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…
With a squad now boasting added depth and competition, Newcastle fans have been reassured that the team can now balance the demands of the Europa League with their Premier League campaign.
Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy have slotted in to the side effortlessly, Yang Mapou Mbiwa is pushing Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini for a starting centre half role and Yoan Gouffran has added some much need pace to the attack. In fact, even youngster Massimo Haidara last night proved he can do a job when called upon.
Certainly Alan Pardew now has the opportunity to cover injured players or allow regular first teamers to be rested, as apparent with Davide Santon being left out last night. Amongst the positives coming out of Newcastle’s 1-0 win in Khrakiv last night, the squad has been dealt a hammer blow in finding out that Tim Krul will be out for 6 weeks with an ankle injury.
Krul is a key component in the spine of the team and arguably one of the finest goalkeepers playing in the Premier League. Despite Newcastle’s squad being bolstered significantly, a huge question now looms over Krul’s backup, the former Notting Forrest man, Rob Elliot.
If Cheick Tiote picks up an injury, Anita can deputise. If Taylor can’t play 2 games in 4 days, Mbiwa can be relied on. If Jonas isn’t performing, Marveaux can come off the bench. Quite frankly, it is very unclear whether Elliot will be an effective solution to the problem which has now arisen. With Krul out of the side, it is a completely different conundrum for Alan Pardew than if one of his outfield players is unavailable.
Elliot must now come in and play consecutive games for the first time in his Newcastle career and worryingly, he is largely unproven so far on Tyneside.
What games will Krul miss?
Obviously Krul will miss Sunday’s six pointer against Southampton but it seems his injury could not come at a worse time, as Newcastle have 6 fixtures in March, including the Europa League last 16 tie against Anzhi.
Games Krul may miss:
With any luck however, Krul will be back for the most anticipated game of the season – Sunderland at home on April 13th.
Can Elliot do a job?
Rob Elliot isn’t Tim Krul, although that’s not to say he’s a bad goalkeeper. In fact, in the games Elliot has played this season he has performed well. Whilst the forthcoming Southampton fixture will be Elliot’s league debut, he has featured already in the first team this season.
Making three first team appearances overall, with 2 coming this season, Elliot’s Newcastle United career highlight will undoubtedly have been back in September, keeping a clean sheet and making a string of impressive saves in Newcastle’s maiden Group D Europa match away to Maritimo, in Portugal.
What about Harper?
Of course, I haven’t forgotten that veteran Steve Harper provides another option, although it seems Elliot has established himself as United’s number 2 and will get the nod Sunday.
Here’s hoping Elliot can perform when called upon and Tim Krul makes a swift recovery in the meantime.
FC Metalist Kharkiv stand in the way of Newcastle progressing to the last 16 of the Europa League. Whilst the Ukrainian side have not played since December because of the winter break, they remain a team not to be underestimated having topped a Europa group which included Bayer Leverkusen.
Tonight Alan Pardew’s team selection is absolutely crucial. Newcastle play the away leg in Ukraine next Thursday, the 21st, and will then have a must win Premier League game against Southampton at home on Sunday the 24th.
The most logical approach to the three fixtures across the next 10 days would be to field the strongest available 11 in tonight’s tie. If Newcastle play like they did against Bordeaux at home, they could take advantage of a team far from full match fitness and build up a healthy lead before the return leg. This would then provide the opportunity to rest and leave players at home in England to prepare for the Southampton fixture.
Throughout Newcastle’s Europa campaign so far this season, I’ve referred to the players selected as Pardew’s ‘cup team’. First name stars have been rested and we’ve seen the inclusion of fringe and youth players making up the majority of the 11 selected.
Newcastle qualified for the knock out rounds using this approach, although with being eliminated from domestic cup competitions and having a league campaign to forget, the Europa League should now be focused on with much greater regard.
Certainly, Newcastle have a squad capable of going all the way in this competition and with relegation fears eased following an influx of new (French) players, prioritising this cup competition could salvage a disappointing campaign.
Instead of continuing with the ‘cup team’, it would be wiser to play our best available team, giving us the best chance of qualifying and of being able to preserve players for the Southampton clash.
What is our current best available team?
With Ben Arfa still injured and Debuchy and Gouffran ineligible to play having already played for other teams in the competition this season, you could argue that we are already three players away from our best looking side.
Nevertheless there are many first team stars who I’d like to see selected over other squad members. Squad payers like Shola, WIllo, Obertan and Perch have all contributed to our Europa campaign but I’d rather see them included next week than in tonight’s fixture.
What is our best team? Well that’s up to Pardew and open to interpretation! Also you’ve got to consider formation…
I’d approach this game in the same way we did Bordeaux at home when we won 3-0. In that game we played 4-3-3 rather than 4-4-2 or Pardew’s most recent formation of choice, the 4-2-3-1, as I don’t think we need 2 holding midfielders for a game we should command.
What I’d like to see:
Santon Mbiwa Colo Haidara
Anita Tiote Cabaye
Sissoko Cisse Marveaux
I know Taylor has been brilliant recently but we have to be careful with not playing him too much and ensuring he’s kept fit due to his chronic injury problems. Mbiwa hasn’t come here to sit on the bench, he’s simply too good and should have no problem slotting in. Whilst I’ve also championed Jonas in recent weeks, he could do with a rest and Anita is a good footballer who can flourish in a 4-3-3. It would be especially interesting to see his interchanges with Santon playing so close to him.
