko and Marveaux were absolutely exhausted at the end holding their legs.
It was also strange to see Gouffran taken off when he looked very bright throughout. Adam Campbell is another youngster with great promise but yet isn’t ready for the first team in my opinion. He looked way too light weight as he did when he came on against Stoke.
We will play our best side against Benefica on Thursday so here’s hoping we can come through that game unscathed in preparation for the derby next Sunday.
Cisse frustrates the life out of me, as does Pardew but I cannot help but love the pair of them. They are both great characters who embrace it here at Newcastle United and it was absolutely fantastic to see their reactions at the end.
We needed that win and thankfully, once again at the death, we got it. I now believe we are safe in the Premier League although obviously we need a few more points to make sure. I wouldn’t bet against us getting 3 more against Sunderland.
The blog remains very much alive and further articles will appear throughout this week following some recent technical issues now being behind us. Thank you for your continued support and readership. In the meantime be sure to check out a great podcast that we highly rate, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays Football Podcast’, which you can check out by clicking this link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/i-dont-like-mondays-football/id621804933?mt=2
Wigan Athletic stole all 3 points from Newcastle at the DW Stadium this afternoon, in what was simply the biggest bout of injustice the world has witnessed since Nelson Mandela’s 27 year jail term as a political prisoner.
Ok, so perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly but the truth is, Newcastle should not have lost that game. Rather than give a match report, analyse the positives and negatives from the game or even give out player ratings, I think this week we need to give priority to the talking points. And believe me, there were a lot of talking points. I’m furious, I’m outraged and I’m still in disbelief. Categorically that game, was without doubt, the worst display of ‘officiating’ I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a black and white.
Talking Point Number 1: Pray For Haidara
Exactly a year to the day, the footballing world was shocked when Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch and almost lost his life due to a career ending heart condition. Whilst Muamba’s struggle and Callum McManaman’s tackle on Massadio Haidara are incomparable, Haidara nevertheless left the stadium for emergency treatment and remains in too much pain for the injury to even be assessed.
Haidara entered the field as a substitute for injured fullback Mathieu Debuchy and soon found himself victim to a potentially career ending tackle. Sorry, I’ve had to describe it as a ‘tackle’ because apparently, according to ref Mark Halsey, McManaman’s knee high, two feet from the ground, lunge was not even deemed as a foul! Unbelievable. It’s an absolute tragedy to see such a young, talented lad to be on the wrong end of a lunge like that and I can only hope that Massadio can come back from that. He was literally writhing on the floor in agony. Whilst it may not have been a leg breaker like Ben Arfa’s from De Jong, I wouldn’t be surprised if a bit of the bone has been chipped or fractured.
I’m not saying Haidara won’t play football again but when he does return he will not return as the same player. As we still see with Ben Arfa today, there’ll be a niggling doubt in his mind when he approaches 50/50 challenges. Let’s pray that Haidara can get back to his best because psychologically as well as physically, it will be tough for the youngster to deal with.
The nation embraced pray for Muamba, maybe the Geordie nation can pray for Haidara.
Talking Point Number 2: Mark Halsey/ Stevie Wonder
Quite frankly I’m worried about referee Mark Halsey. For a blind man to be out and about for so long without his trusted guide dog to direct him, it’s irresponsible and dangerous. I’m disappointed Mark. I’ve heard some people say well, you know, his vision was obscured. He didn’t see it. Human error. I can appreciate that, you’ve got to accept that referees do have a very difficult job but when a player rises with two feet off the floor and you’re standing ten yards away, surely, surely, you know that a foul has occurred. To not give that as a foul is in short, disgusting. It’s incomprehensible.
Talking Point Number 3: The Passion of the Carver
At half time Newcastle coach and club stalwart John Carver attempted to approach McManaman, only for a ruckus to ensue which saw Carver sent to the stands for the second half. If you watched the opening 45 minutes as a Newcastle fan you would understandably be furious. Ok Carver can be accused of lacking professionalism but boy was it warranted. He showed passion. It’s why we all love the game so much. Just like when Pardew pushed the ref, it was the heat of the moment and not without merit! I for one have no qualms with Carver’s reaction, had I been there myself, in his position, I’d have been exactly the same. Wouldn’t you?
