They say that after ten games into a new season, things start taking shape and apparently you can tell who the real runners, riders, winners and losers are going to be. Well ten games into Newcastle’s season and I don’t mind telling you, I’m completely stumped. Ten games in and I couldn’t tell you if we’re having a good season or a bad one!
So far this season the inconsistency and unpredictability on display has been truly staggering. Up to now we’ve got points from the most unlikely games, such as Chelsea and Liverpool at home, and Villa and Cardiff away. Then we go and drop points against teams we’d expect to beat, like Hull and West Ham at home and the Mackems away. The less said about the trips the Etihad and Goodison this season the better.
Newcastle were up to their old tricks and were at their inconsistent best once again last week against Chelsea. In a game that many fans had written off as an away win and a hopeless task, Newcastle somehow managed to pull something rather special out the bag. After the galling and gutless defeat at the Stadium of Sh*te just a week earlier, many fans (myself included), expected Chelsea to steamroller us. As it happens, a totally different Newcastle turned up.
Saturday’s Newcastle were a totally different side to the one a week earlier - organised, powerful and determined to write the wrongs of the derby. Quite how we can go from one extreme to the other in the space of six days is beyond me. Against what was seemed a blunt Chelsea side, Newcastle started from the back, defended well, managing the Chelsea attacks admirably before exposing them with the pace and power of the likes of Gouffran, Sissoko and Remy.
Going into the game, with Sissoko and Gouffran starting as the wide men in a midfield four and Shola Ameobi starting up front, it did look as if we would lack creativity in the final third. Credit where credit is due for the manager though. I, along with many others, have been vocal and highly critical in the past regarding Alan Pardew’s poor tactics; on Saturday he got it spot on.
Sissoko and Gouffran bust a gut and ran themselves into the ground offering defensive cover for the full-backs, whilst also providing the pace and power that the Newcastle counter attacks were based on. Sissoko in particular was crucial in helping get the absolute best from Debuchy for the first time this season. With Sissoko there to track back, cover and support, Debuchy was allowed to flourish, get forward and play his natural game whilst still putting in an absolutely sterling shift defensively. Far too often with Ben Arfa ahead of him, Debuchy is hung out to try by his enigmatic countryman.
I firmly believe that there is a place for Ben Arfa in the team (as long as he pulls his finger out!), but he is not a winger. When he plays out wide he sometimes does just as much harm to the team as good with some of his more apathetic and lackadaisical performances. Ben Arfa is a number 10, a playmaker and as such needs to be in a central position rather stuffed out wide.
If Newcastle can go into every game with the kind of attitude, drive and organisation as was displayed against Chelsea, then surely some kind of consistency can be reached. In Cabaye Newcastle have kept hold of their playmaker and talisman, and it is he who can unlock any door as he did on Saturday with a cross to Gouffran worthy of winning any game. Cabaye aside however, Newcastle do have one other trump card this season – Loic Remy.
The form of on-loan Loic Remy has been a complete revelation for Newcastle this season. Fast, direct and with a good football brain, Remy has added a new dimension to Newcastle this term and has helped fill the massive void left by Demba Ba with six goals already. In just a few games this season Remy has shown his class; his finishing and comfort in control of the football are reminiscent of Thierry Henry and he possess the pace to terrify even the best Premier League defenders. In short, Remy is a Rolls Royce of a footballer.
If Newcastle have any sort of ambition (which of course we know they do not!), then making Remy’s switch permanent should be right at the top of the clubs to-do list. With JFK and Mike ‘Scrooge McDuck’ Ashley calling the shots at St James’ however, I’ll not be holding my breath. If the club do manage to let Remy slip through their fingers from this strong position though, then quite frankly there is literally no hope for us when it comes to player recruitment.
Next up this weekend is Spurs on Sunday. Now usually I wouldn’t hold out much hope of us coming away with anything from White Hart Lane, but such has been the way this season, the games I expect nothing from are more often the games we seem to get something from.
Whilst I am still not overly optimistic of getting anything against at Spurs, given our incredible inconsistency this season and the way Tottenham have been stuttering of late, predicting how this one might go is anyone’s guess.