With Gouffran unavailable Marveaux is the sensible starter and with Debuchy in the same situation, it would make sense to put Santon right back and give new boy Haidara a chance, he was outstanding for the reserves earlier this week.
Cisse needs to score goals and to do so he must get games, although there is always the option of Shola in the last twenty minutes. Obertan could also feature second half, although I’d like to start SIssoko in this game as he can get us goals and put this tie to bed early.
If we win this game, 2 or 3 nil then we can go to Kharkiv next week and start the likes of Williamson and Obertan and preserve some players for the Sunday and Southampton. I can’t stress how much I believe in approaching the fixtures this way!
What I expect to see:
I very much doubt we will see that team go out tonight, after all I’m not the manager! But I sincerely hope Pardew doesn’t go 4-4-2 with Shola starting upfront and Obertan and Jonas on the wings. We needs the likes of Cabaye and Sissoko in there from the off to really get a hold of this tie.
Maybe Pardew will opt for my chosen 4-3-3 but play Obertan where Sissoko is and Jonas where Anita is, it’s difficult to say.
I do expect Taylor to be rested though and I don’t think fans should read too much in to this, other than the fact we need to look after him properly. If Haidara does get a chance, it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in. Presuming Santon is right back, and not Simmo or Perch, he has a chance show what he can do in a position where many fans feel he should regularly play.
Do Metalist really have a chance?
Ok, so Metalist played Whitley Bay a few days ago and played a draw. They’re lacking match fitness and they’re 4th in the Ukranian equivalent of the Premier League. They’re little known and also sold their best player, Taison, in January (a player courted by Chelsea). So all in all, you’d think they’d pose little threat.
Although they do have a contingent of South American talent and they’ve caught the eye as an upcoming European force in the past 18 months. They topped their group, something Newcastle did not achieve and like any opposition, they must therefore be respected.
Cristaldo (not to be confused with Cristiano Ronaldo!) is the player to watch out for, with 8 goals in 15 appearances so far this season, the young Argentine forward has already shown Bayer Leverkusen what he can do in this competition.
Tonight though, team selection is the most crucial variable for me.
Maybe Pardew’s ‘cup team’ will be no more and instead we’ll approach the game with much more intent and focus than we have done in the competition so far.
When we were (appallingly) dumped out of the FA Cup at Brighton, we played this team:
Santon Willo Perch Tav
Anita Bigi Abeid Obertan
… Tonight, the time has come to take a cup tie as seriously as possible, using the best players available to win the game comfortably.
I’m going for a Newcastle win, with Marveaux to grab a goal. 2-0.
What do you think? Should Pardew play the strongest team available? Will Metalist cause an upset?
When Newcastle lifted the Championship trophy and reclaimed their Premier League status, they did so with the necessary personnel equipped with the character required to get out of the division. Seasoned stars like Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith and Joey Barton knew the task at hand and duly delivered, as Newcastle returned to the Premier League on first attempt.
The class of 2009 gained much respect and appreciation from the Geordie faithful, and the players who have moved on since have been welcomed back to St. James’ with positive, vociferous reception. Joey Barton however will surely not be granted the same applause.
Indeed the man with an infamous ‘bad boy’ reputation has been missed on the field by large sections of supporters, remembering him for his crossing and play making exploits, although it now seems Joey will only be acknowledged for one reason; his twitter obsessions.
Having labelled former United midfielder, Didi Hamann, as a ‘maggot’ and someone he deemed as ‘a vastly inferior man’ less than a month ago, Barton has again taken to the social networking site to turn his attention to the case of much troubled, former Newcastle star Paul Gascoigne.
Loved and idolised by many Geordies, as well as the British public, Gazza will forever be remembered for his talents and tears in an England shirt. His skills and genuine enthusiasm for the game touched the hearts of the nation specifically during the 1990 World Cup whereby England were crushingly knocked out in the Semi-Finals.
Since retiring from the game however Gazza has battled with alcoholism, causing his health and well being to rapidly decline. Admitted to an American treatment centre one week ago, Gazza has taken vital steps to battle his addiction. Whilst Gazza has had much publicised problems in the past, he is notably struggling currently, leading momentum to gather in support being offered.
Joey Barton however has given his own unique take on the situation amongst the support. Whilst former England and current stars, such as Jack Wilshere, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker, have donated money to cover the medical costs which Gazza cannot afford to pay, Barton has taken a much more cynical approach to the situation.
The nation has backed the gestures and support shown by stars who can afford to help Gazza’s situation and credit has been given where it is due. ‘You used a dying man’s struggle to leverage your own image’ however was Barton’s response.
Barton voiced his sympathy for Gazza’s plight and sadness at the star’s current condition but his reaction to the support shown by England professionals is distasteful and unwanted in a time where thoughts should be strictly about Paul’s condition and nothing else.
Ironically Barton has taken a stance being aggrieved at players acting incorrectly and supposedly enhancing their own image, though it is Barton himself who will now rake in the headlines for his latest outburst.
For a man who believes so much in his own intellect, he’s done nothing but embarrass himself and detract attention from the real issue here – Gazza’s road to recovery.