Talking Point Number 4: Martinez and the Wigan Fans
So when Martinez brought McManaman off he was greeted by a standing ovation? I mean it goes without saying most fans of the Premier League don’t want to see Wigan remain in the division, they lack stature as opposed to bigger clubs who aren’t in England’s elite division. I’ve always been a bit sceptical of this view, if you’re in the league, you’re there on merit and you deserve to compete. But having seen that reaction from the home fans I wouldn’t like the rugby club to remain a Premier League side. I’d rather see them go down than Sunderland; at least having the mackems in the league makes things a bit interesting, who wants to watch Wigan?! McManaman deserved the boo’s the away fans threw at him, the home fans should have recognised he needed a good talking to and telling off for nearly ending a young kids career!
Why Martinez let him go out at half time is beyond me. That behaviour should not be tolerated. McManaman is a young kid himself, he needs to know what is acceptable and what you simply can’t do. If Tiote was to two foot a player and get away with it, I’d expect Pardew to pull him off the pitch at half time and replace him. It makes sense.
Talking Point Number 5: The Last Straw
In the second half of the game Newcastle equalised and pushed Wigan on the back foot. Papiss Cisse even had a chance to put the game to bed and snatch a 2-1 winner in our favour. Wigan however had the last laugh; they scored from a corner at the game’s death when Newcastle should have had a corner themselves moments before. But of course, from the corner that was given Wigan’s way, Figueroa helped the ball on with the use of his HAND. Talk about when it’s not your day…
The ref misses a red card offense, misses a potentially pivotal corner decision and then misses a blatant handball. What was the lineman doing?! I think the officials today must have a few bob on Wigan staying up…
It had been a great week for Newcastle fans following two last minute wins against Stoke and Anzhi but what a sour note we leave things on.
The game today will notoriously be remembered for the horror tackle and we are all praying that when Haidara can be assessed, he doesn’t have any serious issues. Newcastle were robbed today, absolutely and entirely robbed. I’m still furious. They say ranting helps, getting everything off your chest and all that. To be honest I don’t see it, I wonder how Mandela managed…
Newcastle came from behind, for the third consecutive Premier League home game, to seal a hard earned 2-1 victory over Stoke City, at St. James’ Park this afternoon.
Papiss Demba Cisse’s 92nd minute winner stole all 3 points, denying Stoke a share of the spoils in a fiercely contested affair. The Senegalese striker has endured a frustrating second season with the magpies but he, along with the continually supportive Alan Pardew, will be overjoyed following the coolest of finishes at the death in today’s 2-1 win.
Newcastle dominated the game territorially but struggled to unlock a Stoke defence, despite the absence of regular starter and key player Robert Huth. Tony Pulis expectedly set his side up to frustrate the home team, defending deep and taking few chances, with the majority of his men in red and white firmly behind the ball throughout.
Whilst Newcastle finished the game strongly, it was actual their opponents who first made an impression on the game. Peter Crouch’s volleyed on target effort was the highlight of a testing opening ten minutes. Newcastle right back, Mathieu Debuchy, continued pressure along the right hand side however looked the most threatening avenue on the pitch. The Frenchman’s pace and continued toil signalled Newcastle’s intent to get forward and take what was undoubtedly a much needed three points.
Newcastle dominated the opening 45 minutes although much of their efforts at goal irritatingly came from long range, as Stoke’s deep defending proved problematic for the Newcastle forward line. Typically Stoke’s robust defensive game plan was indeed proving effective, although the perseverance of midfield dynamo’s Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko gave the home support hope for the second half.
Newcastle began the second half undeterred by the bitter coldness inside the stadium, focusing on striking first and penetrating the Stoke defense. Marauding fullback Davide Santon looked to provide early crosses in to the Stoke penalty area, whilst Jonas Gutierrez and Yoan Gouffran attempted to get in behind the reserved Stoke fullbacks.
Although much to the discomfort of Alan Pardew and the home fans, Newcastle simply could not find a way through and break Stoke down. Stephen N’zonzi brilliantly marshalled the Stoke midfield in the absence of Charlie Adam, continually tussling with Cabaye, Sissoko and Tiote in the centre of the park. In fact, by the hour mark it seemed as though Newcastle had ran out of ideas with number 9, Papiss Cisse, visibly becoming increasingly frustrated, due to a distinct lack of service.
Taking a booking in the ‘64th minute of the game for a tussle with Marc Wilson, it seemed it was simply not Papiss Cisse’s day once again this season. Although Newcastle faced bigger problems two minutes later when Cheick Tiote senselessly brought down the industrious Jonathan Walters inside the Newcastle penalty area. Dusting himself down, Walters proceeded to take the spot kick, sending Rob Elliot the wrong way and converting. 1-0 Stoke.
