Newcastle – a game of two seasons
Newcastle’s fine season last year so nearly ended with a top-four finish, and a place in the Champions League, but what will happen to them this year?
Now while I’m sure they won’t end up like Ipswich, who finished 6th in one season, and were relegated the year after, the team certainly hasn’t started in this campaign; a limp 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at the weekend showed this. One of the problems with this Newcastle side seems to be that while there is usually one player who is in fine form, it is only one player, and not the whole team.
This happened at various stages last season, with positive results.
Demba Ba – Before January
Papiss Cisse – After January
Hatem Ben Arfa – Sporadic throughout the campaign
These performances were held together by consistent performances by players such as Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, and Fabricio Coloccini.
This season however, Cabaye, Tiote and Coloccini have all struggled with injuries while Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse is yet to get his shooting boots on. Cisse’s International team-mate Demba Ba (can only think my fantasy league team name when I say his name – Demba Barcelona, clever right?!) is the man in form at the moment, but how long will that last?
Another issue for this side is that with a couple of injuries, the strength in depth of this side is terrifying when compared to clubs they were challenging last year such as Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.
James Perch has proved himself in the Premier League just about, but what position is he? Consistent injuries in the defence have meant that he has been moved about along the backline, while the departure of Danny Guthrie in the summer may mean he also has to deputise for Cabaye or Tiote should they pick up any injuries. Vurnon Anita has been brought in as both cover for the defence and the midfield, but whether he can be relied upon in big games at this stage in his career is doubtful, as it may take his time to get used to the English game.
On the up side, Alan Pardew has recently been rewarded with a staggering 8-year contract, and this can only be good news for the club. Confidence in Pardew and a belief in stability presumably means that a long-term plan has been thought about for the club. Hopefully, for the supporters, a plan that involves extra players brought in to improve the squad, and a plan that will enable the club to hang on to their star names for as long as possible, or failing that, demand a ridiculous transfer fee (See Carroll, Andy).