Paul Gascoigne now needs all the support he can get, not off hand remarks that he will be ‘dead in 5 years time’. The gesture from England’s players, namely people who know Paul very well, is not a publicity stunt of any kind. Rather an act of kindness.
Grow up Joey, we’re bored of you now.
Newcastle came from behind to defeat Chelsea 3-2 in a pulsating clash at St. James’ Park this afternoon. The game will undoubtedly be recalled for years to come on Tyneside, following Moussa Sissoko’s scintillating home debut and last gasp late winner, establishing himself as the latest hero to wear the black and white shirt.
With Newcastle claiming a much needed victory at Villa park on Tuesday night, Alan Pardew again hoped for his new French recruits to provide further inspiration in Newcastle’s plight to move away from the relegation zone. Certainly, they did not disappoint.
In an opening ten minutes of few chances, Newcastle’s attacking intent was visibly signalled through Yoan Gouffran attempting to get early shots away. The home side’s positivity was juxtaposed with negativity from the Newcastle crowd relentlessly booing ex-Magpie striker Demba Ba, following his January transfer to Chelsea. Despite the Senegalese striker’s impressive goal tally in his eighteen months at the club, Newcastle fans were keen to voice their displeasure in the direction of a striker believed to be playing more for himself than the team and the shirt.
Despite some off target attempts from Davide Santon and Yohan Cabaye, it was in fact Ba who came closest to grabbing the game’s first goal however. Holding off Coloccini and latching on to an exquisite Frank Lampard through ball, Ba shot goalwards only for Tim Krul to strongly parry. Reacting quickly Ba again had a chance to score, although his headed rebound from Krul’s save, missed by centimetres.
In attempting to clear the ball and keep Ba out, Coloccini kicked his former team in the face. Whilst non-malicious, Ba had to leave the field with a broken nose capping a dreadful return to St. James’ Park.
As the first half went on Newcastle were failing to really test Petr Cech directly, although with Moussa Sissoko and Yohan Cabaye performing marvellously in the middle of the field it seemed few would have bet against Newcastle making a break through.
Indeed it was the home side who ended the stalemate when Davide Santon pinged a well crossed ball in to the box, met by the unlikely head of Jonas Gutierrez to give the contest it’s first goal. The Argentine had provoked much debate amongst Newcastle supporters following a frustrating game at Villa Park on Tuesday night, although in seeing how much the goal meant to the winger in the resultant celebration, it was most rewarding to see a popular player get a return for his eternal toil and effort.
Reflecting on the first half, despite the goal and a few chances, neither Cech or Krul had been overly tested. Therefore in a second half of four goals scored, the game was propelled in to a much animated, end to end spectacle.
Chelsea equalised and then took the lead in the space of six minutes between the 55th and 61st minute of the game thanks to sublime efforts from midfield dynamos Frank Lampard and Juan Mata. A powerful, outside of the box strike was simply classic Lampard whilst fellow midfielder Mata, will have taken much pleasure in seeing his first time curled effort, rifle straight in to the top right hand corner of Tim Krul’s goal.
Newcastle’s response however could not have been better. An effective midfield combined with Jonas’ industry and commitment, mixed with the pace and ingenuity of Gouffran and enhanced by the sheer power and craft of Sissoko and Cabaye, made for a comeback firmly engineered by Newcastle’s middle men.
In the best manoeuvre of the game and at a time of much Chelsea pressure in the Newcastle half, Papiss Cisse found himself with the ball in the centre of the pitch, beginning a swift counter attack. Riding a challenge and with some quick footwork, Cisse managed to pick out a bombarding Yoan Gouffran who ran the length of the Chelsea half, unleashing a shot to be parried by Cech, though the move was rounded off with Sissoko converting the rebound.
Cisse had snatched at chances that came his way and had ultimately disappointed in front of goal himself but the skill and quick thinking to begin a stylish Newcastle break will have provided fans with much reassurance. Although the real plaudits on the afternoon must go to Sissoko who put in all round sensational display.
Sissoko gifted fans on his home debut with a winning goal in the 90th minute, firing in a powerful low shot, leaving Petr Cech with no chance of reacting to, to keep the ball out in time. Celebrating in the dug out, Sissoko was mobbed by Newcastle players and staff alike who knew the big number 7 had not only been the saviour, but hero of the day.
Sissoko received a standing ovation as he was replaced in injury time by Yang Mbiwa, as Newcastle held out for a memorable victory, picking up another vital three Premier League points in style.
Many have infamously dubbed the influx of players from across the channel as Newcastle’s French Revolution; certainly with Sissoko leading the way, it seems Newcastle can expect a much more established position in the Premier League, rather than languishing dangerously at the bottom.
Wow. What can I say? I think I’m still in shock! Having held a pretty precarious lead at half time, my biggest worry was that we’d sit back in the second half like we did at Villa and Chelsea would simply pick us off. Fifteen minutes in to the second half, at 2-1 down, I thought the game was over and we simply wouldn’t be able to attack our way back in it. I must admit I didn’t even contemplate winning the game 3-2 from when Mata put that ball in to the back of the net. Chelsea had been all over us from the second half kick off and I didn’t know where a response would come from. Today though, the players must take immense credit.
