Is Newcastle United v Manchester City Shaping Up Into Opening Day Deja Vu?
Last season Newcastle United v Manchester City was the opening match of the campaign, though on that occasion it was at the Etihad.
Twelve months ago, Alan Pardew was full of bravado and claimed he had some surprises up his sleeve, the manager stating that his players could make City pay if they were underestimating the black and whites.
This time around, Alan Pardew has suggested that Manchester City could be in for another surprise, with the sky blues at a supposed disadvantage early season because they had so many players good enough to be at the World Cup in Brazil.
Whether you think the manager’s claims are any different or more valid this time, other factors are shaping up to be very similar on the first day.
Last August Tim Krul started in goal and little doubt that this will be the case again on August 17.
In front of him, early indications are that Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini look the most likely to be in the middle. The two matches in New Zealand saw the two alongside each other, though a half-hearted experiment of playing three centre-back was ditched when De Jong went off after half an hour against Wellington Phoenix. So far Mike Williamson hasn’t been seen in any of the friendlies so already he is playing catch up.
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With Mapou once again finding himself out at right-back in these two matches down under, it only points to me to that continuing, the French defending filling in where needed unless he gets a move that has been mooted.
Transfer cash has been spent almost exclusively on the midfield and attacking thirds, with only Janmaat arriving as a like for like with outgoing Mathieu Debuchy.
Last August, Debuchy played on the right with Mapou out of position on the left, the idea supposedly of making for a stronger backline against a top team like Man City. I think there’s every chance that Mapou will once again find himself filling in somewhere other than the middle – either on the right if it is seen as unfair/unwise to throw Janmaat straight in, or Mapou seen as a more capable defender than Haidara or Dummett against top quality opposition?
While many fans think a top class centre-back is an essential signing, few believe there is any chance of this happening.
The end result is that 12 months on we are very likely to see a defence with so many of the similar weaknesses and worries as were exhibited at the Etihad last season. United going on to have one of the worst defences in the Premier League, with only two clubs who stayed up managing to concede less than Newcastle.
Over the course of last season, at different times Williamson, Taylor and Mapou were all seen as fourth choice out of four until the wheel turned yet again.
For most successful clubs the first choice back four can be reeled off with ease, while with the rest it is at least normally a minimum that the centre-back pairing is obvious to pretty much all. That most basic stage needs to be reached as early as possible, otherwise it is a massive weakness at the heart of your team.
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