Shola Time At Chelsea?
Will it be a case of Pardew’s Phoenix rising from the ashes thanks to Shola Ameobi?
‘The night is always darkest just before the dawn.’
After the loss of Andy Carroll in January, 2011, the future looked bleak for Newcastle United. Never more so than at 4-0 down to Arsenal at St James’ Park at half-time a week after his sale. Yet a stunning 4 goal comeback in the second half showed Newcastle are bigger than any one player, and while its 11 men against 11 (or 10 thanks to Joey Barton), there remains a fighting chance.
If there’s one team in world football who could possibly bounce back from one of their worst weeks in recent history – having sold their best player and been smashed off their local rivals amid off-field turbulence – to end Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home record at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea manager, it’s Newcastle United.
Cabaye and Kinnear have gone, Remy’s suspended – disgracefully by the way as Norwich’s Bradley Johnson has previous in getting men sent off for non head-butts as he did the same to Joey Barton against QPR in 2012 – and Tiote has joined Coloccini, Gouffran and co. on a mounting injury list.
Yet such situations are when Newcastle seem to be uniquely equipped to pull off the miraculous and remind us all why we follow them come rain, hail or shine, whoever they are owned by, whatever division they are in and whomever is sold.
4-4-2 SHOLA TIME?
When Shola Ameobi came into a struggling Newcastle side in November, his partnership with Loic Remy instantly gelled and we won 4 games in a row, including a fantastic win against Chelsea.
We started scoring from corners and set-pieces again, as with his added presence and height in the team, we possessed a renewed aerial threat. Teams didn’t know who to mark and it gave opportunities for the likes of Gouffran to finish the scraps against West Brom.
Yet Shola always needs a partner up front, and brings out the best in his strike partners, and will do the same to Luke De Jong.
The Premier League is a physically tough and unforgiving place yet Shola puts himself about, takes all the knocks and challenges for every ball ,and combined with intelligent play sets up others.
When he was named Man of the Match against West Brom by Jamie Carragher on SKY after the 4th win in 4 games, to elevate us to 5th place, he said:
“It makes it easier when you have someone up there to occupy the other centre half…”
And Carragher was full of praise for our no. 23:
“That’s not Shola just playing straight up front, that’s him getting between the lines in the no. 10 role if you like..”
De Jong could well be the latest to benefit from SholaTime unless Pardew plays him up alone.
4-5-1 De Jong?
If Pardew goes 4-5-1, we have enough quality personnel to put out a team capable of getting a result at Stamford Bridge.
Luuk De Jong was in the £15M striker bracket back in August so to have secured him on a loan deal for nothing is excellent business.
He struggled in Germany after falling out with the Borussia Monchengladbach manager, yet remains a fully-fledged Dutch international.
Loans are not ideal yet I imagine, like ladies of the night, not being able to take them home doesn’t necessarily spoil your enjoyment at the time…
On a more serious note, an article in Thursday’s Independent by Rafa Benitez praised the player loan system as it gives teams a chance to, ‘try before they buy’ effectively, and see if a player can adapt to his new club, city and surroundings. This is especially important in the unique and rarefied atmosphere of St James’ Park and of course, the ‘Goldfish Bowl’ that is Newcastle upon-Tyne that little Jermaine Jenas was afraid to swim in.
Loan deals are increasing in popularity across the football world. Benitez cites the example of even a mega-rich club like Monaco taking on Dimitar Berbatov temporarily following the injury to Falcao and states that the, “the number of loan deals in the Premier League were up by January, to make 41 per cent of all new deals, compared with 29 per cent last winter.”
Rumours abound that Gladbach are paying the majority of De Jong’s £100,000 wages and if he makes a similar goalscoring impact to Remy and could persuade his brother Siem to replace Cabaye in the summer, then it could well turn out to be one of the best deals we’ve ever struck.
Good old JFK keeping our fingers on the pulse of 21st century football…
Our actual no. 10 is the one player who can benefit most from the departure of Cabaye as he is a football genius more than equipped to become the team’s Creator-In-Chief.
People ripped up their season tickets after last week’s derby when he didn’t cover himself in glory, yet I would seriously encourage anyone to not just give up their season ticket but indeed never watch any football again if they don’t rate Hatem Ben Arfa.
Players with his skill, talent, vision and wonder goalscoring ability are so rare and important, if given the licence to thrill they require, that they are the reason people watch football.
He’s not a like-for-like replacement for YoCabs yet he can more than replace his attacking contribution if a system and line-up can be found to replace PSG’s no. 1 benchwarmer’s former all-round midfield contribution to our game.
Like all players, he needs a run in the side and this will be his 3rd consecutive start (though only 5th since October) so could be back in the swing of things and ready to cause havoc at a ground he had one of his better games at last season.
Against Fulham, he lost the ball 7 times then won it with his 8th possession, so be patient.
Expect The Unexpected
Either way, we’ve got nothing to lose in a game the majority of people have already written off.
Mourinho’s mind games are in full swing in the title race, yet his mind was so distracted he didn’t see Newcastle as a threat in November when we beat them 2-0, so I don’t think he’ll have done as much homework as he did for Man City.
Not that he could do much, as Alan Pardew has a sizeable task to come up with a competitive starting XI, so our unpredictability could be our major asset.
He is still the manager of one of the world’s richest clubs so we could either lose 5-0, or end his long unbeaten record which Steve Clarke’s West Brom should have done, but for the dodgiest last minute penalty that cost him his job ultimately. Good job it’s Howard Webb in charge tomorrow…
We’ve lost an Irishman in Kinnear, a Scotsman in Willie Donaghie, a Frenchman in Yohan Cabaye and half the spine of our team to injury and suspension, yet like the mythical phoenix, Newcastle United will always maddeningly rise from the ashes again to surprise and delight us all.
Don’t Stop Believin’.
You can follow Stuart on Twitter @ultrastartime
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