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The Newcastle United Quality Teams – IF They Are Allowed To Play

7 years ago

As a Toon fan from South Wales, I have always been restricted to generally watching from afar and getting up to SJP as often as I can.

I have no coaching badges or real coaching experience in a football capacity (I play and coach rugby and have a regular foray into 5-aside football). However, during my years at University I was a dab hand at winning everything with my beloved Newcastle United on a certain management simulation game.

Given the transfer window we’ve had, the ins and outs, and the effects the moves have had on the balance of our squad and our team as a whole, I thought I’d have a go at writing something to show how I think we’d best line up for the next 35 games or so.

Of course, we have to be hard to beat away from home and extremely difficult to play against at home, we’re never going to win every game or be unbeaten home or away, but doing this will mean we pick up the elusive 40 points, which is what we’re apparently aiming for this year.

Only the top teams can afford not to change their tactics Home and Away usually, and even Jose Mourinho parks the bus, but he does have John Terry and Gary Cahill.

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We all know that a certain Mr Pardew isn’t the Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson, or even the Ron Atkinson of his generation, but let’s assume he knows something about football and is looking at how to set out his side to not concede goals with a rubbish defence and score goals with no proven ability up top.

Our Strengths

In my honest opinion, our 2 strongest areas of the park are at full back and central midfield, we all know where the issues are elsewhere.

Full Backs

Janmaat, Haidara, Santon and even Dummett offer something at full back, Janmaat and Haidara look good going forward and covering defensively, Santon looks good going forward, and Dummett is hard working and a good tackler (although that’s where it ends.) There are plenty of opportunities for rotation here with Santon able to cover both FB positions and Dummett to cover CB (or attempt to).

The reason PD started at LB against City and Villa is because he is the most defensive, essentially allowing us to play with a back 3 when Janmaat got forward, not that it did us much good against City, but we’re no Stoke!

The cover and flexibility of the lads in these positions is why we are strong here and can utilise their strength to improve our defence and attack. Janmaat is our joint top scorer after all.

Central Midfield

There are a number of talents here for us and this is definitely our strongest area on the pitch. We have defensive, attacking and box-to-box midfielders who can do a job in allowing us to protect our fragile centre backs, and assist in getting goals at the other end.

Looking at the modern game a DM is a must and Tiote, when on form, is up there with the best and Sissoko is believed to be able to do a job here as well, although the fact AP doesn’t know where to put him doesn’t help his cause. SDJ for Ajax played in Central Midfield on numerous occasions and ran the midfield a season or 2 ago when they beat Man City in the CL.

We have the ability to destroy opposition midfields with CT & Moussa and even to get forward with Moussa, JC and SDJ so there is more here than in most sides, including Man Utd. Anita is a bit too small to play the DM role I think but wouldn’t mind seeing him in front of 2 DMs as he’s quite neat with his touch and passing and his obvious versatility.

At home, at the moment I would probably start Cheick of these two with Colback or De Jong, but keep Moussa as far away from the wing/number 10 position as humanly possible.

The Weaknesses

As we all know, we’re lacking defensively at CB and experienced strikers, but another issue for me is a lack of proven wingers. You can’t play a lone striker without being able to put a cross in the box, Cabella will come good as he has undoubted class and Aarons is going to prove a bright spark for us at the moment, Gouffran doesn’t get to the line enough and Obertan… the less said the better.

Over the years we’ve had some quality providers out wide, Gillespie, Ginola, Robert, Solano, HBA and Gutierrez (haha, couldn’t cross his legs some weeks) and now we’re looking like playing 1 up top we don’t seem to have a pairing who could do this, especially now the white haired wonder has let Hatem go. HBA and RC would have petrified teams once they had gelled, alas AP couldn’t manage his sock drawer let alone somebody capable of winning you games on his own.

I think more for defensive reasons we need to play with 4 or 5 across the middle, and we’d need to have width to get Riviere/Ayose/Gouffran/SDJ any chance in front of goal, you can’t stretch 4 defenders as one man.

By far our biggest issue is now the central defensive area, a lot of people will disagree with me here no doubt but, Coloccini even out of form is still our best CB. Willo is the only defender who at well over 6ft jumps and shrinks to 5ft2, and Taylor is an English David Luiz without the technical ability.

Colo, a couple of seasons ago, would have got into many teams in the EPL hands down, but he was still at the heart of a shambolic partnership with either Saylor/Willo/MYM, which is no doubt why he would have wanted to leave, all of those times.

However, we seem as though we have been told to not close down in the box, a number of times I’ve seen Colo go to close down and stop dead, this coming to the fore against Palace when Puncheon scored, but he was on the right of central pairing where Willo was meant to be (highlighting my point).

Against City, Willo was on halfway when the ball was played to Dzeko, when he should have been clearing and again for Aguero’s goal he was on the left wing, and then he got himself sent off against Villa. Taylor was at one point called into the England squad (albeit an unused sub) he had the attributes to be class at one point but now he’s inherited Mickey Quinn’s waistline and Martin Keown’s falling elbow drop, he’ll be off to the Championship next season.

When Saturday Comes – The Tactics

Our strongest 11 players will never be on the pitch at the same time, partly because playing 3 at the back and 7 in midfield would get us nowhere fast. As I’ve mentioned, we require width to account for our striking ineptitudes and 2 DMs Away from home to protect our Defence.

As much as the tactics and formations are there to do a job in one way or another, you can’t account for human error, a stroke of luck, or Alan Pardew, unfortunately. Although we may see our team line up in a promising way, at some point they’ll have been told to defend as a flat back 9 and lump the ball forward, completely ignoring the amount of quality we have in the midfield as we did from January last year.

We have the players to be a good side, at least challenging in a cup (if they mattered) or the top 7, but I think the method of giving a professional footballer £50k a week to play the way you want, is like telling a mechanic how to fit a spark plug, sometimes you’re better off just letting them do their job.

If I was Alan Pardew…I’d have probably resigned a few years ago out of embarrassment, but here are the sides I’d pick Home and Away…


No real shocks here, we may as well play De Jong as an out and out striker at home rather than in behind, he’ll get no time in there as teams will be set out to defend and have a holding midfielder or two. Tiote and Colback could both swap with Sissoko at some point. Aarons would be better to start at home as he’d get more time and build into away games, he looks extremely promising, could be another £30m in from one of the big boys in a season or two.


Slightly more deep lying than is shown here with Cheick and Moussa as defensive midfielders and overall a tighter midfield 5, with Gouffran up top as he’s hard working and might find some form in front of goal with his ability to get in behind more easily against the slower defences. Again Colback could come in for De Jong and Haidara to cover at full-back when Janmaat comes forward and the defence slides across.

I think that given the quality and strength of our midfield, the creativity of our flair players and the ability of our full-backs, we should be able to get a top 10 finish even under this regime.

Here’s hoping that all of our players are allowed to play the way they can, and spring some surprises for us, not like the surprise on Saturday against Palace. Like the rest of you though I hope by Christmas to be writing of Alan Pardew leaving and AN Other coming in and putting a run together, but for all my positivity I will not be holding my breath.

Thank you for reading, apologies if it’s a bit long-winded, there’s a lot to say.


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