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
Newcastle will tonight host Everton, kick off 8pm, although top goalscorer Demba Ba is unavailable for selection, following Chelsea activating the release clause in his contract.
Whilst most talk currently revolves around Ba’s potential transfer and how it will affect Newcastle’s season, I’d prefer to move away from the Demba Ba circus and look at the implications to how Newcastle will play later tonight.
With Danny Simpson unavailable due to injury and Mike WIlliamosn returning to the side following suspension, the ever versatile James Perch will start at right back in a defence comprising of himself alongside Coloccini, Williamson and Santon.
With Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Jonas all ruled out I expect to see a midfield trio of Ania, Tiote and Bigirimana supporting a forward three of Obertan and Marveaux either side of Cisse.
If Pardew does choose to line the team up this way we will once again be able to see Papiss Cisse returned to his natural position of centre forward.
It’s not all doom and gloom
If, and it still is a big if, Demba Ba does leave the club, we have a natural replacement in the central striking role in the form of Cisse. Cisse flourishes in the middle and because of Ba’s form, compounded by Pardew submitting to Ba’s moaning about being pushed out on the left, Cisse has actually been wasted this season.
It’s a completely different situation to 2 years ago when Andy Carroll left the club, leaving us short of talented goalscorers. Cisse is a top, top talent and it surprises me how many Newcastle fans seem to have forgotten this. Perhaps if Jermain Defoe at Spurs had played the first half of this year in Aaron Lennon’s position supporting Adebayor he’d have struggled like Cisse has so far this season. Natural poachers aren’t versatile, they play a certain way with their game focuses on instinct, first touch and of course, goalscoring.
With Cisse returned to the middle and provide with some decent service, it would be no surprise to see him on the scoresheet tonight, even coming up against a tight Everton defence.
Positives from the Arsenal drubbing
Against Arsenal last Saturday we wore simply torn apart at the back. We struggled to cope with Arsenal’s intensity and final third play. Going forward however, we looked a different side. For around three quarters of the game we’d actually had the better chances! Looking at the performances of Obertan and Marveaux, neither player had a flawless game although they did put in admirable performances. Obertan has few admirers on Tyneside but in the past few months he’s improved on what we saw of him from last season. He is a tireless worker and he does his bit to get back too. The difference between him and Gutierrez is he can actually make assists and benefit the side going forward.
Marveaux is a player who is actually massively under rated at our club. He has a good bit of guile about him, his passing is excellent and he can carry the ball past players. The more games he gets the better. Against Arsenal he showed his talents with an excellent outside the boot pass to set Ba up.
If both players do line up either side of Cisse, we could see quick interchanges in and around the edge of the 18 yard box, creating space and more importantly – chances.
What I don’t want to see
Alternatively Pardew could bring Shola straight in far Ba tonight. Meaning Bigirimana would be left out, Cisse would be on the right and Marveaux would be dropped in to centre mid. For me, as much as I love Shola, I’d prefer to see him come on later in the game as an impact sub. He can be a handful granted but he doesn’t have the talent or awareness to play quick touch football around the box in building attacks. It would be better to see him introduced in to the game later on than start it.
Bye Bye Ba
I’ve never thought Ba would sign a new contract with Newcastle although I never thought he’d leave whilst under contract. I’ve maintained that I think he will stay for the full three years and then he’ll get one last big pay day abroad somewhere. However it does look like Chelsea will snap him up. Although, despite him not featuring tonight, I must stress that it’s far from a done deal. He is yet to agree personal terms or pass a medical. He’s a high risk player although an Abramovich backed Chelsea can afford to take that gamble, whereas a tight budgeted Stoke City and Tony Pulis couldn’t.
If Ba does go then fair enough to him. His career could end at any point and he might as well, from his personal POV, do the best he can in the time he has. The career of a footballer is short as it is, nevermind a chronic ticking time bomb looming knee injury.
Only RVP and Rooney have scored more goals then Demba since his arrival to Newcastle in 2011 and undoubtedly he’s been a great asset. We brought him in for free and in his time at St. James’ it’s been a move that’s benefited both parties. Whilst Newcastle will only get half of the reported 7 million pound fee, it does open opportunities for the future of the club.
If you are to leave Demba, thank you and good luck. You’ve done well for us, but we have Cisse ready to return to the middle and at the end of the day, no player is bigger than the club. I’ve never agreed with Pardew’s decision to shift Cisse and for the past 6 months the whole Demba Ba situation has disrupted the football club both on and off the field.
It isn’t the end of the world people, let’s focus on tonight’s game. I for one am excited to see us line up in a 4-3-3 and have a real go at Everton.