Amongst the freezing cold conditions, the atmosphere within the ground proceeded to heat up. St. James’ Park had been largely subdued for over an hour until fans’ frustrations were echoed in the thousands. Ultimately however, cries of angst evolved in to cheers as Newcastle, for all their credit, turned the tie around, staging a remarkable comeback.
Moussa Sissoko once again displayed his sheer pace and power, driving his team forward and winning a freekick on the edge of the Stoke penalty area. Before Yohan Cabaye had a chance to take the resultant dead ball shot, melee ensued, with Steven Taylor clashing with goalkeeper Begovic. Referee Andrew Marriner managed to disperse the confrontation to allow Yohan Cabaye to seize the freekick opportunity, sublimely finding Begovic’s top left hand corner, tucking the ball under the bar and in to the back of the net.
Galvanised by Cabaye’s dream-like finish, Alan Pardew sent on Haidara and Marveaux in place of Santon and Tiote, in an attempt to get more than a point from the game. With less than twenty minutes to go Newcastle continued to press, although Stoke remained resilient, particularly through Ryan Shawcross in the heart of defence, who seemed to deal with every ball coming in to the Stoke City box.
With Newcastle looking like they’d have to settle for a draw, on came youngster and highly rated prospect Adam Campbell to assist in the home side’s final forward charge. As the 90th minute drew, Sissoko again embarked on a surging run although his final ball let him down as Newcastle’s prospects of a late winner seemed to have been lost.
However Newcastle’s continued toil and effort did not go unrewarded. Sylvain Marveaux’s exquisite through ball found Papiss Cisse 8 yards out, who proceeded to set himself up and powerfully rifle home past Begovic, with the coolest of finishes.
Undoubtedly Cisse reminded fans he remains an incredible talent, although the delivery from Sylvain Marveaux will have reminded his manager that he is very much vying for a first team starting spot. That’s four assists now for the Frenchmen, more than any other Newcastle United player.
With a pivotal European home leg against Anzhi to come on Thursday, Newcastle can carry today’s form in to the next game, with the chance of progressing in to the last eight of the competition. Tony Pulis on the other hand faces a backlash from Stoke City fans, with many calling for a change in management. Newcastle however are firmly in the ascendancy and fans may yet have something to shout about come the end of the season.
Whilst focusing on Newcastle but trying to produce an impartial match report it was difficult for me to contain my excitement! Cisse, wow. A last gasp winner. I was convinced he was offside, I mean, you’d expect him to be wouldn’t you?! But that finish was nothing short of sensational. Ok, he wasn’t far out but he acted so quickly, Begovic didn’t have a chance. It was almost laughable how cool it was after the amount of chances he’s squandered. It was the kind of thing you’d expect to see from Robin Van Persie rather than our ever frustrating number 9! Easily the biggest positive from today was seeing Cisse score again and winning the game in style. We needed the three points to propel us up the table and Papiss duly delivered.
Another point that must be made is the fact we came back (again) to win the game. Newcastle came out today and were made to work hard for their victory. I don’t want to get dragged in to the debate about Stoke’s anti –football but certainly the footballing side won today. It’s a great satisfaction to work hard and get the 3 points when Stoke set out to sit behind the ball for the best part of the game.
A further point I don’t want to forget is the defensive performance today. Debuchy was brilliant. Yes, he needs to realise we won’t win crosses in the box but his link up play, energy and covering was admirable. Mapou again showed us why he is more than capable of replacing Colo and Steven Taylor’s form of late must surely have thrown his name in the hat for an England call up. Certainly he is as good as the likes of Jagielka and Shawcross.
The biggest, most frustrating talking point from today has to be set pieces. Of course Cabaye scored a truly, inch perfect, brilliant goal from a freekick although his corners were woeful. Why do we even attempt to cross the ball in to the box from a corner? I’ve said it for months but we do need to change our thinking. Why not play it short and quick like we famously did in the Keegan era? This is a worrying area of our game because we never score from a corner, let alone hit a man in the box and win a header. We are even prone to counter attack as we easily lose possession. It’s ridiculous. This needs looked at but will anything change?
