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Dec 3 / Jamie Hardesty

Match Preview: Wigan Home

Newcastle host Wigan tonight at St. James’ Park hoping to avoid their fifth successive Premier League defeat. Following an abysmal November run which saw one point taken from a possible 15, a winning three points is vital to propel Newcastle up the table as well as to shrug off current relegation candidate status.

Wigan are deadlocked with Newcastle on 14 Premier League points

Alan Pardew is undoubtedly facing the most tumultuous time of his reign at the helm of the club. Another defeat for his side tonight would be nothing short of a disaster as Newcastle have never lost five games in a row during a Premier League season, not even in their relegation campaign. Moreover, never have they lost three home games successively in the Premier League era. This really is a must win game for the home side as a defeat would certainly be unthinkable.

Team News:

Newcastle’s small squad has been hampered by their involvement in the Europa League this season, although it currently seems decimated by injuries. First team regulars Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye are unavailable until the New Year with their respective hamstring and groin injuries, whilst key playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa misses another game due to his own niggling hamstring injury.

James Perch who returned to the first team fray against Stoke on Wednesday will also miss the game, having picked up his fifth booking he must now serve a one game suspension.

Squad players Gabby Obertan and veteran Shola Ameobi may make the game and will face late fitness tests.

Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic and club favourite Ryan Taylor remained sidelined and do not have a realistic return date, much to this displeasure of Alan Pardew.

How will the side line up?

Surely, surely it is now time to set up in a 4-3-3? It will be up to Pardew of course but the ‘tried and tested’ methodology of 4-4-2 has hampered our build up play all season, as we look a shadow of our former selves. However Pards has opted for 4-4-2 during the past 4 games, despite the lack of a visible working partnership between Senegales uo Ba and Cisse.

With Ba refusing to sign a new contract and hoping for an unrealistic (reported) 90K/a week, perhaps Pardew must now be a little sterner and put him back out wide on the left to help the team. This will bring the best out of Cisse who has been practically terrible up top with Ba in 4-4-2 all season and does not necessarily mean Ba will no longer score. 4-4-2 has simply not worked and hopefully we can be more adventurous tonight. What else do we have to lose?!

Unfortunately a do expect it to be 4-4-2, meaning Ferguson would play left wing and Jonas would be on the right. That’s right another 90 minutes of Jonas on the wing… *shudder*

Dilemma? It would be good to see Jonas used alternatively tonight, his exceptional work rate is let down by his poor forward wing play

Possible 11:

Krul

Simmo Willo Colo Santoon

Jonas Tiote Anita Fergie

Ba Cisse

Although I’d much prefer…

4-3-3:

Krul

Santon Willo Colo Jonas

Tiote Marveaux* Anita

Sammy Cisse Ba

*Marveaux is showing us the best of him since joining the club and has recently stated his best position is in central midfield. We lack anything creative in the middle and this could provide us with a different outlet. A risk which I can’t see Pards taking though, he will use Jonas in midfield for his work ethic which is understandable.

Marveaux could add some guile to the Newcastle midfield

I’d be satisfied with Jonas in the middle, meaning Simpson would be right back and Marveaux benched. If the midfield seemed to negative we could bring Marv on later. Surely it would be something different and better than 4-4-2!

The Opposition:

Wigan are a funny side. This is probably the best side Martinez has assembled in recent seasons despite the loss of Moses to Chelsea in the Summer. At times this season they’ve been tremendous, the away win at Spurs a prime example. However they let themselves down on the road as many bottom half Premier League teams (currently including Newcastle) are guilty of.

Like Newcastle, they’ve averaged a point per game this season, having 14 points from 14 games. In their midweek game against Man City, which ended in a 2-1 defeat, they were actually the better side for the first hour until Balotelli fired one past them.

What I especially like about Martinez and the Wigan side at present is how resolute they are and how well they seem to reinvent themselves. Martinez made a gutsy switch to Wigan by playing a 3-4-3 formation in the second half of last season which has carried on to this campaign. It’s not something you generally see in the Premier League and when it pays off it’s refreshing too see. Whilst I expect to see them line up in more of a 4-3-3 tonight, I admire Martinez’s commitment to playing good football. They’re an underdog in the division who must be respected.

The signing of Kone, who has contributed four Premier League goals so far in the league, has brought another dimension to Wigan’s attacking threat and is a player I have been much impressed with. Despite not having won at St. James’ before and having a poor away record in the league, they are certainly no pushovers.