Tonight’s potential line up
Perchinho Colo Willo Santoon
Anita Bigi Tiote
Marv Cisse Oba
Note: Marveaux and Obertan may switch flanks throughout, when we see the actual lineup I’d expect them to change.
Of course this is only a prediction and we could see Shola and Cisse in a 4-4-2, although it is a new year and we have a chance for a new start so hopefully Pardew realises just how bad we are in 4-4-2!
Everton have some great players and they will be challenging to break in to the top four this season. At Goodison earlier in the season they were brilliant, especially in the first half and inside the first twenty minutes in particular. The left hand side of Baines and Pienaar was devasting, Marveaux and Perch on our right handside were woeful to say the least and Demba Ba scored two goals to snatch a draw for us.
But don’t despair, we’re at home and the lads will want to bounce back from the Arsenal embarrassment. Santon in particular will have to have a far improved game and the performances of Cisse and Marveaux could be instrumental to any success we have tonight.
Demba Ba is one player, we are a team and this is Newcastle United Football Club, whoever is chosen to start the game tonight let’s back them and focus on the match in hand.
After Mike Dean inexplicably failed to include Sir Alex Ferguson’s half time behaviour, in his post-match report, from Wednesday’s 4-3 clash between Newcastle and Manchester United; a war of words between Alan Pardew and Ferguson has ensued.
In a game which saw Newcastle take the lead on three occasions, although only to ultimately lose the game 4-3, the controversy emanating in the game’s aftermath stemmed from a debatable second goal scored by Newcastle.
In the 28th minute of the game, Danny Simpson’s low cross was turned in to his own goal by Johnny Evans. The goal was initially ruled out due to Papiss Cisse, who was shoulder to shoulder with Evans, being flagged for offside. However after some conference with his linesman, Mike Dean overturned his decision and instead gave the goal.
Ferguson reacted by arguing with the fourth official and continued to voice his displeasure and disillusion with Dean’s decision by approaching the referee himself at half time.
After the game, Pardew voiced his discontent with Ferguson’s actions and argued that Ferguson should have been punished for the way he approached Mike Dean. Dean did not mention Ferguson confronting him at half time in his match report, prompting Pardew to comment:
‘I think Mike Dean might feel slightly disappointed he didn’t do something about it.’
‘I think the pressure that was on him was tough for a referee to take. I think there were a lot of things the FA could look at. But it seems they are looking at none’
First of all, let’s look at the incident. Initially the goal wasn’t given due to Cisse being offside. Personally, I don’t think the goal should have been given at all. Cisse was undoubtedly interfering with play, as Johnny Evans was aware of his presence and acted on that fact. He attempted to get the ball out of danger, although unfortunately for him, the ball ended up in his own goal. Arguing that Cisse did not interfere with play has no merit; the goal should not have stood.
Now taking in to consideration the letter of the law, we all know about the F.A.’s campaigns and insistence on referees being given respect by both playing and coaching staff alike. Ferguson harangued Dean at half time, coming on to the pitch and approaching the referee like that is a cast iron example of misconduct. It isn’t allowed and defies the regulations managers have to follow in accordance with refereeing laws.
Understandably, Ferguson was correct to challenge the decision as it was an incorrect call made, just as Pardew was justified in questioning the lack of punishment for Fergie afterwards; Sir Alex visibly displayed an abusive nature towards the referee, something which simply isn’t allowed. However this all bares little significance in relation to Ferguson’s response to Pardew.
Two wrongs don’t make a right…
So we know, the ref was wrong, Fergie was wrong, however Pardew on the other hand merely objected and adhered to the letter of the law. Ferguson today responded with what can only be described a tirade aimed at Alan Pardew, delivering a most unjust attack on the Newcastle manager.
‘Alan Pardew is the worst for haranguing referees. His whole staff [do it] every game,
I wasn’t abusive of the referee – some managers push the linesman and make a joke of it,
I’m not making a joke of it. I think [the goal] should’ve been disallowed, I really do. [Pardew] shoves the referee and makes a joke of it, and he’s got the cheek to criticise – it’s unbelievable.’
To me, this is cheap from Ferguson. He begins by claiming that Pardew is the ‘worst’ for abusing referees. Is he? Apart from Pardew’s infamous linesman push in the maiden game of the current Premier League campaign, Pardew has shown nothing but respect to referees abiding by the rules in place. In fact, to his credit, Pardew knew he was wrong and held his hands up afterwards apologising and accepting his punishment in turn. Moreover for Fergie to say that Newcastle’s staff harang referees ‘every’ game, that’s just laughable. What an outrageous exaggeration!
Fair enough Ferguson did not abuse Dean, he mustn’t have sworn at him or gotten physical with the referee, however he has embellished the Pardew/linesman story to make himself look better off in comparison to his counterpart.