Newcastle United are a team, we win together and we lose together. That’s how it should be. However individual errors cannot be ignored. Whilst Tiote had one of his better games of late, noticeably he showed controlled commitment and endeavour, he again showed us that he is a complete liability. The foul on Shawcross was outrageous. So unnecessary. Anita and Perch must now surely be considered as starting in his place.
Elliot – 6. An average game for the man who will be tested a lot more on Thursday. Of course not to be blamed for the penalty at all.
Debuchy – 7. Up and down the right all day, although final ball at times was lacking. Pace and talent in abundance of course.
Mbiwa – 7. So composed on the ball, developing a partnership with Tayls.
Taylor – 7.5. Commited, dominant, solid. In a rich vein of form and hilarious in winding Begovic up (especially after the freekick goes in!!!)
Santon – 6. Tried to get forward and get at the Stoke defense but struggled defensively himself at times.
Tiote – 5. What can I say? I’m even shaking my head as I type this… Unbelievable foul to give away.
Cabaye – 7.5. Played too deep for me today, although that’s probably due to the management rather than the individual. Poor corners but great vision and a freekick we won’t forget any time soon.
Jonas – 6.5. Worked hard as always but struggled to create in the final third. Bet you didn’t expect me to say that, did you?!
Sissoko – 7.5. Not his best but still a fantastic effort. The surging midfield runs are a breath of fresh air.
Gouffran – 6. Not one of his best, like the majority of the team, struggled to come up with an answer to Stoke’s defensive ploy.
Cisse – 7. I thought Cisse was deprived of service throughout, although could have helped himself out more. Scoring a goal like that reminded us all why we love him however.
Marveaux – 8. No doubt about it, Marv came on and changed the game. He has guile, he’s a great player. If starts games and gets a consistent run in the team he can flourish. Jonas was ok today but at home, against Stoke, we have to line up more positively.
Haidara – 6. Watch out Santon, Haidara is on your tail. A left footed left back… says it all! Looks like he has settled in the team already. Cool on the ball too.
Campbell –6. He’s certainly one to watch out for. Whilst today was just a cameo he looked comfortable and definitely not afraid to get involved.
Talking Point: Pardew: The good and the bad
Pardew divides many fans. Some love him, some loathe him and some just simply don’t understand him! Admittedly, I’ve always liked Pardew, I like his passion and the confidence and belief he genuinely seems to ooze. Although that’s not to say I won’t criticise him or challenge some of the decisions (or non-decisions) he makes. Today Ben Arfa and Shola were unavailable. Of course Cisse had to start. Jonas understandably retained his place although I found it strange that Tiote retained his – both Perch and Anita are in good form.
Last week against Swansea, Pardew should have made substitutions and he paid the price for not changing it up. This week he did. Marveaux came on and unlocked the game. He didn’t hit the back of the net himself but he acted as a match winner.
It’s pretty obvious Pardew isn’t infallible but I’d like to see him be a bit braver. Team selection and approach is vital for progression in the Europa on Thursday, he is now under pressure to get that right.
Well, it wasn’t easy but we managed to come through the game, against the most frustrating of opponents, claiming all 3 points. Although we can’t rest on our laurels now that we’ve hit the dizzy heights of 13th place! O no! Anzhi will come at us on Thursday a lot harder than they did in Moscow and we need to match that. I was proud of the players in their endless endeavour to win the game today, I hope we see this in the Europa too.
Today’s three points are massive. Colossal. Had we lost this one, the dreaded R word pops up once again and that could even have an affect on our Europa mentality. Now however, we are firmly looking up and the ‘train wreck of a season’ may well be firmly back on track.
And remind me, where are Sunderland in the league?
Until Thursday, CarryingCoals.
Newcastle take on Anzhi in Moscow tomorrow, in the first leg of their Last 16 Europa League tie. The game is pivotal for Newcastle to have a chance of progression, as United must focus their efforts on producing a collectively tight defensive display, whilst picking up a potentially vital away goal.
The game will be played at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on an artificial pitch, causing Alan Pardew to select a starting 11 capable of adjusting to the conditions. He commented:
‘It is a different surface and so it is going to favour some of our technical players, it will be a very technical team I put out.’
Anzhi are second favourites to win the competition, the abundance of talent they boast has been well documented and they’re probably the most potent and dangerously attacking side left in the competition. To put it in perspective, we have 10 Europa League goals, they have 26!
Newcastle will need and will undoubtedly have a distinct game plan for tomorrow night. We can’t go there and give too much away, really going for it, otherwise we could easily get picked off three nil. What I expect is for us to focus on ball retention, with Pardew picking ‘technical’ players who, once in possession, will not squander it easily.