What are the opposition’s weaknesses?

What Wigan have clearly failed to do is perform as as well as they can away from home, however lately it has seemed that a result has been coming and they’ve been improving. Despite Kone’s addition, goals have been hard to come by and their forward line has fallen short on many occasions. Players like Di Santo, Kone and even Boselli have the raw ability and talent, which Martinez undoubtedly perseveres in nurturing, although a lack of cutting edge can be prescribed.

Arouna Kone will be looking to torment the Newcastle defense

With Coloccini, Krul and the ever impressive Davide Santon all defensively active for Newcastle tonight, the Wigan forward line may well be stifled.

I’ve seen Wigan come up here a few times in recent years and each time I’ve never thought they were that bad of a side. Sometimes you get games and you think ‘god, Newcastle were poor here but they were terrible’ however when Cabaye got his first goals for the club scoring late on against Wigan last season, I was impressed with their ability to play football. However it does seem this lack of cutting edge is what ultimately lets them down. In many ways, they are a poor mans Arsenal.

Newcastle may get through this game with the quality they possess upfront, as the lethargic punditry of Alan Shearer  likes to remind us on Match of the Day, ‘you’ve got to take your chances at this level’! It will be interesting to see what Gary Neville has to say on Monday Night Football in terms of Wigan tactics and were the game can be won tonight, they aren’t a bad side Wigan and I expect them to remain in the division again this season.

What I’d like to see:

Tonight we need to win, it’s just that simple. I’ve expressed what I’d like to see tactically and I’ve voiced my qualms over our selection policy over the past few weeks. For me, it doesn’t work having Jonas on the wing nor does it work having the Demba’s up top together, Cisse is restricted especially.

Although aside from this, I do think this is a very winnable game despite our form and even who Pardew chooses. Wigan have talent but they are poor away from home and we can take advantage of this.

We need to take our chances and persevere as it won’t be an easy night. We could well have won that game against Stoke on Wednesday night, had Ba or Cisse scored when we were 1-0 up.

Tonight we need the correct response and attitude, with the crowd behind the team from kick off we need to grasp the initiative, announce some attacking intent and pressure Wigan for the first twenty minutes of the game, controlling the contest.

In Pards we trust: Most of all I’d like to see Pardew silence a few doubters tonight

What I expect to see:

Mistakes from both sides and a frustrating game. This could potentially have a lot of goals in it and there’s no surprise there have been a couple of 2-2 draws in recent history between the sides. However, I can see Pards wanting to keep it very tight for us tonight, that’s why I think Ferguson will be selected ahead of Sammy for example and Jonas will retain his place in midfield. I can see us being very conscious defensively and focused on not conceding, perhaps more so than attacking in fact.

If Wigan do score first it will ruin our whole gameplan and we have seen this happen before. We approach games looking to get through the opening by keeping it tight, growing as the game goes on and then looking to take it in the second half. Although this is a risk in itself. If Wigan score first, I am 100% confident Newcastle will lose the game.

The first goal is crucial. With the magnitude of this game though, I do expect Newcastle to get it. It’s imperative we do not lose this game.

Players like Williamson and Simpson aren’t the best. Of this we are very much aware. We know the limits of their game although when the team is playing well, this gets swept under the carpet to an extent. However when big stars aren’t performing as Tiote, Jonas and arguably Krul at present don’t seem to be, we then scrutinise poorer players like Williamson a lot more. They will not be flawless tonight and when a mistake is made in such a tight, nervous and cagey affair, sections of the crowd will turn on them. We need an early goal to get by and I hope Pardew and the players get it right tonight. I expect us to be United although with Newcastle at present I’m not sure if that’s enough.

Here’s hoping my worries are lifted.

Prediction:

Tonight I think we can sneak it. We desperately need it and we showed some signs of improvement at times against Stoke. Wigan are poor on their travels too. A poor game with scares but a 1-0 Newcastle courtesy of Ba.

Final Note:

Can we use another Demba Ba get out of jail free card? Can Jonas take someone on and deliver a good final ball? Can Williamson and Simpson pass the ball along the floor rather than pump it to the opposition defence high in the air? I don’t know.

Although what I do know and can’t stress enough how important tonight is. We have a win in us and let’s get this month off to a good start. I can give my opinions and rationalisations although at the end of the day Pardew is the boss and knows his players, whilst he’ll select the personnel who are capable of performing. Good luck lads, we might just need it.

Come on the toon!

Comments welcome.

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