After the awful 2014-15 season, it seems that most Newcastle players are coming into the new season with something to prove. The fact that a new coach is in town only increases the pressure on players to assert themselves.
With pre season well underway and Coach Steve McClaren trying to pinpoint his opening day line up, here are my top five players who are under pressure, accompanied by my predictions for how the next season will turn out for each of them.
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Without a doubt, this man has the most pressure to perform in a black and white jersey. One of the most lucrative signings of the Mike Ashley era and tabbed to be the next Yohan Cabaye, the pressure on Cabella has been a constant since day one. I was among the many who argued that Cabella needed more time to adapt, but now that period has come to an end. It’s time to see what the Frenchman is really made of.
I think Remy’s best position is in a central attacking midfield spot, but Newcastle already have players to fill that area of the pitch (especially now the Wijnaldum deal is finalised). He’ll be deployed on the wing again. If McClaren can manage to get more out of Cabella’s massive potential, it would be a huge positive for the Magpies.
One point of interest is that Cabella did not feature in the Gateshead pre season match with McClaren claiming he is injured.
Prediction: With a year in the Premier League under his belt, I think Cabella improves. But he won’t reach the potential he initially was credited with having. The combination of the experienced tutelage of McClaren and (hopefully) more talent surrounding Cabella will help him establish a consistent starting role.
The Newcastle captain’s performances were hot and cold last season. Some could be attributed to lacklustre partners in the middle of the defence. Other performances could have derived from Colo’s age, as the Argentinian is 33 years old (34 this January), certainly an age where decline is expected.
Colo has also experienced criticism regarding his captaincy and it would not be a complete shock to see someone else wearing the armband this August.
There is still hope that, paired with a more capable defender, Colo can regain some of his former glory. If that were to happen, Newcastle’s defence would look a lot better off than last year.
Prediction: Colo definitely starts day one against Southampton, even if it’s just out of respect. If he’s paired with a better defender, I think that’s enough to hide some of his weaknesses. However, I fully expect this to be Colo’s last year starting for the Magpies. Due to his age, he isn’t where he once was physically. He has definitely lost a step or two and it showed during last year’s campaign.
This man has given a lot to Newcastle and I would be happier than anyone if he came out stronger than ever. Let’s hope that ends up being the case, but I expect that come January , Newcastle will be shopping for a replacement.
Once a fan favourite, Tiote was out with injuries most of the 2014/2015 season. On top of that, when on the pitch his performances have not been awe-inspiring.
He and McClaren go back, so it can be assumed the Ivorian will have a solid crack at rejoining the starting line up. Not known for his skill in possession but rather his aggressive tackling, the 29 year old is approaching the decade of decline. If he believes that one more big transfer is in his future, then he really needs to open up the season strong.
Prediction: Regardless of his performance, Tiote’s stay at Tyneside is nearing its end. Fans are tired of his rash bookings and at his age there isn’t much upside. I think he starts against Southampton on opening day and does enough to lock down his spot until the January transfer window. Newcastle currently lack a player with his skill set (youngster Olivier Kemen is in the same player mould, but the young man is not ready for premier league action and might be on his way to a different club anyway) and as a result he does have value going into the season, even though it’s a skill set that is very limited.
Siem de Jong
De Jong has much to prove; injuries have been far too frequent over the past few seasons, with Ajax and then last season with Newcastle, and another year lost to the injury bug would put an end to his tenure in Tyneside.
He has looked good when he has played and even put in a goal against Swansea City. A savvy, smart player with the traits of a squad captain, de Jong could be a popular player for Newcastle if his health is steady. If another injury finds him though, expect him out the door, probably back to his home country’s league.
Prediction: De Jong has been unfortunate, but things will finally go right for him this season. His presence in the air will be immensely valuable on set pieces and he’ll be crucial to the team as a distributor. The Number 10 will deliver 10+ goals (5 on headers!) and 5+ assists on his way to becoming a fan favorite by season’s end.
Success can often produce pressure equal to the burden that players carry following a disappointing campaign. This is the case for the young Perez, who was one of the Magpies’ stars last season.
But it is one thing to have a single good season; it is another to expand and improve the following year. Perez’s performances earned a decent amount of transfer speculation. If he gets better, expect the rumours to be significantly greater in January.
Teams want consistency when they shop for additions and another great year for Perez will increase his value greatly. He knows this. He also knows that Newcastle supporters love him and expect more of the same this season.
A new and surprising fan favorite, the pressure is on the young Spaniard to produce another stellar season. A year of regression, especially in the Premier League, can put a shuttering halt to a once promising career.
Prediction: Perez will improve and have another solid season. He has the kind of talent that does not look forced; he never seems to be trying to do something flashy, it just naturally occurs. He’s agile, has a nose for goal, and shows good positioning. This kid displays signs of an elite player. He’ll take another step in that direction this season.
There you have it, my players who shoulder the most pressure heading into the 2015/2016 season. Who would be in your top 5? There are certainly other players (Riviere and Aarons to name a couple) for whom you could make a case for. Feel free to leave comments containing your players and predictions!