We will be on the back foot in Russia for a lot of the game, Anzhi will want goals and will want to come at us. Yes, Newcastle need an away goal but we must focus a collective effort on defending and frustrating Anzhi. AC Milan did remarkably well against Barcelona keeping a coherent back 4 line for 90 minutes, with the midfield marshalling passing channels between the half way line and their own 18 yard line. Newcastle will have to do this tomorrow, we have got to constantly press and cover, as the technical ability of the likes of Eto’o, Willian and Traore will be dazzling at times.
When we are in possession, the onus will be on the counter attack. I can see us playing a risk free first half as we did in the Ukraine against Metalist and pushing slightly higher in the second half. Pardew will be well aware of how good Guus Hiddink’s Anzhi are and will want to give us a fighting chance of progression when we play the return leg a week on Thursday at St. James’.
We have taken 19 men to Russia, obvious first team players left on Tyneside are ineligible duo Debucy and Gouffran, although it comes as a surprise that Jonas and Cisse haven’t made the trip. Cisse is apparently suffering from illness, although nothing has been confirmed about Jonas as of yet.
With Ben Arfa reportedly only fit to play ’20 or 30 minutes’ tomorrow, it will be a shock if he starts. With him missing, Gouffran ineligible and taking in to account what Pardew has said about ‘technical’ players, I think we can expect to see Anita and Marveaux play a huge part of the game.
What both Anita and Marv excel in, is there technique. Both are very tidy, receive the ball, pass and move. In fact, if you watch Anita he will never do too much, using his intelligence to keep things flowing. Plus he has tackling ability and immense work rate. Marveaux on the other hand has a turn of pace about him, the ability to drift inside to collect the ball and a range of passing that we have seen in glimpses. We will be under an overwhelming amount of pressure from Anzhi and both of these players will come in very handy for ball retention.
One area of the pitch where personnel don’t seem as obvious is in the fullback positions. In our last European game, we saw Santon get a rest and with Debuchy being unavailable for selection, Haidara and Danny Simpson started. Simpson had a good game no doubt but Haidara excelled. In terms of technical ability and how Pardew wants to approach the game, it may be a very viable option to put Santon on the right, Haidara left back and keeping Simpson on the bench.
Santon Taylor Mbiwa Haidara
Anita Tiote Cabaye Marv
Subs: Alnwick Simpson Perch Bigi Obertan Ben Arfa Campbell (Gosling to travel, miss bench)
*I find it interesting that despite Colo being injured Mike Williamson has still failed to travel and make the bench, meaning Pardew has thought if a CB does get injured he’d rather have Perch there. He’s played 99 games for us, I wonder if Willo will ever get the century…
What’s going to happen?
I can see tomorrow being a very tough and tense game for the fans. What we have to do is stick to the game plan and remain patient. I’m sure there’ll be thousands of people watching in the city and thinking that we’re playing terrible, but if we can sit behind the ball and be patient with the counter, the tactics will be spot on. Even if we lose 1-0 it will be a completely different game in Newcastle.
I can see Anzhi scoring however. Ben Arfa’s introduction could be a big factor and I’d love to see him start. 1-1 would be a great result but whether Newcastle can get the away goal is a difficult one because I don’t see us getting too much service to our key players. Marveaux and Anita must look to unleash Sissoko where possible and Cabaye must provide some grit in midfield as Tiote is bound to struggle. In fact if he had another substandard game here, Pardew must seriously consider going with Perch (or Anita) against Stoke on Sunday.
It’s a big, big game for Shola too who must lead the line in Cisse’s absence. Shola can offer a lot as a support striker in 4-4-2 and can be used as an impact sub in the last twenty minutes of a game, when pressure around the opposition 18 box in needed, that is when he is at his most effective. I can see him labouring tomorrow and in all honesty I’m not expecting much, hopefully he’ll get the chance to take a penalty at least!
I just hope we don’t give away an early goal, get frustrated and lose our shape allowing us to lose the game 3-0 or by a score line that gives us no hope for next week.
A resolute defensive display and players tightly keeping their shape, producing a boring game from a Newcastle fan perspective, yet being effective enough to give us a chance next week. 1-1. Benny on to save the day…
The game is on ITV4 (Yes, finally the merry people at ITV have realised Newcastle ARE in Europe this season) and kick off is at 5pm.
