Newcastle v Villa – Predicted Newcastle Line-Up, Tactics, Formation…The Lot
Newcastle United have had an international break to try and forget the heartache of the summer transfer window. With only Loic Remy signed on a season-long loan deal, the knives have been out for Messrs Ashley and Kinnear for almost a fortnight.
Hopefully Steve Harper’s midweek testimonial will have dispelled some of the doom-mongering but Pardew will know the only real way to silence the pessimists and detractors will be three points on Saturday afternoon away to Aston Villa..
The Villains had a nightmare set of fixtures to start their season, with visits to Arsenal and Chelsea and playing Liverpool at home. The side certainly haven’t embarrassed themselves, beating Arsenal 3-1, losing to Chelsea thanks to some contentious refereeing decisions and were just one fine save away from securing a point against Liverpool.
Picking up where last season finished, Villa’s young side look deadly on the counter-attack and Christian Benteke is showing no signs of a second season syndrome (a la Papiss Cisse).
So, what do Newcastle need to look out for on Saturday afternoon as 11th squares up against 12th in a fixture that last year saw Newcastle hang on for dear life in the dying moments and secure our first away win of the season.
Despite not making a single permanent summer signing, Alan Pardew will have more players available to him in the match at Villa Park. Steven Taylor returns from a three match ban following his sending off against Manchester City.
Yohan Cabaye, whose long-term future is a mystery, could be in line for a starting berth but some fans will think Anita and Sissoko performed well enough against both West Ham and Fulham to warrant keeping their starting berths. Tiote is also back to fitness but question marks still hover over Mike Williamson and Jonas Gutierrez but fans aren’t likely to be too concerned about either one.
The line-up will show if Pardew has learned his lessons from last season: will he rush back Tiote and welcome Cabaye back into the fold at the first time of asking? He did so numerous times last season and both players failed to perform as well as they had in the 11/12 season. While Sylvain Marveaux hasn’t been nearly as effective as Ben Arfa on the left wing, he has shown a willingness to track back. Newcastle fans will fail to see just how a scarcely fit Jonas will add anything to the team.
In attack Loic Remy could well line up alongside Papiss Cisse after coming on against Fulham and looking very sharp. Newcastle fans have been dreaming since January of an attacking 4-3-3 featuring Remy, Cisse and Ben Arfa but Pardew, a conservative manager, is unlikely to risk such an open formation so early in the season, especially away from home.
Likely line up: Krul, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon, Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Cabaye, Marveaux, Cisse, Remy.
The most obvious threat is Aston Villa’s counter-attack. It is one of the best in the league, with a dynamic front three, and Newcastle need to be wary of over-committing going forward and then being caught out. Full-backs Santon and Debuchy, both criticised for their positional play in the past, will have to be very aware.
In a very general manner each of Villa’s front three provides something different to the attack: Benteke has strength and aerial dominance (combined with accurate finishing), Agbonlahor has speed and Weimann has guile and an eye for a pass. Agbonlahor is often played on the left hand side of the front three and cuts inside. Villa like to play through balls and stretch the defence into playing deeper, thus giving Benteke more of a chance. Debuchy will have his work cut out for, deciding whether to step up and intercept the pass (and risk Agbonlahor going through on goal) or attempting to track the run. Either way, Debuchy’s defensive work will be key (NUFC 31/10 to keep clean sheet).
VILLA’S MOST IMPROVED
Benteke is the obvious danger man in attack who Newcastle will need to marshal but if Newcastle are to score the goals necessary to return to Tyneside with three points, they’ll have to contend with Fabian Delph, Villa’s player of the month for August.
Delph has made 13 tackles in three games this season, an average of 4.3 a match. He’s also made 12 interceptions and eight clearances. In the three games so far he’s proved to be a rock defensively and very calm on the ball. Delph also helps with recycling possession, he averages 43 passes a game, the highest in the Villa team, with 80% pass accuracy.
The Englishman has only offered one shot going forward in the Premier League but scored a well-placed shot against Rotherham in the League Cup after a neat one-two with Benteke. With his work rate and intelligence, he could well prove a stumbling block in Newcastle’s attempts to not let Cisse get isolated up front.
Often a joy to watch going forward, Villa have struggled defensively and are yet to register a clean sheet in the Premier League this season (Newcastle have three on the bounce in all competitions). One reason for this is Villa’s lack of Premier League quality full-backs.
Both Lowton and Luna (the latter of which scored a terrific goal against Arsenal) offer very little defensively. Should Newcastle line up in 4-4-2, which is expected, wingers Ben Arfa and Marveaux could prove effective as both full-backs have struggled against creative, technical wingers thus far this season. Newcastle fans will be hoping Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle’s most competent player on the ball, picks up where he left off against Fulham.
The time where Newcastle’s set-pieces were considered a threat has long since passed – Cabaye is a dream striking free kicks direct but otherwise his delivery is poor to average. Villa’s set-pieces however, could prove a struggled for Newcastle’s defence to handle. It can’t be understated just how dangerous Christian Benteke is: so far this season the Belgian has won 10 aerial duels, more than his entire team put together.
Newcastle’s most prolific player in aerial duels is Shola Ameobi with six, followed by Debuchy (who’s deceptively effective in the air, winning 100% of his duels against Fulham) and Santon. Benteke is likely to target Yanga-Mbiwa, still relatively new to the Premier League and prone to shirt-tugging in the box.
This season it may well be easier to play Aston Villa away than at home, with teams happy to sit back and soak up pressure rather than attack and leave themselves open to a counter attack. Villa often attack with width but Newcastle’s full-backs are better than their opposite numbers (on paper at least). Any manner of delivery from the wings will be dangerous with Benteke in the box in his current form.
Should Cabaye be given a start he’ll have a lot to prove to the Newcastle faithful after allegedly refusing to play earlier in the season following a bid from Arsenal. Cabaye vs Anita could be a key choice for Pardew to make this season. Cabaye has a higher workrate and contributes more defensively but Anita has better ball retention, albeit due to his conservatism with the ball.
Sissoko signalled his arrival in the Premier League in this same fixture last season with a terrific assist to Cisse who finished through Guzan’s legs. How many Newcastle fans would like to see a repeat? Sissoko (11/2 to score a goal any time), while putting himself about the pitch very well and showcasing his defensive skill, has struggled going forward and Cisse (8/1 to score first), yet to score this season, will be desperate to open his account.
You can follow Tom on Twitter @weeklynewsbay
All odds correct at time of writing but can fluctuate, check all up to date odds HERE
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]