Thursday, 31 January 2013

Better but more is needed

So it's been a few days since Newcastle won away from home. Impressive from the Toon but months too late. The season's objectives have changed a lot, last week it was to stay in the premier league whereas at the start of the season it was to push on from last season's heroics when Newcastle finished 5th.

Lets look at the positives. Once again we played fantastically in the first half, controlling the game, spreading balls around the park and looking very confident against a shoddy and very young Villa side. The new signings seemed to fit right in, Sissoko being the more impressive. He got stuck in whilst playing in a more advanced role than was expected pre game. In doing so, he set up the first goal finding Cisse with a delicious through ball. Cisse dispatched and Newcastle went one nil up. What was this madness? The other debutant Yoan Gouffran showed pace and determination, chasing down every ball in the first half. His eagerness was infectious and is what you want to see from every new signing. Seemingly, there will be no problem with the new contingent settling in. At one nil, Newcastle were still fragile. Although they were dominant, the travelling fans and Pardew would of been wary of their away record. Instead of taking the foot of the gas, they pushed on for a second. Enter Yohan Cabaye. Jonas crossed from the right, Yohan took the ball down and with his second touch rifled it home. Top corner. Top goal. We were on our way to an away win. Not since Chelsea away had the Toon won. For the first time in a long while, I felt confident going in at half time but I wasn't counting my chickens. Not yet - I support Newcastle, trouble isn't usually far away.

Aston Villa are also in a dogfight. Their situation is worse than our own. They face relegation with a young inexperienced squad and have recently been knocked out of two competitions. Losing to Bradford was embarrassing enough but to go out of the FA cup days later is diabolical and I'd be worried if I supported Villa. Who's their next messiah? Accio Radcliffe? David Cameron?

Lambert made attacking subs at the start of the second half, going for broke and praying for a miracle. Rather fortuitously, they were awarded a penalty after Debuchy tripped Agbonlahor, the Villa man hitting the deck. It's a penalty but Agbonlahor's reaction was extravagant to say the least. Annoyingly, Newcastle sat back again. Did they learn nothing from the Norwich fiasco? Thankfully Newcastle came away with the points but were 2nd best in the 2nd half. We were overrun in every area of the pitch and were sloppy when we were in possession of the ball. Villa had 4 strikers on the pitch and all were capable of putting the ball in the net. To be fair to the Toon defence they were exceptionally resolute. A win is what Pardew wanted and a win is what he got. Newcastle fans have waited a long time for the win, naturally Newcastle were going to make them sweat it out.

There's now no excuse to not push on. They have the away win under the belt and have key players such as Cabaye back from injury. The new players have added quality and depth and we should be able to cope with European commitments easier. Next up is Chelsea, if Newcastle avoid defeat I firmly believe they will be able to go on a run of form and move away from the drop zone. Eden Hazard is unavailable for Chelsea and it's likely Ross Turnbull will play in goal. If we attack Chelsea and limit their attacking threat, there is points to be gained. Chelsea fans turn on Benitez for nothing, if the Toon get under their skin, Chelsea will have a very uncomfortable saturday afternoon.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Brave Ashley backs Pardew

In my last blog, I posted about the current predicament Mike Ashley faced. Days later, he has answered the question on every Newcastle fan's lips by backing the under fire Pardew. Not by declaring it but by stumping up £18 million pound on 5 new French players. The north east hasn't had this many Frenchmen in town since the days of William the Conqueror; they must like it here though, as they haven't looted it and burnt everything in their path (I'm looking at you William).

In all seriousness, I must applaud Ashley and Llambias as they haven't pushed the panic button. It would of been far too easy to just relieve Pardew of his duties, instead they've got down to business, got the cheque book out and managed to get Graham Carr's long term targets over the channel and into a black and white shirt. The calibre of signings are impressive which is very surprising considering they have all been allowed to leave in the January window. Firstly they managed to acquire Mattheiu Debuchy. It has been well documented that Newcastle had been tracking him and Lille finally let him go at the start of January. This was due to Newcastle playing the waiting game, when Lille crashed out of the champions league, his valuation lowered and Newcastle were able to nab their man for a price they seemed content to pay. On a side note, I'm very happy for Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle bought his best friend and I don't think I've seen a picture of him where he isn't smiling!

Next up was Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Admittedly I don't know very much about the lad however the fact that Arsenal and AC Milan were interested signals the lad's talent. Then again, Arsenal did sign Maraoune Chamakh. I trust Graham Carr and he hasn't produced a dud yet. Hopefully we will see Yanga-Mbiwa play alongside Coloccini but that's another story altogether. We desperately needed a defender especially after the 2nd half horror show against Reading. If he was signed to play alongside Coloccini and not his replacement then we're finally showing ambition. He's a leader and is a ball playing centre back. Hopefully we'll no longer be known as 'le hoof'.

Out of nowhere the toon then signed two more players: Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara. It's unknown whether Gouffran is Ba's replacement however he adds more pace and hopefully more goals to our attack. Again the board must be praised due to the speed in which they've acted. Massadio Haidara is the least experienced of the signings yet that makes me more excited about him. He's highly rated and offers pace at left back. Hopefully he will be good competition for Santon who has been exciting offensively but frail defensively. His addition may mean Haidara plays left back, pushing Santon to the wing.

