Archive for the ‘ Newcastle ’ Category

As the Toon Army Marches into the Valley of Death…

-by M

a handsome Irish singer by the name of Ronan Keating once sang, “life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it.” and that is the fate of Newcastle fans around the world. Relegated as recently as 2009, the Magpies now suddenly find themselves in the top 4 spots of the Premier League with the season almost half way through. They have been impressive thus far against somewhat lesser opposition and they now face a daunting run of matches against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Yet, such is the dramatic ups and downs in the recent history of the Magpies that one can forgive the optimism currently surrounding the Tyneside club. Chris Hughton, the man who led Newcastle to promotion from the Championship was sacked barely a year ago and was replaced by Alan Pardew, a decision many deemed to be foolish. However, under Pardew’s charge, Newcastle has transformed themselves over the year through astute acquisitions and a change in footballing and man management philosophy and are now one of the exciting teams to watch this season.

The bigwigs and players who the manager felt could be “bigger than the team” were shipped off to other clubs who were willing to accommodate their egos for their footballing talents (Barton, Nolan, Enrique) while industrious (& mostly French) players with a point to prove were recruited and drilled to play for the collective, rather than for the individual.

Out of all of Pardew’s recent purchases, the one that stands out has to be Yohan Cabaye. the French international has stood out in the black and white of Newcastle this season and has been the conductor of the flowing symphony that is Newcastle’s new style of possession football. His partnership with hardman, Chieck Tiote is one of the key reasons for Newcastle’s outstanding run of results this season.

Undoubtedly, most of the credit has to be attributed to the man many deemed to be unfit for the job. Afterall, here was a man who had a poor reputation in the Premier League after contributing to West Ham’s worst run of results in their history in 2007.  Also, despite his selfish antics, some credit has to be given to owner Mike Ashley. As much as Newcastle fans love to hate him, he has shown his support for the club through good times and bad times and despite his poor taste and shameless advertisement of his company (Sports Direct Arena < St. James Park), Ashley has brought stability to a team that was on the brink of sinking into oblivion after being relegated.

The next few weeks will shape Newcastle’s current season and seasons to come. Many may not give Newcastle a chance against the likes of City, United and Chelsea, but if they continue to play the way they have been playing all season, I would not be surprised if they could steal a win or two against the top 3 teams in England at the moment.

More importantly, it is crucial that Pardew endeavours in the philosophy he has inculcated in the club and keep hold of key personnel such as Tiote and Cabaye. The likes of United and City are already circling around these players but if Pardew can keep these lynchpins in his team, he could be the one to awake one of football’s sleeping giants.

10 Conclusions: Sunderland vs Newcastle

-by M

  • In a game that started off so promisingly for Sunderland, they must be left kicking themselves for not capitalizing on what was a whirlwind start for them. They were out of the blocks faster and were quicker to every ball and winning most of the challenges against Newcastle who appeared to be stunned.
  • Definitely a Newcastle penalty. Larsson may not have intentionally handled the ball but the reality of the matter was he denied what would have been a Newcastle goal. How the linesman missed that is one question only he can answer. Could it be because Sunderland were the home team? Or just maybe he had Larsson on his fantasy team.
  • It’s funny how quickly a game of football can be changed after one single event. It seemed as if Sunderland were a little rattled after nearly conceding a penalty that they backed off a little and allowed Newcastle into the game. From then on, it was a keenly contested game right to the final whistle.
  • Did anyone else catch a glimpse of that awkward moment when Sessegnon was kneeling in front of Pardew and Pardew had both his hands on his head? (you will, it will definitely be on one of the leading sports websites)
  • Ryan Taylor is a lucky, lucky boy. If he had connected with his elbow on Gyan in the first half, he would have undoubtedly been sent off. However, he escaped punishment and scored the winning goal. Newcastle fans must be silently relieved that Taylor did not make contact on Gyan with his flailing elbow and that Webb did not catch the Newcastle man red-handed.
  • How Cabaye got away with his challenge on Phil Bardsley I will never know. His studs were showing, he was going at speed and caught the Sunderland full-back. The only probable reason was that Webb did not want to send a player off so early in the game given the game was a derby.  That challenge anywhere else might have seen a straight red for the Frenchman.
  • So in a sense, Phil Bardsley’s second yellow was somewhat fortuitous. It was a similar challenge as Cabaye’s on Gutierrez. Studs showing, foot high, sliding in at speed. Bardsley should consider himself lucky it was not a straight red.
  • Mignolet’s positioning has to be questioned for Newcastle goal. He was caught in no man’s land and misjudged the flight of the ball completely. While it was a good delivery by Ryan Taylor, Mignolet should have done better.
  • What is Lee Cattermole’s purpose on the field? It seems as if his sole aim in the game is to hack down as many opposition players as possible. The ‘Makelele’ role has gained some prominence in recent years but Cattermole is no Makelele. How some England fans can call for Cattermole to be in their team is beyond belief.
  • That said, was waiting for something to happen with Cattermole and Barton on the pitch. Afterall, what’s a derby without a little scrap?

