Coloccini and Cabaye Replacements Essential In January
The state of the Geordie nation, love or hate derby matches, what’s Joe Kinnear’s job, Alan Pardew, favourite derby goals and matches?
We asked some of our regular contributors to answer a few questions of the day, next up is Mag columnist, Paul McIntosh.
What do you think of the state of Newcastle United on the pitch this season?
Plenty of reasons for optimism, particularly in our attack. Gouffran has really impressed me recently. Remy & Cabaye have been great, Ben Arfa has basically turned two draws into wins already. The defence is a concern though. Krul doesn’t look his usual self, Coloccini is away for another ‘indefinite’ absence, Yanga-Mbiwa seems to be really struggling to settle and Debuchy & Santon can be maddeningly reckless at times. Tiote has recently shown signs of a return to form. If he keeps that up he might yet take a bit of pressure off the back four and offer them some much-needed protection
What do you think of the state of NUFC off the pitch at the moment?
It’s hard to say because, as ever, we’re told so little. I’ve given up on ever receiving an explanation for the decisions Mike Ashley makes, the people he appoints, the PR disasters he seems to specialise in. Yet in so many ways the club is well run. Ticket pricing has been very good and he’s turned things around very well in terms of breaking even with a club that was losing cash alarmingly 7 or 8 years ago. I’d just like to know what Mike Ashley’s medium/long term aims are. Are we merely an advertising vehicle for Sports Direct? Is Premier League survival and weakened teams in the cups really all that we will ever strive for? Are we being made into a more marketable proposition for prospective buyers? It’s the silence that ramps up the frustration.
Which three players are crucial to Newcastle’s season?
I’m unlikely to win any awards for originality but we have three very special players in Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Remy. If on any given day we have any two of those three fit and firing we can give anyone a game. Whatever his motivations (the January transfer window? The World Cup?), Cabaye is really flying now after he looked to be on his way out.
I think most of us are resigned to the fact that he’ll probably be away 12 months from now but if in the meantime we get him back on top form then that makes him a key player for us this season. Remy seems to have the ability to score ‘striker’s goals’. He takes up good positions and plays with a relaxed confidence that is a stark contrast to what we’re seeing from Cisse. Remy seems to have had his fitness issues in the past but if we get a full season out of him he’s a potential 20-goal striker. As for Ben Arfa.. .we all know what he’s capable of, he can win games for us single-handedly. Again, keeping him fit might prove to be the biggest challenge.
Is Alan Pardew part of the problem or part of the solution?
Pardew has surprised me this season. We’ve played much, much better football on the whole. Far less long ball stuff and some very nice passing play at times. We also saw (albeit unsuccessfully) in the West Ham game that he is prepared to tweak the tactics to, for example, 4-4-2 and drop/select players according to the occasion (see Ben Arfa’s first team omission at Cardiff) which was the most frustrating thing about Pardew last season. I’d just about given up on him during April. This season still has the potential to go belly-up, of course, but I think Pardew has generally done OK.
What three separate words would you use to describe a derby match?
CANNOT CONTEMPLATE LOSING!
Which is your favourite derby goal?
Dabizas in the 1-0 at their place. It’s a little reported fact nowadays that we were right in the thick of the title race at that point. It felt like a huge goal and a huge win. Scott Sellars in the rain runs that a close second. A special mention also for the Kevin Kyle ‘goal’ in 2003. The brief flicker of mackem joy swiftly followed by utter despair was pure comedy.
Favourite derby match and why?
Has to be the Halloween 5-1. The scoreline and the performance were obviously so emphatic, but it was the 18 months leading up to that game and the totally misplaced mackem sense of superiority that made it all the sweeter.
Sunderland in same division and derby matches, or the mackems relegated to the Conference?
The latter, please. I know some people love derby day but I f***ing hate it! The fear of defeat massively outweighs the excitement of a possible victory. And that’s speaking as someone who has seen his team win 12 of the last 25 derby games. I suspect I’d hate it even more if we’d only won, say, 4 of them.
What job do you think Mike Ashley has hired Joe Kinnear to do?
I think it’s sometimes easy to portray Ashley as some sort of evil genius constantly working on new ways to pi** us all off. In reality, I think that he and Joe Kinnear are mates, Mike Ashley doesn’t know a huge amount about football as a sport, so he wants a ‘football person’ that he trusts operating at what is effectively boardroom level. Much as he had Dennis Wise doing a while ago. He undoubtedly has shocking taste in friends.
If, however, he has appointed Kinnear as some sort of spectre to hover over Pardew and present an image to the players of who their next manager will be if Pardew gets the sack, then they will undoubtedly give 100% to the current manager. In which case Mike Ashley really is an evil genius after all.
As things stand now, what needs to happen in the January transfer window?
To me it looks increasingly obvious that, at best, we’ll have Coloccini and Cabaye until next summer at the latest. So I’d like to see us take steps to replace them in January and get those players settled in before those two depart. Another striker would be good too. I don’t want to see Shola playing for us unless it’s absolutely essential and Cisse really does seem to be struggling.
Hand on heart, where do you think United will finish this season?
10th. I think we’ve got enough firepower in there to score the goals that will pick up enough points against the teams around us in the league, but we haven’t got the defensive strength to keep many clean sheets when we need to scrap for the points.
You can follow Paul on Twitter @mcintoshpaul
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