Newcastle: Remy's Crucial, Pardew's Fake & Taylor Needs To Leave
What’s going right?
Quite a lot actually. Things looked pretty grim when our opening day hammering at Man City was bookended with reports of Cabaye being on his way out and a slack-jawed disbelief that Joe Kinnear was back in our lives. Slowly but surely though, things have started picking up. First results were ground out against the likes of West Ham, Fulham and Villa, before discontent in the camp steadily died back down, and now we're happily waltzing up to places like White Hart Lane and Old Trafford, kicking their bins over and leaving with their ornaments.
And, to be fair, getting beat 0-4 at the Etihad with only 10 men looks absolutely herculean compared to what they've done to some of their other guests.
Entering the a*** end of the season we find ourselves with a reasonably strong squad that's full of players in good form, our usual selection box of total f***ery (mishaps, assaults, burning land rovers) looks like it's off our Christmas list this year, and we're in serious danger of having a relatively successful season. Things are going so well that I'll even feign surprise when we figuratively blow all of our own toes off later in the season.
Mercifully, all of our problems this season seem to not only be happening off the pitch, but staying off it as well. Some serious friction in recent months, starting chiefly with the reporting of an anti-Ashley protest march earlier in the season, saw the club go so far as to ban a number of local journalists.
You'll have your own opinions on how important patch hacks are to how you personally consume your football, but combined with the increasingly bizarre Sports Direct News, and Ashley's plans to start charging news outlets for access to the club, there's a rather worrying precedent for club propaganda being set. Not that anyone cares too much when the team's winning...
Got the right manager?
You guys ask me this every 6 months and the answer remains the same. Sort of.
Alan Pardew's a lot like the X-Factor to me. Glitzy, showy, entertaining, but ultimately hollow, fake, and only impressive to the kind of people who get headaches when they try to think for themselves. I could tell you 100 things that would be better, but I tolerate its existence simply because I know that if it goes away it'll be replaced with something much worse. He's got outstanding hair though, and if I'm the Red Power Ranger of Shola Ameobi appreciation, he's that big face in the tube with the robot butler.
Hard to look beyond Loic Remy for this particular accolade. Our only major summer acquisition has added pace, power, and a constant goal threat to last year's side – thus turning games that would have ended in draws and narrow defeats into wins. Personally though, I'm a little uncomfortable supporting someone with a court date for alleged sexual assault still lingering over their heads.
Running him a very close 2nd would be Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran. The former continues to improve with every game for the club, hurtling forward from right back to quite often be our most advanced option on that side, whilst finally seeming to have adjusted to the physicality of his new league. Gouffran on the other hand, is essentially the product of hacking Perch, Gutierrez and Obertan to death, then reassembling one player out of all their good bits.
Who would you like to sell in January?
I'm not expecting acquisitions without departures, so it would be pleasing to finally see Obertan (now on his 18th last chance) given the elbow for his inevitable loan move back to France.
If we're really indulging my festive wishes though, finally taking Steven Taylor's agent up on that empty threat to move him elsewhere would bring me almost endless glee. After not being seen anywhere near the first team since elbowing Aguero in the chops, nothing would make me happier than seeing him fistpump his way down to QPR, making his total lack of brain and daft wage packet someone else's problem.
Who do you want to sign?
Realistically I can't see us buying anyone, but given that there's no obvious gaps that need filling in the first team, a young prospect or two would give us a little bit more depth, and a sense of future planning to a fan base that rarely ever get to see any. Max Clayton at Crewe, Will Hughes at Derby, Tom Ince... I dunno, I haven't played Football Manager this year.
Best chant so far?
Most chants are pretty good these days, what with the internet and the vast array of have-a-go comedians who inhabit. However, the news that academy graduate Paul Dummet was going to be forced to make his full debut in the Tyne and Wear Derby illicit this classic. To the tune of Icona Pop's 2013 dancefloor classic, I Love It.
“Lock John O'Shea inside a fridge and kick him down the stairs, throw Giaccherini off a bridge...
I don't care, Paul Dummet!”
No points for songwriting that day, sadly.
Best opposition player/team you’ve seen?
I'm going to buck the trend of saying Suarez here, mostly because I've only just realised that he's reemerged from Williamson's back pocket, and say Lukaku. He's nowhere near the player some of the other candidates will be, but it's been a long time since I've seen a back four with Coloccini in it get the sort of resounding manhandling and outsmarting we had to endure at Goodison Park this season.
Biggest **** of the season so far?
I'd like to take a quick moment here to show some solidarity with our friends over at Cardiff City and nominate Vincent Tan.
Funniest Moment of the season so far?
End of season prediction?
I've discussed this one at length in the pub recently, and the conclusion that's arisen is that we might actually keep this form up. We're not overly reliant on one player, we seem to be keeping all other issues at arms length, and whilst you'd expect Spurs and Man United to have a surge later on in the season, the remaining teams below us offer very little to worry about.
Essentially, we're competing with Southampton, Swansea, Villa, Hull, Stoke, Norwich, Cardiff, West Brom, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Fulham, and the little town down the road, for the right to finish just below the teams that are actually competing for something. Greatest league in the world this. 8th.