Going into the West Brom match there were similar makings of a script that has become a consistent storyline of Newcastle’s fortunes this year.
A good run of two stellar performances against Man Utd and West Ham were followed by a lacklustre away game against Watford and an even more dire one at Everton.
But, the team woke up (v West Brom) and played hard, pressed and attacked in a manner we have been yearning them to do all season. The scoreline will not support that theory but it was heartening to finally see attacks coming down consistently from both flanks.
The defence despite it having a wounded general, a converted left-back and a rusty centre-back returning from a lengthy injury lay-off, held it’s own – though it must be said West Brom were not at the races for good parts of the game.
There were plenty of positives to reflect upon going into this away game against Chelsea.
Shelvey quickly bounced back from the indifferent showing at Everton and he appears to be the type of player that needs to be engaged into the flow of the game quite early, if not then there is a tendency of a personality to get mentally detached from his surroundings, lose focus and go missing in games.
When he is on the ball, involved in every build up, then you can feel the momentum building with those crossfield passes and killer through balls. Key to that happening was the presence of Tiote. Tiote’s ability to steal possession and lay it back to Shelvey in this regard was priceless. An added incentive is that he ruffles a few feathers and doesn’t allow opposition playmakers to operate from a comfort zone.
A big improvement was the performance of Andros Townsend. The fact that he hadn’t completed a 90 minutes Premier League game in two years was well highlighted in most media outlets and the concern was not whether he could bring skill and ability, but whether that he would be able to sustain that level throughout that duration.
However, he came out of the game to a standing ovation from the SJP faithful in what was a very encouraging performance. He was a constant threat, picked up the ball and kept on running at defenders.
It’s early days but compared to previous wingers, he shows a much better balance, awareness and IQ as to know what to do in which areas of the game. He will only go on to become more effective as he develops a better understanding with his team-mates.
Two precise crosses, two shots on goal and endless energy is a good start from where I am, surely there are many more good things to come. Rival teams will no longer be able to stop the flow of our game simply by blocking out the right side of the pitch.
I had advocated the importance of Mitrovic in the side.
He will always continue to bring attributes of his game that are vital to how this team functions, especially away from home.
In this game he showed his flexibility in being able to drop deep, retain possession and facilitate the counter.
If the pressure is taken away from him mentally by asking him to concentrate on other aspects of his game and not to worry too much about lack of precision in front of goal, he will do much better. Having said that, he took his goal opportunity well, calmly slotting in the winning goal.
Notable mentions for Aarons and Taylor.
Rolando Aarons having to slot in again at the left back position, he put in a good performance, aided Townsend to get higher up the pitch and was smart in the tackle. Steven Taylor when paired with Colo has always had his best performances in a black and white shirt.
He is very much a Tiote, in the sense of leaving him to deal with the physicality of the game and he will be fine, while a more technical ball playing partner deals with passing it out of the defence.
Quite a few have written the Chelsea match off but if we go well prepared and have a go, then chances are that we can get something out of the game. West Brom mind you didn’t press us higher up the pitch so Shelvey saw a lot of the ball to be able to have the impact like he did.
It will be an interesting battle but key will be to get Shelvey on the ball early, if Colback or Mbabu are fit then they will need to replace Aarons as Bransilav Ivanovic is a full-back who likes to use his physicality to get past his marker.
On the flipside I can see Townsend having another good game against Branislav who has lost considerable pace over the years. I get this feeling that Mitrovic will get opportunities to score from crosses. Wijnaldum is due a good one and hopefully McClaren doesn’t curb Shelvey and has him sitting back to protect the back four – which seemed the case against Everton.
Hopefully this weekend won’t be one of the usual and the travelling Geordie faithful will acknowledge an attacking approach to the very least.
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