Newcastle: Our Rocket Up The A*** Has Worked But Pardew Faces Tactical Dilemma
What seems like forever ago now (it was actually just 6 weeks or something), I slumped out a of a pub with a rabble of equally despondent and inebriated Newcastle fans. Another derby defeat made all the worse by the gutless and directionless performance that had warranted it, we sat in a precarious position in the table staring down the barrel of a rather tricky run of results. History in these parts justifies worrying.
But then an outstanding run of results that's seen Chelsea, West Brom and Norwich efficiently dispatched at home, along with a fortunate result at White Hart Lane and brisk afternoon stroll across David Moyes' coffin, has seen that same troupe of no-hopers sniffing the crotch of those bigger dogs with the Champion's League collars on. History in these parts justifies enjoying it while it lasts.
Opinions on what's caused this surge in form are as divided as Warren Barton's fringe, but be it a simplifying of tactics, a lack of distractions, or the proverbial rocket up the a***, the results have put us in a position where a home visit of Southampton almost demands getting straight onto the front foot and leaving with maximum points. Staggeringly, victory on Saturday would make it 6 wins out of the last 7 games.
It'll not be easy though, as victory at Manchester United (just going to say that again, victory at Manchester United) came at the cost of match-winner Yohan Cabaye (just once more, victory at Old Trafford) picking up his fifth booking of the season, and he'll be sitting this one out.
That leaves Alan Pardew with something of a tactical dilemma. Last week's 4-5-1 saw Newcastle take a stranglehold on the midfield, but in recent matches Shola Ameobi has been played alongside Remy in something resembling a 4-4-2 with the ball, and a 4-4-1-1 without. Vernon Anita, who's been exceptional in his appearances this season will surely keep his place, leaving the option of drafting in either Shola Ameobi or Hatem Ben Arfa, depending on what system's favoured. A bit like deciding whether to take the dependable old Land Rover out for a spin, or dropping twelve cowies and stealing a Lamborghini.
At the back, Mike “the other guy” Williamson has amazingly done nothing to warrant losing his place, and another seat on the bench looks likely for the constantly improving Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa – Still apparently yet to earn Pardew's trust back after filming a Benny Hill segment instead of marking Romelu Lukaku. Davide Santon's hair, on the other hand, arguably warrants some form of rotation at left-back.
Southampton, on the other hand, traipse into St James' on the back of a rather disappointing run of results. Scintillating early season form saw them at the very nose-bleed end of the table, but after their initial fixtures were rather unfairly labelled as kind, the much heralded “big tests” have found them standing out in the rain, pants around their ankles, watching the older kids walk of with their lunch money. Save for a wonderful goal and well-deserved point against Man City, the proverbial bubbles have been proverbially burst, and defeat on Saturday could even see them drop into the bottom half of the table. That same “could” leaves Newcastle with the chance of 5th... or 4th if there's a 27 goal swing between us and City.
Likely Line-up: Krul; Debuchy, Gentleman Mike, Coloccini, Travis Bickle; Gouffran-ran-ran, Sissoko, Chieck Tiote's Heatmap, Anita, Gouffran-ran-ran; Remy, The People's Republic of Shola Ameobi.