This weekend NUFC make the longest scheduled journey of the season to AFC Bournemouth.
It’s probably quicker and easier to get to the Nou Camp than it is to get to Bournemouth and until very recently, it was both more likely that we’d playing Barcelona than AFC Bournemouth and more likely that Gateshead would be playing Bournemouth than us.
This is the first year in their 126 year history that Bournemouth have played in the English top division and in the 2008-09 season they played their first match under the threat of liquidation, in League Two and with a starting position of -17 points.
It is a footballing miracle that they are in the Premier League now, the sort of miracle akin to Rolando Aarons going a month without injury or Moussa Sissoko controlling a ball with his first touch.
Most of us didn’t think we’d get to Bournemouth before the age of 75, town full of doddery old gits that it is. Harry Redknapp likes it, oh yes.
‘Welcome to Bournemouth’
Steve McClaren has won some praise in recent weeks for performances and on Saturday in Bournemouth there will be two teams who will try and play football and the weather should be nicer too!
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has always maintained that his teams should play on the front foot, as he said earlier in the season:
“In the PL the best way to win is to dominate the ball.”
It is a philosophy which Steve McClaren probably shares, though so far it has been more like ‘dominate the ball until you score and then get 11 men behind the ball and hope you win’.
That has been easier to watch than the same tactic under Alan Pardew, but it has also been less successful. Howe seems a younger and more eloquent version of McClaren with his whole future ahead of him, both coaches are praised by players and those who know them for their abilities,
Jamie Redknapp this week saying of Howe:
“There’s no reason why they can’t stay up. They showed that in the way they play they have a real belief and a manager who is top class. They won’t panic at all.”
The only blip so far in Howe’s career was an average stint at Burnley, leading to claims that he can’t do it away from the South coast. McClaren has suffered similar accusations that after his success at FC Twente that he can’t do it outside of Holland, or indeed outside of the 2009/10 season. McClaren has spoken highly of his opponent today:
“I have the greatest respect for Eddie Howe. How he’s got Bournemouth up is remarkable and he could be a future England manager.”
And McClaren knows all about being England manager, he was hopeless at that too.
In goal is perhaps where the game will be won and lost. For us, spending the week in bed has meant that Rob Elliot is fit to play, though presumably that’s how he got the injury in the first place.I mean what is the point of having a back-up keeper who gets more injuries than the first choice one? Whether Elliot is fit for purpose is another question altogether.
Bournemouth too have problems in that area, first choice keeper Artur Bollocks has dropped more than one Boruc this season and reserve back-up Federici was similarly wanting last time out. Eddie Howe has been as protective of his goalkeepers as Steve McClaren has, last month stating that his squad were “in it together.” Let’s hope they are a bit deeper in it by Saturday night.
‘Dropping a Boruc somewhere near you soon’
For Newcastle, a few of our defenders should probably stay in Bournemouth after the game, Steven Taylor should find a few people walking their dogs on Bournemouth beach on Saturday afternoon who have more chance of completing a game than him, Coloccini likewise, a few with more desire to play football for Newcastle in the same group.
The Argentinian and Mbemba showed an improvement against Stoke and if Glenn Murray continues as the lone man up front for the Cherries this weekend, our central defenders will come up against a very similar striker to Jonathan Walters, a strong unit, will hold the ball up well but won’t run the channels or get in behind you.
Our defence seems to struggle against pace so it should suit our gladiatorial stoppers to have a more physical battle, then again they seem to struggle against strength as well, and talent, and skill, so it’s possible that the only positive about the game is that whoever is up front for the Cherries – Murray or Josh King, they don’t score many goals.
With Haidara once more on the injury list having been blown over by a gust of wind during the week, Dummett should continue to get match fit for Euro 2016 at left back and Daryl Janmaat will continue at right back despite carrying a right midfielder, or “injury” as they call him at SJP.
Ability on the wings will be vital this weekend.
Bournemouth have tried different formations in the last few weeks but their 4-1-4-1 formation against Southampton always allowed the Saints space on the wing, though I don’t know how if they had five men in midfield. The Cherries were more compact after a half time reshuffle which brought on the speedy Josh King and being more compact meant they pushed Southampton’s wingers back away from goal and allowed them to retain possession, possession being a key part of their game plan.
To take advantage, Sissoko and Wijnaldum will need to put in a better shift than last week against Stoke, certainly Georgie seems to be either in the game or out of it, when he’s in he scores, when he’s out he’s a passenger.
The same criticism can’t be levelled at Sissoko, poor against Stoke but had two great chances to score. Sissoko is almost always in the game, I’m just not sure which game.
This might be a good time to leave out one of Tiote and Anita, they were both decent against Stoke but with opponents in midfield like ex-Magpie Dan Gosling, now injury free for almost 3 days, perhaps we can afford to be a little more adventurous, with Sissoko moving to the centre and Thauvin coming in on the wing.
Bournemouth allowing a bit more room on the wings may suit the somewhat less than rapid Thauvin, that bit more time to find the right pass might suit his abilities better, after all, from what we’ve seen so far we know we didn’t buy him for his speed.
Having that extra yard of space may see his quality on the ball come to the fore, if he’s got any. It would be a gamble because of Thauvin’s contribution so far this season and Tiote and Anita putting in a decent shift last week, but fortune favours the brave, supposedly.
With £8 million central defender Tyrone Mings out for the season, Mitrovic and Perez should once again be able to run rings around a hapless Bournemouth defence including 38 year old former TOON man Sylvin Distin.
‘Tyrone Mings in the Hip Hop Hospital’
Both strikers will be looking at the last two games and wondering how they didn’t score against such poor opposition and if that continues today then questions will be asked about their level of performance.
You can’t doubt their ability, they are both good players, Mitrovic about as mobile as Compo in Last of the Summer Wine last week but strong, good in the air and determined with it, Perez has all the skill in the world and is a joy to watch, but both players need to score goals to keep their places.
Bournemouth provides that perfect opportunity. If we do score first, Bournemouth rarely come from behind to win.
So off we go to the Vitality Stadium, possibly the worst named football ground in the football league, especially as Bournemouth has about as much Vitality as the Walking Dead.
If there is any Vitality in the stadium on Saturday then let’s hope it is in black and white. This is a game that Newcastle United should win and a game that Steve McClaren can’t afford to lose.