The midfield: Gouff, Guti, Cabs, Sisso
Since coming back from injury, Cabaye has shown us how much we’ve missed him. He plays the ball out to the flanks as much as possible and he always looks to start attacks and get the ball forward in to dangerous areas. Whilst that’s the most important side to his game, he also does more than his fair share of graft. He doesn’t stop running and looks to pressure opposition midfields and tackles where possible. I think he should be wearing the armband, an all round player and simply absolute quality.
Gouffran and Sissoko really impressed today, they didn’t stop running and I expected them to run out of steam in the last half an hour. They amazed me in fact and they’re two great additions to the squad. Of course Sissoko will get man of the match but Gouffran must not go unmentioned, he could also be a really good player for us in no time.
I think we also need to give Jonas some credit. First half he toiled – as he always does and he had to adapt in an unfamiliar right hand side role. He attempted to go past players and cross when possible and it’s great to see he has resilience about him, as many people (including myself) have been on his back this season. He was also relentless in tracking Ashley Cole to help out Debuchy as the England left back surged forward throughout the match.
Following an article I wrote for The Mag this week, defending Jonas’ performance at Villa, a lot of people have voiced their discontent with the Argentine. Some have gone too far and been unfair, so as a player I love having in the squad it was great to see him score. It clearly meant so much to him too in the celebrations afterwards, I for one couldn’t help getting caught up in the web of euphoric Spiderman celebrations!
Whilst I think there are other people who should start ahead of Jonas now , I do think he merits a place in the squad. He will never stop trying for the team/manager/fans and for that I applaud him.
Lost in transaltion
Whilst we’re inevitably going to focus our post match talk on the French players today (and rightly so, they were tremendous) I though our English speakers did us proud. Perch had a tough job protecting the back four against the creative genius of Lampard, Mata and Oscar. Ok he got a silly booking but he was committed and we needed commitment as much as creativity to get today’s win.
Steven Taylor today was the best I’ve seen him for Newcastle. Seriously. I’ve always found Tayls to be over rated by a lot of fans because he’s a Geordie, but today he was such a presence at the back. Aerially he dominated but he threw his body in front of everything which was especially important at the end.
Following some very poor home games this season and an awful loss against Reading, to score three goals and comeback against the Champions of Europe, it’s the perfect response. We witnessed entertaining football and the side is looking so much better than it was a couple of months ago. The pace on show of our new boys was perhaps the greatest delight because we have lacked a real injection of speed for a long time – well apart from Obertan but we’ll not get in to that amongst all the positivity…!
I want to point out I don’t want to dwell too much on things we did wrong today because I don’t want to take anything away from the lads on a brilliant performance, but…
Santon set up Sissoko twice today and of course he had a great name. However he is far from the complete package. For years Glen Johnson was great going forward but was let down by his ability as a defender, the best fullbacks combine brilliant defensive skills with controlled attacking bursts. Look at the development of Baines and Cole for example, they were complete defenders before they developed their reputations going forward also. Santon today was exposed again at left back. Chelsea got in behind him and hurt us, just as we’ve seen time and time again in that position of our backline this season. Santon’s poor positioning contributed to the build up for the Mata goal and I’d like to see him improve defensively.
Similarly, Debuchy is exciting going forward and far, far better than Danny Simpson, although like Santon he must be cautious not to maraud too far and too often if there’s danger he can be exposed. He looked tired in the second half and almost gave away a penalty for a little foul on Oscar. Whilst not a huge, huge issue within the team, I hope Pardew and the coaching staff will try and control the two and mould them in to the league’s best modern day fullbacks. Certainly both are capable of being.
I am of course a huge believer in Cisse but he’s snatching at shots so much and has no composure at the moment. I’d certainly not drop him but as the whole team is undoubtedly improving, he needs to make sure he does too. He’s missed a lot of chances in the past month and we need him firing. It is becoming a worry.
All in all though, there was certainly more good than bad to take from the game.
Krul – 7, Both strikes that went past him were fantastic and for that Lamps and Mata must take credit, though Krul did meet Ba’s effort with a fine stop and was aerially commanding and quick today. Good show.
Debuchy – 7, Tireless in getting up the right flank but exposed at times and had a tough second half. Settling in to the PL nicely however. Great to have him at the club.
Taylor – 8, Taylor the past 2 games has justified why Mbiwa is kept out of the side. So physically strong and commanding. Would give his right arm for the cause, massive heart and desire on show today.
Colo – 7, Solid showing and his marking in particular was effective. Could have got there quicker for the second goal and almost exposed by Ba too. Although it was tempting to give him a 10 for breaking Ba’s nose…
Santon – 8, Yes he can be found out of position and leave his post at the back but today he was so focused on winning and contributed a very impressive two assists.
Perch – 7, Let’s face it, Perch was a one million quid Championship signing and is limited in what he does – he’s not in the same league as fellow midfielders Cabaye and Sissoko. But he does have heart and drive and goes in for challenges to win the ball, always looking to help the team cause. A daft booking but a good squad player.
Cabaye – 8.5, Another top showing. Ran the midfield, passing was incredible and looked to get shots away. Playing with confidence and justifying why he’s a French international.
