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The Newcastle United view from Bangalore

6 years ago
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Well I thought I would give it a go at writing something for you and hope you like it.

I have been a lifelong toon fan and they are hard to find here in India (Bangalore).

Keep on the good work, I love reading The Mag. So, here it goes:

It is hard to watch weekday night football in India, with kick-offs well beyond midnight. Add to that the miseries of watching lacklustre and uninspired first 45 minutes. The urge to switch the TV off is just too overpowering. But then, I have been a Toon fan for life, and I know the game has not yet started for the Magpies.

You have to give it to Pardew. He has that knack to get you completely and utterly flabbergasted. Be it his team sheet, or his player positioning, or his tactics, he can make you doubt your reading of the game most of the time.

(To feature like Rishiraj, send in your articles for our website to [email protected])

You can be pleasantly surprised with this at times, like the 6 game winning streak, or you can be left in utter misery like the first half at Turf Moor. Now that the golden run is over, let’s look at the Burnley game, considering that this was our chance to get right back to the spirits and the exuberance where we left it against QPR.

Luckily, we got three of our back four and our deputy goalie on the pitch despite all the doomsayers. And we got Abeid back to strengthen our midfield with Tiote. So that’s a solid back line, not much to worry there one would say, not against Burnley at least. The bigger worry was about lining up the attacking third with the powerhouse Sissoko missing. So how does Pardew allay your fears?

He gives you a lightly built out and out forward as the attacking midfielder, an eternally out of touch low on confidence striker up front, and a horribly out of form and despicably lazy striker on the wings. Imagine, out of the front four, Sammy Ameobi on the left wing looked the most reassured and the most threatening in the first 45 minutes of the misery at Turf Moor.

In common footballing sense, Ayoze Perez is not the one who would collect the ball from an Abeid or a Tiote, power past a couple of defenders and distribute it wide to the wings or pick the lone striker with a through pass. By the end of the 45 minutes, he had been made a complete fool of in that role, only to be substituted at halftime. What a reward for his brilliant goal-coring run which turned Newcastle’s fortunes this season!

Anyone who had been at Upton Park would have left the field assured that Gouffran is sure to be on the bench for some time with Remy Cabella sure to have an extended run after his impressive cameos. But Pardew has that knack you know. It is like as if he is playing with the minds of the supporters.

First he plays Gouffran on the right wing instead of Cabella, then all the attacking threat from his team in the first half comes from the left wing. Even without the stats, it can be said with considerable guarantee that Rob Elliott may have got more touches that Gouffran in the first half. Despicable!

Cisse is not a poacher, though he scored our only goal as one. He is not the target man. He is not the holding central forward. He is just too lost in this entire set up. You cannot deny him being a quality goalscorer, considering what he achieved in the 2012-13 season. But since then, he has lost his mojo, and I really feel sorry for him. But that’s something I can afford as a fan. Not a manager.

The entire first half Cisse wandered around the pitch like a headless chicken. Not to help his case though, his first-touch bloopers and poor passing disrupted the play far too often.

But such has been the spirit of the Newcastle team this season (since Southampton), that there was much to look forward to the second half. And we got to see the other side of Pardew. A double substitution with Cabella replacing the rather unfortunate Perez, and Steven Taylor coming in for a listless, already cautioned Williamson.

The play continued predominantly on the left wing, but with much more assurance. Sammy and Haidara were a treat to the eyes, and so was Cabella. That is where the crucial (and lucky) break came when Trippier cleared right in the path of Cabella. Janmaat crossed the loose ball well, and even if the commentators cried that Gouffran “cleverly” nicked the cross into Cisse’s path (OR dummied it to him!!), I am quite sure he went for a cute back-flick towards goal, and missed the ball completely, and thanks to that our goal came off Cisse’s knees. Thanks to some good luck and some solid build up play, spearheaded by Cabella and Sammy.

The game was very much there to be won, and it was impressive to see Steven Taylor pushing up the pitch more often than not. More than that, there was a change of tactic by Pardew which was most impressive – the short balls from Elliott to Tiote instead of the long hoofs, which opened up the pitch. Burnley held on, our horrendous deadball situations piled up and we got the comeback point. If only it had started earlier.

With Chelsea, it would be suicidal to leave it to the second half. The best bet would be to have Cabella and Sammy on the wings, Ayoze/Cisse upfront and Sissoko as the no. 10. I would love to see Riviere get an extended run, remember he scored more goals than THE Falcao last season in France.

With those three, you do not even need Gouffran on the bench.  The Premier league is unforgiving. Against the top contenders, there will be little chance of a comeback if all of Pardew’s sane tactics are reserved for the second half.

Spurs was a miracle and we have had only a single four goal comeback in the last four years. December will decide our fate in this season, and it will all depend on whether we turn up for the entire 90 minutes, or it is a tale of …only Second Halves?

Howay the Lads.

You can follow Rishiraj on Twitter @rishirajlahiri

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