Top 10 Summer Transfers so far

by M, because nothing is more exciting than new players coming in during the summer

As the new season kicks off in approximately a day or two(depending on your timezone), my life also starts again. D and I, along with millions of other football fanatics around the world, have been pretty much in hibernation as the football season took a break during June-August and we’re delighted that the season is now about to get underway.

As us mere mortals were going about our usual business during the months of summer, football clubs have been busy trying to strengthen their squad with new players. Here is our list of top 10 summer transfers in the EPL. (because there’s only 2 of us and lets face it, the EPL is the most popular/exciting league in the world because no one wants to see Barcelona clean out another 10-0 every weekend). In no particular order, here are the top 10 transfers of the EPL:

Ben Foster (Birmingham -> West Brom, Loan)

A few years ago, Foster was on the cusp of becoming Manchester United’s first choice custodian. A couple of high-profile mistakes later, he was subsequently shipped off to Birmingham, where he failed to keep the Midland clubs in the Premier League despite his heroics in goal. Only 28 years old, he is barely in his prime, particularly in the position he plays. His arrival at West Brom, albeit temporarily, strengthens their defence significantly, especially after the transfer of Scott Carson. Roy Hodgson will undoubtedly look to make it a permanent deal at the end of the season, particularly if Foster saves the club some precious points during the course of it which he definitely will.

Ashley Young (Aston Villa -> Manchester United, 16m)

The statistics don’t lie. Out of the players still plying their trade in the Premier League, only Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fabregas have had a higher assist rate than the England International. What United have bought is a proven and consistent winger who is capable of providing a steady supply of crosses from out wide, corners and free-kicks into the box as he has already shown in the Community Shield against Manchester City at the weekend. While it is argued that United require a creative central midfielder more urgently than another wide player, his acquisition will provide United strength in depth. He will be particularly useful on days when United seemingly have trouble breaking down lesser opposition.

Stewart Downing (Aston Villa -> Liverpool, 19m)

Liverpool fans have been crying out for an out-and-out winger for ages ( I know because I’ve been exposed to D’s incessant whines regarding this matter). It has finally arrived in the shape of Stewart Downing. 19m may seem a bit steep considering his reputation as a one-trick pony in his earlier days but he has blossomed into a fine left winger at Aston Villa. Considering the last proper winger Liverpool have had was the Spaniard Albert Riera, Liverpool’s best acquisition this summer might be the 19m signing of Downing especially when you consider the idea of King Kenny deploying Andy Carroll as a target man.