Sissoko – 9.5, Strength, speed, intelligence… what more can you ask for? Almost fell off my seat when I thought he was knackered but still manager to burn past Ashley Cole. Stunning stuff and a majestic 2 goals. A new favourite. But, will anyone get the famous CarryingCoals 10 out of 10 rating…
Jonas – 7.5, Made mistakes as he does but the usual graft was there for all to see. An important player contributing to an important win today. So, so good to see him get on the scoresheet. Where on Earth did that header come from?!
Gouffran – 8, Simply tremendous. Confident on the ball and works to win back possession. Provides a new alternative for Pardew to call on and his a lot about him. Looking forward to seeing more from the Gouff!
Cisse – 7, As a striker we need him to start bagging the goals but he did show glimpses of great footwork today and the composure to begin the second goal attack was really reassuring to see
- Demba Ba booing: A lot of fans today were disgusted at the boo’s aimed towards Ba. I can understand it, I don’t think anyone can argue with him leaving for more money to a more successful club, who wouldn’t? But Ba has a distinct character and often played for himself rather than the club/team. He refused to play wide left in 4-3-3 and put Pardew in a position whereby the team dynamic from last season was harmed. Did you boo? If so, why? If not, can you understand why many did? I think I can.
- The beast that is Sissoko: I don’t think we will ever forget Moussa’s home debut. He was phenomenal today and the Vieira/Yaya Tour comparions are looking justified already. He looks like the player who would have completed Arsenal’s midfield in fact, he really is fantastic.
- Team spirit: We’ve felt sorry for ourselves a lot this year and heads have gone down, in the wake of Sissoko’s winner it was great to see the staff and players celebrating like that. Could the influx of new signings give a much needed injection of the team spirit Pardew loves to talk about?!
Today’s result was nothing short of sensational. Only a couple of weeks ago we were 7 points behind Sunderland and the gap seemed to be widening, we are now only 2 points behind them and momentum is with us. Up the Premier League we go! Why not go to White Hart Lane in our next game and cause another upset ey?
Newcastle have taken a lot of criticism this season although for today’s performance they cannot take enough credit.
Allez allez and all that!
CharbonsPorteurs. I mean, CarryingCoals…
Toon, Toon, noir et blanc armée
Newcastle go to Villa Park tonight, armed with their new French legion, in the latest game to be dubbed as a ‘relegation battle’. In the ten days since Reading left me sulking in the Gallowgate with my head in my hands, Newcastle’s activity in the transfer market has restored some hope that this train wreck of a season can get back on track.
Already bolstered with the impressive Mathieu Debuchy, Newcastle have gone on to add some real quality in to the squad in the past week and a half. Mapou Yang Mbiwa has captained a title winning side in Montpellier, whilst Moussa Sissoko, or should I say the new Patrick Vieira, seemed one of Europe’s hottest prospects only 18 months ago.
At the beginning of the window prospects looked bleak for the Newcastle fan. With Ba leaving and the expectation s of a ‘one in, one out’ transfer dealership to follow, it seems almost unbelievable that Newcastle have acquired FIVE new players. Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara may arrive with less prestige than their French counterparts, although both will have much to offer to a Newcastle squad decimated by injuries, fatigue and generally – poor form.
The added dimension these players bring to the squad is competition. That’s right, I know it’s hard to believe but we are now looking like we have a squad of players to rely on, rather than having a first 11 and a bench full of inexperienced youngsters!
What effect will these signings have on the season?
Haidara is only 20 years old and I can quite honestly say, I’d never heard of the lad. But from doing a bit of reading here and there, it seems he has enjoyed a good season with Nancy in Ligue 1 so far and comes with a reputation of being one of the brightest young fullbacks of French football. Whilst I don’t expect him to be involved in the Villa game tonight, his addition will cover Santon and even push the Italian for his place.
Gouffran, Mbiwa and Sissoko on the other hand should all feature in tonight’s game. Hopefully with Gouffran and Sissoko being fit to play, Pardew will go with a 4-3-3 lineup tonight and not be tempted to use his infamous, failing 4-4-2.
Pardew seems really pleased to have snapped up Sissoko, a signing originally intended for Newcasle’s summer business, so we may well see him in a midfield three alongside Anita and Cabaye. A lot of people seem to think Sissoko will be pushing Tiote for his spot and that he’s simply another big destroyed in the middle of the park. This could not be more wrong! Sissoko is much more of a box to box midfielder, strong and physical yes, but he also drives teams forward and ultimately, we will see his style of play quite different to that of Tiote’s. With Cheick at the ACON and struggling to play to his best capability this season, here’s hoping Moussa’s arrival can inspire Tiote to recapture his form of last season.
Gouffran is quite a surprise signing. I remember highlighting him in a piece I did for NUFCFANS earlier in the season in the game leading up to Newcastle’s first Europa game with Bordeaux. He’s quick, creative and a different sort of player to the signings he arrives with. We may see that he takes the longest to settle in, being more of a flair player than physical player adapting to the Premier League. Whilst you can call him a forward, we could well see him deployed either side of Cisse when playing in a 4-3-3.
Of all the players in the squad already, I can see Gouffran being a bit of a cross between Marveaux and an Obertan with an end product! I’m not going to dub him as lightweight until I see him get a few games but I do expect him to take more time settling in than Mbiwa or Sissoko. His addition is healthy nonetheless as we’ve desperately needed attacking options. Not a Ba replacement but a welcome addition to Newcastle United, no doubt.
