Newcastle United – Trying to pick a winner
As of late, it has become harder to predict a Newcastle United scoreline than normal…and that was pretty hard already.
With the exception of the Liverpool game, I have been looking at each fixture with a sense that we may well lose, and six games into a winning run the dreaded hubris is setting in. Can we make it seven? What about eight? How about even nine?
But to dream of such things is dangerous. It is unnatural for the Newcastle fan to entertain these thoughts when history shows some karma from the distant past will get the better of us.
Wisdom suggests we should put a flag in our recent achievements and say ‘That’ll do. We were fourth in the league and that will be our greatest triumph for a while’. But to quote Henry Ford; ‘History is bunk’, and we do have genuine cause to believe that this team can hold its position at the top of the league, if not improve upon it.
Somehow we’ve not only turned it around and built confidence, we have learned to play together and enjoy it. Our defence has been brilliant, both with and without Colo, and we very rarely look like conceding. Our three man midfield of Colback, Cabella and Ryan Taylor/Abeid/Gouffran (maybe not so much Gouffran but you get the idea) has been fantastic at both breaking down attacks and getting things moving. And if Sammy, Sissoko and Perez start the next three games then we are more than likely to score.
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Because the thing we have now is flexibility and strength in depth. The team that started against Leicester contained only four outfield players that started the game against QPR. Obertan was brilliant that day but his loss through injury hasn’t had the impact it would have had without players like Aarons, Cabella, Taylor, Abeid (again, you get the idea). Last season we were heavily reliant on Cabaye and Remy and their absence for the latter half of last season (aka the dark time) blew things apart for us. But this time we just keep rolling on.
A big part of that, is our summer signings have been quite good. Cabella and Riviere might still be finding their feet but Colback, Janmaat and Perez have been superb.
An even bigger part is the young players coming through and especially Dummett, Abeid, Aarons and Ameobi. We might well see senior starts and goals for Armstrong, Roberts and Satka before too long and none of us can wait to see them. The most important aspect is that we have changed from a team into a squad. If that then becomes a problem when great players aren’t getting the games then that is not the worst problem to face the club.
We will do well to get a win at West Ham. They have a good scoring record and players that can hurt if they are just given half a chance. We need to watch out for Sakho returning from injury and obviously Andy Carroll. We conceded just three goals in the last two months (Oct/Nov) but I expect that tally to grow after Saturday. But at the same time, we will create a lot of chances, just as we have done since the start of the season, and with the defence in good shape there is nothing to suggest we won’t make it seven wins in a row.
After that, a win at Burnley will set us up nicely to get one against the league leaders who, let’s not forget, rarely win at St. James Park. From there, who knows?
Now if I could only shake off this feeling that something is going to go very, very wrong.
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