Shay Given (Manchester City -> Aston Villa, 3.5m)

It is ironic how one of the best goalkeepers in the league if not the world, had never played for a big club (sorry Newcastle fans) and when he did, was benched after one good season with them. Given’s transfer to Aston Villa is exactly what both the club and player needs. Villa needed a reliable stopper after the departure of the ageing Brad Friedel and Given needed a club where he could play week in week out. With no disrespect to Friedel, Given’s arrival will fortify the Villans’ defence even more. On his day, the Irish international is virtually unbeatable. Although already 35, he still has a good 2-3 years of playing time in him and 3.5m seems like a bargain for a goalkeeper of his calibre and experience.

Demba Ba (West Ham -> Newcastle, Free)

As Pardew attempts to start a French revolution at St. James, his most important acquisition this summer may be the arrival of Demba Ba. Newcastle has urgently needed a striker of his calibre ever since the departure of Andy Carroll, also known as Judas or who*e amongst the Toon Army now. While the money of Carroll’s sale was not used in the investment of Demba Ba, it makes Pardew’s acquisition of him even more impressive. Demba Ba’s 7 goals in 12 appearances for West Ham might not have saved the Hammers from relegation but his performances have shown that he is capable of cutting the mustard at the top flight. He will undoubtedly play more than the 12 games he had for West Ham and Newcastle fans must surely hope that he scores much more than the 7 goals he had last season.

Jonathan Woodgate (Tottenham -> Stoke, Free)

This is a bit of a contentious one. At first glance, signing Woodgate is a bit of a gamble. His injury record is probably longer than this very article yet if not for them injuries, we all know what a classy and brilliant defender he would have turned out to be. Woodgate may be injury-prone to say the least but his arrival will bring experience to the Stoke defence and while he most certainly will not play every week, his class and ability will benefit the Potters’, especially against quality opposition.

Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham -> Sunderland, Free)

Sunderland have been busy bees this summer. Having picked up United’s unwanted scraps in the form of John O’Shea and Wes Brown and a whole lot of other players, Bruce’s acquisition of Larsson on a free transfer may be his best one this summer. Sebastian Larsson has proved that he is more than capable of putting in a cross. A proven professional, his ability at dead-ball situations is well known. Considering the departure of Steed Malbranque, Jordan Henderson and Boudewijn Zenden, Sunderland are short in numbers in midfield and to be able to add a player of Larsson’s quality to the team might be crucial to Sunderland’s performance this season.

Ali Al-Habsi (Bolton -> Wigan, Undisc.)

It is a pity that Al-Habsi’s rival for the No.1 shirt at Bolton is the ever-present Jussi Jaaskelainen. After warming the bench at the Reebok for awhile, Al-Habsi’s loan move to Wigan showed us his ability. He saved the Latics points throughout the season and was one of the key reasons behind their survival in the top flight. Martinez has now made the move permanent and that means we all will never have to see Chris Kirkland in goal in the Premier League again.

Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid -> Manchester City, 38m)

Probably the highest profile summer arrival to the Premier League this summer. While every Tom, Dick and Harry are clamouring for a move to sunny Spain, Aguero has traded Madrid for Manchester in a 38m deal. City has signed a proven player in the man popularly known as ‘Kun’. A player in the mould of Carlos Tevez, City’s want-away captain and idol, his all action style of play will be warmly greeted by the fans. If he plays as we have seen him play in the La Liga, City fans will be chanting ‘Tevez who?’ by the middle of the season.

Jose Enrique (Newcastle -> Liverpool, 6m)

Liverpool fans will be particularly happy with this transfer. Jose Enrique is a quality left back as he had shown at his time with Newcastle. Physically strong and blessed with good technique, Liverpool’s left wing looks more than decent with the Spaniard at the back and the much-improved Stewart Downing (who is also featured in this article). A whole lot better than Paul Konchesky, 6m for Jose Enrique seems to be the bargain of the transfer window, never mind the fact that he has only one year left on his Newcastle contract. While Liverpool’s central defence still requires some sorting out, Jose Enrique’s addition will be a much-needed boost to Liverpool’s backline.