As previously mentioned – competition exists. We will not see the same team go out that lost against Reading. I’m certain Sissoko will start although Pardew now almost has a selection headache for other positions. Will he use Mbiwa or a returning Steven Taylor to partner Coloccini? (Well, as long as it’s not Williamson you say!) Or will we see Gouffran in a three pronged attack, with Marveaux, either side of Cisse? Or will it simply be Jonas on the left wing of a 4-4-2 to bore all of our pants off? I don’t know but here’s my predicted lineup and my preferred lineup…
Debu Saylor Colo Santoon
Anita Cabaye Sissoko
Marv Cisse Jonas
*Mbiwa and Gouffran come on in the second half for Taylor and Jonas.
Debu Mbiwa Colo Santoon
Anita Cabs Sissoko
Marv Cisse Gouff
*I can’t see Pardew omitting Jonas to be honest, he’s a favourite of his and with Santon being exposed in recent games, he made put Jonas in there to help him out. Gouffran on for Jonas in the second half may be more likely. But I’m not the manager, I’m an impatient fan who wants to see attacking football and new signings! Can you blame me?!
But whatever you do Alan; don’t play 4-4-2, don’t put Cisse on the wing, don’t start Shola and don’t play Williamson!
How threatening are Aston Villa?
Villa are on a terrible run. They’ve been knocked out the FA Cup by Millwall, dumped out of the League Cup by Bradford and they’re even lower than Newcastle in the league table – exactly, that bad!
Looking at their PL form and having watched Villa a few times this season what is really evident about them is their lack of steel or fight. Undoubtedly, they do have some promising young players and you can see the job Paul Lambert is trying to do, but the fact is, the team are relying too heavily on young players and the lack of experience and senior players needed in a relegation fight is a big worry for them.
Look at their backline for example, players like Lichaj, Clark and Bennett all have potential but they lack leadership and can find themselves bullied by opposition attackers. Vlaar is a key player for Villa, having recently returned from injury they’ll be hoping to rely on him at the back and provide the rock needed to keep the likes of Papiss Cisse out. With Shay Given falling from grace and Richard Dunne sidelined, there is little Premier League experience for the team to rely at the back.
Another problem Villa have is, apart from the marvelous Benteke, the midfield and forward players have been scarily inconsistent. Players like Ireland, N’zogbia and Albrighton once offered so much potential but none seem to regularly perform well. Barry Bannan always looked like a player who could have real guile and craft in the middle too but he hasn’t filled the vacant space left by Stilian Petrov at all.
Then of course there’s Darren ‘dodgy beard and ex-mackem’ Bent who can ghost by games with hardly touching the ball. Unfortunately for Villa, they are a team of much imbalance. Yes they have some great young players, for example Weimann, but with senior players either not performing or being injured, Lambert is having to use too many of these players at once. You cannot rely too much on youngsters, we’ve seen this at Newcastle this season. A couple can come in to a team playing averagely and flourish, but when your team is mainly consisting of young stars caught up at the bottom of the table, confidence can quickly drop and mistakes can easily be made.
With Villa going out of two cups in the space of a week and being marginally out of the relegation zone, if they go behind tonight their fans will voice discontent, player confidence will be affected and Newcastle can exploit what only seems to be a team in crisis.
What I want to see Newcastle do tonight:
Villa are weak. They can score goals however, Benteke being the obvious example. But Weimann is a finisher and if Gabby Agbonlahor gets a chance, his pace can cause problems – Coloccini in particular seems to struggle with pacey forwards. For all I’m a big fan of both Santon and Debuchy, if the game is drawing or say Newcastle are only a goal ahead, we don’t want to see our fullbacks too high up the pitch. We saw in the last game how Santon was out of position at 1-0 up, this exposed us which lead to a goal in turn. A goal not just from anyone but from Adam Le Fondre who should be playing in League 1 but hey, I’m not bitter, I won’t dwell on that…
I’m confident Newcastle can control the game, despite being the away side, as Sissoko will be a presence in midfield, whilst the energy and drive Cabaye has shown since being back in the side has been remarkable. He’s great in starting attacks but in his last two games, he’s tackled and ran more than any other midfielder.
The worry I have tonight is Cisse. He needs to take chances. The likes of Cabaye and Marveaux will provide for him and in games like this, with two teams struggling, it’s all about taking your chances and coming out of the game without regret. Cisse missed three big chances against Reading and ultimately, you could argue that cost us more than anything else. O that and Pardew sticking Perch on for Marveaux to protect a lead with 25 minutes remaing, but once again, it’s a good job I’m not bitter…
We don’t want to see any howlers from the new boys and with the players we have on paper, we should be overcoming an Aston Villa side in a woeful vein of form.
If Newcastle can score first it would be a big bonus, make no mistake – Aston Villa are there for the taking tonight.
I rarely get a prediction right and I didn’t even consider losing to Reading, however I am modestly confident about tonight’s prospect. 2-1 to Newcastle, Cisse on song to right former wrongs and new boy Sissoko being involved in a Newcastle goal.