Ferguson is a master manipulator though. I don’t mean that in a negative or attacking manner, however when it comes to making the best of a bad situation and playing with the press, he does it better than anybody else. He will always put Manchester United first, fiercely defending himself and the club – Irrespective of his true opinion. That is who he is, loyal to the club he loves and the legacy he has built.
Digging up the dirt on Pardew from one incident four months ago deters any potential questions aimed at his own actions. In terms of psychology, he has reversed his role from appearing a perpetrator to in fact a victim!
Arsene Wenger and the law:
According to Fergie, the whole thing has been a media circus with everybody apart from President Obama having an opinion on the events. However, one opinion that should not be discounted is that of the Premier League second longest serving manager. This is what Wenger had to say:
‘The message it sends out when you look at the pictures is not to behave like that.’
Arsene is obviously referring to Ferguson racing on to the pitch immediately to confront Dean. The whole point here is the image and message transmitted, Ferguson displays behaviour of negative intent towards an official. Indeed, he may not have presented himself in an overly aggressive manner however the actions remain nonetheless; a lack of respect was evident and visible. This should not have gone unnoticed in the match report. Take Wenger’s dismissal at Old Trafford for example, he was sent off for kicking a bottle in anger at a refereeing decision! Ferguson’s actions were far more direct and premeditated.
The petulancy of Sir Alex:
Alex Ferguson has the tribute of being called ‘Sir’; an honourific title used as a courteous address. Whilst he must be given respect for all he has achieved in the game and for having the reputation of helping and assisting younger managers and coaches, like Pardew himself, his post-match comments and his retaliatory comments are devoid of any honour at all. In fact, he comes across as arrogant and above the law. He surmised the whole debacle in a sentence:
‘I am the manager of the most famous club in the world. I am not like Newcastle, a wee club in the north east.’
He did not have to issue these comments and perhaps he might feel a little bit embarrassed for making such a derogatory claim. I’m disappointed in Sir Alex here, he comes across as so petulant and bitter, having blown out of proportion the words Pardew used after the game. Pardew did not launch any sort of seething attack, so why has Fergie elevated the quarrel and disrespected our club in the process. It’s cheap and nasty and I sincerely hope Pardew rises above this by not responding.
Fergie has let himself down and he must realise he is not above the law and must abide by the rules. Instead of reacting like a petulant child he should set an example like a true legend and a true Sir.
On that note, it seems apt to leave this piece with the words of a true sir who knew what it meant to be a part of a big football club:
‘What is a club in any case?
Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it.
It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes.
It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride of your city.
It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.’
- Sir Bobby Robson
I’m a fan of Alan Pardew. I love how confident he can come across, how behind the team he is and how much he genuinely seems to understand what football means to this club and the city. Last year he scooped up all the accolades, the top prizes flooded in after guiding us to fifth; he has proved his managerial credentials, no doubt.
But the fact remains, we’ve been poor all season. Nothing short of abysmal at times even. What I can’t stand the most though is the same, repeated mistakes that let us down, week in, week out. Mistakes made by Pardew which should have been rectified by now.
In last night’s game against Fulham we performed far better than games like Stoke away or Swansea or West Hame at home, which all ended in defeats. We showed attacking intent and could have taken some points for sure but we ultimately ended with nothing, again. Leaving empty handed and wondering where did it all go wrong this time?
Pardew must shoulder a lot of this blame. I’m not looking for a scapegoat or running out to make a ‘Pardew Out’ banner but I do want the man to recognise where he, repeatedly, goes wrong.
Exhibit A: The Argentine ‘winger’
The single biggest bone to pick I have with Pards is the unchallenged inclusion of Jonas. Gutierrez in the past three months has offered nothing to the side. Ok, you know he’s going to work his backside off for you but his contribution, going forward as a winger should, is absolutely non existent. I don’t care if he wins 100 freekicks in a game he’s past his sell by date. How on Earth though is his place consistently guaranteed?! Marveaux should have started the game. But Jonas is his Vice Captain, he’s a favourite of the old Silver Fox’s and it looks like he’s untouchable. He shouldn’t be though, he should be dropped. Again, I don’t want such a club servant and good squad player tossed in the rubbish heap but he hasn’t performed and this needs addressing. It’s gone on too long.
Exhibit B: Poor Papiss pushed out
Cisse is an instinctive goalscorer, a poacher who is best in the around the box, looking to nick a goal for you. We saw this last season, 13 goals in 12 games thank you very much! So why o why, is he continuously being forced to play on the wing or as a wide forward, where games simply pass him by? The equivalent would be AVB telling Defoe to play in Lennon’s position at Spurs, it wouldn’t happen. It’s ridiculous in fact. We have seen it so much this season where Cisse has been a passenger. His workrate is there, it’s not his fault. He’s being used incorrectly and Pardew must account for this.