I’ll not leave you with any horrible puns or clichés this week, I’m too nervous about the uncertainty that faces us tomorrow. Will Eto’o run riot? Will we keep our shape? Can we get that vital away goal? Anyway we moscow to Russia and give it our best at least…
Enjoy the game, comments welcome.
Newcastle take on Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow next Thursday, to play the first leg tie of their Europa League, Last 16 clash. To win the competition outright, which would end a bleak run of 44 trophy-less years on Tyneside, Newcastle are currently valued at 22/1 by bookmakers.
Out of the final 16 teams, Newcastle are eleventh favourite to claim the winning prize, although do the bookmaker’s odds really reflect United’s chances? Whilst Newcastle are odds on favourites to be eliminated in the forthcoming last 16 round, I think they have a good chance of progression and could cause problems to any of the ten times apparently more likely to lift to the cup, in Amsterdam, come May.
Last 16 Clashes:
First leg ties to be played March 7th, return legs a week later March 14th.
Anzhi v Newcastle
Viktoria Plzen v Fenerbahce
Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea
Stuttgart v Lazio
Basel v Zenit
Levante v Rubin Kazan
Spurs v Inter
Benefica v Bordeaux
Looking at the above ties, no teams induce overwhelming fear upon me. Newcastle overcame Chelsea recently, whilst coming close to beating Spurs of late too. For ten of those teams to have a better chance than us, we should embrace the underdog status and believe we can cause an upset because really, I have no doubts we could give any one of those teams a good go on our day.
Chelsea have been made outright favourites to win the competition at 7/2. Last year’s Champions League winners have suffered a frustrating season so far and were unable to defend their crown, having been eliminated in the Champions league group stages. Rafa Benitez will be desperate to win a trophy during his tenure at the Bridge and will no doubt want to add another accolade to his CV – undoubtedly Chelsea are taking this competition very seriously.
Aside from Chelsea, other main contenders, all valued at 9/1 to claim the prize, are Inter Milan, Spurs, Zenit and Newcastle’s imminent opponent’s Anzhi. Obviously with Spurs being drawn against Inter, one of the heavyweights will not progress to the final 8 whilst Zenit showed they are far from impenetrable losing 3-1 at Anfield in their last European game, only to progress through the means of away goals.
Benefica are placed at 10/1 whilst Rubin Kazan have been given 14/1 odds and can be viewed as the competition’s dark horses, with both being able to boast Champions League pedigree themselves from recent years. Also ahead of Newcastle in the running are Levante and Lazio, both placed at 16/1, while Fenerbahce too have been granted a slightly greater chance of claiming silverware than Newcastle, with their odds priced at 20/1.
Anzhi are one of the big favourites to lift the cup, whoever was to draw them would be odds on for elimination in this round, with their chances of winning the Europa League looking increasingly slimmer in turn. Therefore it is understandable why Newcastle have been placed so far down the pecking order.
However Newcastle have a very good chance of upsetting the odds and progressing to the quarter final.
Evening out the odds:
Despite next Thursday’s leg being played in Russia, Anzhi will not be playing in their home ground. The current instable political conditions within the Republic of Dagestan, where Anzhi’s home resides, has led to the venue of the game being changed to the Luzhniki Stadium where Spartak Moscow play their home games. One advantage for Newcastle therefore is that their opponents won’t be able to enjoy a home leg in its true form.
Plus, as Newcastle experienced with Metalist, Anzhi will not be as fresh and match fit as we should be due to the winter break Eastern European clubs have.
Anzhi are of course favourites for a reason. They’re a good side, financially backed and boasting some technically immense players within their ranks.
Yuri Zhirkov and Lassana Diarra will both be familiar to followers of the Premier League but their biggest threats exist in the form of former Barcelona striker, Samuel Eto’o, and newly signed playmaker, formerly of Shaktar Donetsk, Willian. But then again, the £16 million rated Lacina Traore isn’t a bad squad player either!
If Newcastle were to progress then it would be a huge scalp for us and it would undoubtedly send a message to the rest of the teams left in the competition.
A crucial two weeks:
In little over two weeks time we’ll know if Newcastle were able to upset the odds and progress, getting ever closer to the ultimate dream of cup glory. Certainly it’s a little too early to get too carried away but if Newcastle can triumph as underdogs, their odds will surely be re-evaluated.
The end of the road for Newcastle? We’ll just see about that…