Tonight we have the chance to see some of our new boys in action. I’m not expecting sudden miraculous changes but if they can slot in to the team as consistently and as positively Debuchy has in his games, I’m confident we can start picking up points and moving up the table.
The French army has landed in Birmingham, cue la révolution.
Five days ago we heard Coloccini’s father, Osvaldo, claim that his son was ‘dying’ for a return to his hometown club San Lorenzo. Although worries that our captain fantastic was about to jump ship were soon quelled by Marcelo Lombilla, Colo’s agent, who said that the reports were not to be believed, indicating Fabricio would remain very much as a Newcastle player. However, the saga seems to have taken a further twist…
Today The Independent have revealed that Coloccini has asked to leave Newcastle and return home to Argentina, signalling an end to his Newcastle United playing days. Although how much truth The Independent article contains certainly remains to be seen. If Coloccini does leave the club, who are undoubtedly currently entrenched in a relegation battle, Newcastle’s car crash season will take an even further plunge.
Reasons FOR a Colo departure:
- Father Osvaldo is very much involved in San Lorenzo as a club and seems convinced his son wants to join him there
- Coloccini is a top player, he is the club captain and comes across as an ambitious professional. Throughout 2012 there were whispers of his dissatisfaction of being paired in a substandard defensive partnership. Newcastle have need a top centre half to complement Colo for the past TWO seasons now and still the void has not been filled. I’m not saying this is a direct reason and I doubt Colo would spit his dummy out – he stayed with the club during relegation, however it could contribute to his disagreements with Pardew
- Recently there was a bit of a ‘bust up’ between Colo and Pards, something Pardew quickly swept under the carpet but it seems that all isn’t well and we are yet to know the full story. One things for sure though, there does seem to be an element of discontent present.
- Form. Whilst Colo has been brilliant at times this season and was of course outstanding at the Stadium of Light, his recent form has dipped. Again this is no reason to leave but we do generally see this happen when players’ heads have been turned or when they have one foot out of the club.
Reasons AGAINST a Colo departure:
- He signed a new contract only 6 months ago! He has 4 and a half years left with us, he has committed his future alongside compatriot Jonas Gutierrez and it would be a complete shock to see this as a hollow gesture.
- Pardew and the club have reiterated, time and again, that we will not sell ‘big’ players on the cheap. Carroll is the obvious example, we generated £35 million to let him go. San Lorenzo wouldn’t be able to afford the transfer fee we would command as well as Colo’s £70K a week plus wages. It doesn’t seem feasible to me anyway.
- We haven’t heard any discontent from Colo, no statements have been released from him and his agent was quick to put down his father’s claims.
- Colo is still young in footballing terms as a centre half. He has years at the top left in him. Returning to Argentina and playing at a lower standard seems premature. I do think he’ll end his career there and most likely with his boyhood club although now would be too early.
- As previously mentioned – he’s a top professional with commitment in abundance, we see this on the pitch and when he didn’t leave the club during relegation. If he were to leave it would seem out of character leaving half way through the season when the club is in such a precarious league position.
- FINAL POINT: This whole saga circulated 5/6 days ago, with primary reports coming from The Mirror and then ESPN. Whilst The Independent are undoubtedly a reputable paper, this could simply be an angle of interest from them. More quotes are coming out of the San Lorenzo camp, with the manager and president declaring interest for Colo. This happens all the time in football, papers feed of this speculation. Perhaps The Independent are filling column space and simply adding fuel to the fire.
This season has been abysmal for us so far let’s be honest. It began in the summer when we didn’t invest enough in to the squad. Injuries amounted, a loss of form ensued and the added burden of the Europa League has affected preparations. We don’t seem to be riding out games like we did last season. Last season we could play badly and win or at least get a result, this year we are playing badly and paying the price. When this happens there’s inevitably that shroud of negativity around the club.
Perhaps in the wake of Ba’s departure we are feeling the pressure and the club is in the spotlight a little more directly. The San Lorenzo camp is making a lot of noise and of course they’d love Colo over there, he’s a top player. Although it’s very much part of the rumour mill at present and it seems papers are latching on to that. I wouldn’t be surprised for thousands of Geordies to get on the bus or metro to work in the morning, pick up the Metro newspaper and read a headline pointing towards Colo’s exit. This will again fuel the panic but we know very little truth so far and it seems he is far from certain to be leaving – despite what you might read.
I don’t think Colo will leave, certainly not in this window anyway. Try not to panic for now.
To leave you with something a bit more concrete and positive, Newcastle have bid for Gaetan Bong – Valenciennes’ Cameroonian left back which could start our transfer dealings in the window. Let’s hope Ba is the only player we lose and we instead bolster a squad desperately in need of additions.
Keep the faith!
If there’s one thing that can make you laugh in football, and this is about any club not just NUFC, it’s the constant, ridiculous rumours that arise during a transfer window. We’re only one week down, with over three weeks to go in the January market and already I’ve seen some outrageous stories about who Newcastle are ‘apparently’ linked with. But do journalists not do their homework?! This is the Ashley regime remember…
Let’s actually consider the business model of which our club currently operates and try to assume a rational outlook on what this window might bring.
What we already know: Mike Ashley’s Approach
Under the current regime of Ashley/Llambais the basic plan is to recruit younger players, who have the potential to rapidly improve in the game, and in turn, will generate a greater sell on value.