Exhibit C: 4-4-2 and hoofball
Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten it, there’s no shying away because we mixed it up last night. For the majority of the season it’s been like watching what would happen if Big Sam and Tony Pulis had a secret long ball love child, as we’ve seen more hoofball in 17 Premier League games than we have in all the seasons I’ve watched us! Granted Cabaye isn’t in the side, yes Ben Arfa has missed games but even without our most creative players, we should encourage a passing game that we should be capable of producing. We have become the league’s newest long ball merchants.
There’s no doubt, the evidence is there. Team selection, approach, inability to start a first half as well as a second, even an inability to come anywhere near close to scoring a corner! We are seeing repeated mistakes and no atonement for these errors.
This week Pardew said we would be different, we were supposedly getting back to our best. However, this isn’t going to happen if we don’t change our mind-set. Last night we made a start, the formation was a lot more positive but the personnel didn’t match.
The next step should be to try Cisse in the middle again, with Ba going back on the left in a 4-3-3. If he isn’t happy then so be it. We need to bring the best out of the team. We are Newcastle United not the Demba Ba Golden Boot Club.
I have faith in the players and of course I want Pardew to succeed. He is in charge of this team and must make decisions to better our fortunes, no matter how difficult those decisions may be. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, please Alan show us something different and let me have my happy ending.
Looking at the final 32 teams left in the Europa League, you might be a bit disappointed to see Newcastle being in the ‘unseeded’ pot and having to face either a Champions League team or a side who won their Europa Group. Scary.
Though on closer inspection it would seem that actually, when comparing the two pots of ‘seeded’ and ‘unseeded’ teams, the ‘unseeded’ teams look far more difficult to face. Maybe Newcastle have dodged a bullet finishing as Group D runners up and now find themselves in a more favourable position than they would had they topped the group. It’s not supposed to work like that, is it?! Take a look at both pots and compare the teams:
Benfica, Bordeaux, CFR Cluj, Chelsea, Dnipro, Fenerbahce, Genk, Hannover, Lazio, Lyon, Liverpool, Metalist Kharkiv, Olympiakos, Rubin Kazan, Steaua Bucuresti, Viktoria Plzen
Ajax, Anzhi Makhachkala, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, BATE Borisov, Bayer Leverkusen, Dynamo Kiev, FC Basel, Inter Milan, Levante, Napoli, Newcastle United, Sparta Prague, Stuttgart, Tottenham Hotspur, Zenit St Petersburg
Newcastle can’t be drawn against a fellow British side in the last 32, nor can they play a team from their group, meaning we won’t face Bordeaux, Chelsea or Liverpool in the next round. Judging by the remaining teams, namely the teams we could face, they don’t look too dangerous. Of course, Benefica, Fenerbahce, Lazio and Lyon all have established European pedigree but they don’t come across as overwhelmingly intimidating. Plus with the possibility of talking on the likes of Dnipro, Metalist, Steaua or Viktoria, it seems we shouldn’t have any fear in who we face.
Comparing those sides to some of the names in the ‘unseeded’ pot, I think we’ve actually gotten the better deal by finishing second in our group! Imagine having to face a Napoli or a Inter Milan or even a Falcao fuelled Atletico Madrid; then I’d have major doubts over our qualification prospects!
So for all those screaming at Pardew’s team selection last night maybe it’s time to think again. I wouldn’t say Alan Pardew has showed us mere mortals his omniscience in ensuring that, as group runners up, we could yet get a much more favourable draw than Bordeaux could, however maybe this policy of rotation and cup teams fused of fringe and youth players may have paid off big time.
The luck of the draw:
Thursday, December 20th at 2pm is when we will find out our final 32 opponent, with the first leg being played at St. James Park February 14th, with the away leg a week later on the 21st. The draw will also reveal who we could potentially face in the final 16, as both rounds are drawn at once.
The last 16 is when the competition really heats up and the Europa League resembles much more of a classic, FA Cup style knockout round where anybody can play anyone, abandoning seedings. Hopefully Newcastle can ensure that they’re a part of the last 16 which takes place in March as this competition could very well be the highlight of our season this year. Judging by the teams we could face in the last 32 there are some potential banana skins but the teams in the unseeded pot along with ourselves look far more intimidating!
Where’d you want to go?
Personally I’d like to avoid Lazio or even Fenerbahce because there’s bound to be trouble for our away fans. Hopefully we can get Hannover or Viktoria Plzen, both would seem beatable and both would be a good away day to sample some foreign beers, continuing our European adventure.
For now though, the seeds have been sown, so let’s see what stems from the draw on the 20th and grow in this competition, leaving as winners in Amsterdam next May – now that would be a good trip!