Five big talking points from Newcastle v Leicester
Writer Kevin Christie looks into the big talking points from the Newcastle v Leicester clash on Saturday afternoon.
Is it time to trust in Ayoze Perez? Is Krul key to United? Does Obertan’s return raise more questions than answers? While with defenders dropping like flies, can the squad cope.
Obertan return asks more questions than it answers
Admirable and all as Gabriel Obertan’s rejuvenation and reintegration into the first team is, it is both odd and alarming that most of Newcastle’s attacking play went through the French winger; a lightning-quick but limited player previously thought to be surplus to requirements and making just his second Premier League start since March 2013.
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The raft of summer arrivals was supposed to see the return of an incisive passing game to St James’ Park but Rémy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere’s difficulties in adapting, coupled with Siem De Jong’s injury, have put paid to that plan.
Instead, fans have been treated to a series of nervy, disjointed and inconsistent performances with moments of individual magic saving Alan Pardew’s bacon on numerous occasions so far this season.
[intlink id=”49066″ type=”post”]Obertan has made some telling contributions[/intlink] since being brought back into the fold (and one gets the impression that Pardew wouldn’t be slow to take credit for his resurgence, while deftly glossing over the fact that he oversaw his drastic dip in form in the first place )but his return to prominence leads to a whole host of questions:
Is he now considered a key first teamer?
Where does Rémy Cabella go from here?
Why was Hatem Ben Arfa shipped out if the door is always open for players to return?
Will young Rolando Aarons usurp both Cabella and Obertan when he returns from injury?
It’s a safe bet that Pardew is wondering the same things just now.
Defensive crisis looms as injuries mount
With a quarter of an hour left on the clock and Newcastle facing a Leicester onslaught, Steven Taylor looked over to the bench imploringly. He was left in little doubt as to whether his manager’s final substitution would be used to spare his aching limbs. The Geordie centre back was making his first league start of the season in place of the absent Mike Williamson and was feeling the effects of a tough day at the office.
He soldiered on to help the Magpies keep Nigel Pearson’s men at bay but his struggle was a reminder that Alan Pardew simply cannot afford another injury to his threadbare back line.
Williamson will probably be back in contention next weekend but with Davide Santon still on the sidelines and both French international Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and academy hopeful Remie Streete having been farmed out on loan, Newcastle are frighteningly short of defensive cover and only a couple of injuries away from a potentially catastrophic crisis.
Lack of cutting edge a growing concern
In the end one goal was enough to seal a tense win but Papiss Cissé will be very relieved that the Magpies held on for all three points. Not only did the Senegal frontman appear to have regained his golden touch having bagged a vital brace in each of two of his last three appearances, but his all-round play looked much-improved, and he even seems to have made significant strides in his long-running feud with the offside trap.
Worryingly, however, Cissé fluffed his lines spectacularly here when presented with two gilt-edged chances and Alan Pardew will worry about the effect that will have on the resurgent striker’s confidence. With Argentinian loanee Facundo Ferreyra badly out of sorts, Emmanuel Riviere struggling to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and Newcastle’s manager reluctant to place his trust in youngsters Ayoze Pérez and Adam Armstrong, the pressure is on Cissé to supply the goals to lift Newcastle away from the danger zone.
Time to trust Ayoze
The young Spanish forward has made some impressive cameos off the bench so far this season and his introduction on the hour mark helped turn this game in Newcastle’s favour. Ayoze has made fleeting appearances in all but one of The Magpies’ games this season but he was finally given enough time to make a telling contribution against Nigel Pearson’s men. His willingness to run the channels and take on defenders freed up space for Newcastle’s other attackers to exploit – with Papiss Cissé able to focus more on getting on the end of moves than involving himself in the build-up play.
Ayoze’s confidence, pace and directness are reminiscent of a young Michael Owen and while the Tenerife native may never reach the heights of the former England forward, it is time for Alan Pardew to give him a run in the first team to aid his development and to help ease the load on Papiss Cissé.
Krul key to Newcastle’s hopes
With Newcastle’s forward players struggling to fire on all cylinders, it was a welcome clean sheet for a defence that had leaked an average of two league goals per game that laid the foundations for a first league win of the season.
Things may well have been very different had Tim Krul’s elbow injury (picked up while on international duty with Holland) been as serious as first feared. Thankfully Krul was fit to start against Leicester and had a fairly quiet afternoon but made a few key contributions when called into action. The Dutchman also made a couple of vital saves during the recent 2-2 draw with Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.
The fact that Krul’s deputy, Irish international Rob Elliot, has been on the receiving end of a number of demoralising trouncings when called into action may just be an unfortunate coincidence but there is no denying that Newcastle look a more solid and confident side with the Dutch international between the sticks.
Limited to just one penalty shoot-out cameo at the World Cup, Krul is aiming to make the national side’s Number One spot his own this season and looks up for the challenge. Another impressive season at St James’ Park may well result in some of the more ambitious clubs sniffing around the 26 year old but Newcastle’s fans won’t worry about that just yet – as long as his form helps them pull clear of relegation trouble.
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