Finally, we brought in Moussa Sissoko. Now, this lad intrigues me. Any player who is described as the French 'Yaya Toure' should make anyone pay attention. Any lad who waives his signing on fee to push the deal through is one that should be applauded. And any lad who turns down the mackems should be knighted. (Don't worry Papiss I haven't forgotten about you!) He possesses pace, power and is the box to box midfielder we've been desperately lacking. This should hopefully take some of the emphasis of Cabaye and if both players shine at the same time, I believe that we could be a force to be reckoned spwith. Last season, although we won a lot of games, we rarely dominated. Hopefully, we can have a hold on them more and squeeze the opposition into submission, something Manchester United do all too often.

One thing I have had to do is remind myself of our league position. We're not out of the woods yet, Southampton are still higher than us. New signings don't mean points. Am I worried? Not as much. Am I excited? Yes I am. Following Newcastle isn't easy but as they say in France c'est la vie!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Stick or Twist time for Mr Ashley

Newcastle United are precariously placed, they're sitting just above the drop zone and in serious danger of relegation. One thing the fans know is that they aren't too good to go down. Scarily, it mirrors 2008/2009 in which the toon sadly dropped from the top tier.

Travel forward in time to 2013 and it's been a disastrous season for Newcastle. They've played more games then they have points and the injury list is horrendous. The facts are scary, St James isn't the fortress of last season and the away bus must be cursed. Even I must confess that it isn't Mike Williamson's fault. A manager must do the best with what he has at his disposal, he hasn't outsmarted any opposing managers and hasn't replicated what won him the manager of the year award last season. His tactics have been appalling to the extent of lazy. He's experimented with 4-2-3-1 lately and it hasn't worked, we showed fight vs Manchester United and Arsenal but were defensively hapless. Naively, he has placed Cisse on the wing and bizarrely Shola Ameobi who's famous for beating his man at the byline. Even before Demba Ba was sold, he failed to find the right formula, choosing to play 4-4-2 instead of the 4-3-3 formation which served Newcastle so well in the second half of last season. I still wasn't worried, until yesterday.

Yesterday, we surrendered a lead against Reading who until yesterday had the joint worst away record in the premier league alongside Newcastle. Don't get me wrong, Newcastle played very well in the first half, knocking the ball around confidently, finding space and looking dangerous offensively. If it wasn't for the heroics of Federici we would of been 3 goals to the good. But Pardew's team talk was hardly inspiring with Newcastle looking lacklustre and seemingly determined to let Reading back into the game. We were still in control until Pardew made a bizarre substitution, taking the creative Marveaux off and replacing him with a defensive midfielder James Perch. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, we were sitting back on a 1 goal lead against Reading! Pardew's counterpart Brian McDermott took advantage of this bringing on the poacher Adam Le Fondre in the hope he'd grab an equaliser. BOOM. 1-1 within seconds. The scorer? Adam Le Fondre; super sub. Fair play McDermott. If the Newcastle fans thought the Marveaux sub was bizarre his next one was worse. Gael Bigirimana for Yohan Cabaye. Another defensive midfielder. 3 defensive midfielders on the pitch, taking our only 2 creative players off the pitch. I booed and in my opinion i had every right to. Pardew's justification for his substitutions were pathetic, claiming both were injured, Cabaye had attempted an overheard kick 30 seconds earlier, a clear sign of an injured player. Le fondre then scored again breaking geordie hearts. How did Jonas and Shola play 90 minutes?

It was a must win game. If we won, we may of had the confidence to push on and go on a run of form. Instead we face a difficult trip to Villa knowing defeat is disastrous. Ashley needs a central defender and another striker. Get them in and we may have a chance. More injuries is suicidal.

Ashley faces another challenge. Whether or not to relieve Pardew from his duties or stick by his man. The 8 year contract was to install confidence and stability and so far the only positive has been Henry Winter swimming the Tyne for charity. I have defended Pardew a lot recently but yesterday was a wake up call and I'm scared at the thought of relegation again. How can we go from being champions league contenders to being favourites for the drop? Ashley please put your foot down, be decisive, take action and keep us afloat. We don't want to sink, not again.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A possible solution to avoid young players going off the rails.

Recently, a photo was leaked online of Michael Johnson, the 24 year old midfielder. He was once described as the next big thing, he was touted as one for England and was linked with a number of clubs including my own, Newcastle. In this photo, we saw a barely recognisable Johnson. Soon after, Manchester City released a statement announcing that he had been released. What a sad story - an english talent ruined. I blame the ridiculous sums of money clubs are willing to pay these players when they have not established themselves. Take Raheem Sterling for example, I read somewhere that he was demanding something like £60,000 a week at Liverpool. That's ludicrous especially for a player who has only just broke on to the world stage (and by world stage I mean Liverpool's first team.)

How can a player who has barely played have the cheek to demand such a thing? Even somebody who has been in their job for 30 odd years would know not to ask their employer to quadruple their wages. This is why I propose that a rule is introduced worldwide. A player must play a certain amount of games to earn a certain amount of money per week. Or he must be 23 or over. Therefore this lowers the likelihood that younger players go off the rails and don't feel it necessary to blow their money on luxuries rather than necessities. This is highly hypothetical and is unproven but in my opinion it is something that has to be dealt with - the lack of english players in the premier league worries me and the amount of players holding out for ridiculous sums is even more startling.