Newcastle don’t have the funds to sign players in their peak, whereby clubs can demand colossal transfer fees for their players. Instead we have a system whereby Graham Carr scouts and identifies young talent, presenting options to Pardew and the coaching staff, who then bring a shortlist to Llambais to see if the club can deem the targets viable. Ashley has the final say and authorises any deal.
This usually means Newcastle will mostly spend around the £5 million to £10 million mark on a player younger than 26 years old, who in theory will develop with age and therefore produce a higher fee than originally signed for.
In theory this is a great approach. It’s affordable and in business terms it can be deemed as healthy investment. Ashley runs the club like a business and the players are essentially assets of the company. The club scouts young talent, which is then developed and in turn they improve as footballers or from a corporate point of view – their stock rises. We sign a 22 year old player for £3 million pounds, he improves and has three years of Premier league experience, his value then increases. It’s a great way to work in the market because you’ve got a win/win situation. Either you have a much improved player, signed for a nominal fee, or you can sell on that player and generate profit.
For this model to be a success you’re making the basic assumption that all young players will improve over time. Of course, generally this does happen but there are countless examples of current Premier League players who peaked as dynamic, young stars and ultimately, went on to have disappointing careers.
Approaching transfer dealings in the manner Ashley and Llambais do, they’re conservative with their funds and refuse to pay ‘over the odds’ for players. Granted, this does make sense of course but you’ve got to be realistic in the footballing world. We could have paid an extra couple of million to get Debuchy in the summer, instead we chose to wait 6 months. Yes we saved some money but look at our position in the Premier League! We’ve been crying out for a fullback all season and beyond!
The methodology imposed by the current hierarchy at the club, have constructed a business model that is so frugal and uncompromising, we pay for it on the football pitch. We have squad players who are deployed as first team regulars. We simply don’t spend enough.
Last season we finished fifth and missed the opportunity to build by not investing enough in the squad.
What positions need strengthening?
Look, I’m going to be realistic. I’m used to the way things are run and there’s no point drawing up a wish list which will leave us all in dreamland. With Ba’s departure, we need a striker. Not necessarily a like for like centre forward replacement, as Cisse can revert to a central slot, but certainly a forward of some capacity is needed. Remy of course is the name on everybody’s lips.
In addition, we need a centre back. Coloccini needs a partner who he can rely on and can complement his game. Steven Taylor is committed and on his day is a good Premier League centre half, but he’s injury prone and over rated by a lot of our supporters because he’s a Geordie – though I’m sure few would admit that!
Then there’s Mike Williamson… Is he good enough? No. He does his best that’s never been in question, but you could put my pace less 5 foot 8 backside in the mix and even though I’d give you 100%, it wouldn’t mean I’m up to task! He is a limited defender and needs replacing, I won’t bash him too much as he gets too much stick as it is and is scapegoated a lot, however we need a quality centre half, with pace, who can be solid at the back and threaten in the opposition area.
Really I’d like another centre mid with some guile and creativity but a striker and a centre back have to be the priority in this window, though it’s doubtful we’ll get either.
We seem to have a policy of ‘one in, one out’ at the club. We don’t build or invest enough and we have a squad of players who are simply unreliable when coming in to replace first team absentees.
With Debuchy in and Simpson’s contract expiring in the summer, I’m certain Danny will leave. Perhaps not in this window but certainly in July when his contract runs out. With Ba gone the priority is a striker to replace him. Remy looks the best bet.
I think that will be the only business we do unfortunately. I’m predicting a long, arduous process to get Remy in and at the end of the window we’ll wonder why the deal wasn’t tied up weeks ago as we knew Ba would depart.
I very much doubt we will bring in a centre back however; Pardew doesn’t seem to acknowledge it as a priority and he actually over rates Williamson. Plus, you just know when Taylor returns from injury towards the end of this month we’ll hear the infamous, ‘well him coming back to the first team is like a new signing really’. Sigh.
No Alan, a new signing would be an Mbiwa or an Alderweireld or even a Douglas, anything!
I’ll leave you with some transfer stories I’ve heard which I could only shake my head at and laugh at in dismay. As a Newcastle fan you can use all the laughs you can get at the minute!
The Rumour Mill
1. Joleon Lescott
Description– He’s 30 and is on at least 90k a week. Reportedly available for £8 million.
Why it’s unrealistic: He’s 30 and is on at least 90k a week. Reportedly available for £8 million.
2. Didier Drogba
Description- You could say he single handedly delivered football’s most coveted prize last season, bringing the Champions League Trophy to his beloved Chelsea.
Why it’s unrealistic- Whilst, along with Anelka, he’s reportedly unhappy in Shanghai there’s not a cat in hells chance we’d give a player one last big pay day. Nor would he want to come.
3. Darren Bent
Description – Ex mackem, dodgy beard, can’t get a game for Villa.
Why it’s unrealistic- We’d never pay the inflated wages and he wouldn’t fit in to the team. Plus if Villa do move him on, they’ll be looking to recoup a large proportion of the high fee they paid for him.
Maybe I’ll be surprised and we’ll wrap up Remy in no time and get a fledgling continental centre half to accompany Coloccini in the heart of defence. Under this management though, I won’t hold my breath…
Happy New Year, CarryingCoals