In my opinion, a really positive start to the season at the weekend.
We were the better side against a very good Southampton team.
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Down the right hand side of the pitch, Sissoko and Janmaat looked like they could develop into a frightening partnership this coming season.
At the back, Mbemba put in a fantastic debut performance, and while Coloccini didn’t really look at the races, that partnership looks steady enough for the rest of the season, especially with Steven Taylor and Jamaal Lascelles in reserve.
In the middle there is plenty of healthy competition with the likes of De Jong, Tiote and Abeid not making the starting 11.
Up top, even Ayoze Perez, last season’s stand out performer, couldn’t get onto the pitch. Which brings us to the left hand side…
At the end of last season, it was evident that the team was lacking all over the pitch.
We couldn’t score goals and we couldn’t defend. Naturally, the cries this summer were for a striker (or two) and a centre back (or two).
However, for years now, Newcastle have been screaming out for an out and out winger. A Keith Gillespie, Nobby Solano, Laurent Robert, Damien Duff… even a Wayne Routledge or a Charles N’Zogbia.
The only recognised winger we have in our squad is Gabriel Obertan.
Coming out of the game on Sunday, I heard a few people mention that Obertan had a good game. This amazed me.
A watch of the full match on TV later that night confirmed my first thought. Aside from the second goal, for which Obertan burst down his more accustomed right side, and lobbed the ball into the box, he did virtually nothing.
He made one forward run where he looked to get past his man. Time and time again, Obertan seemingly drifts through games, he wanders around, neither here nor there.
I’ve been really pleased with pretty much everything about Steve McClaren so far, his team selection (albeit Obertan), his character, but most importantly the way he conducts himself in interviews and in the press. However, his comments after the game did baffle me:
“He (Obertan) has got great pace and strength. Sometimes you have to run beyond people.
“He did that towards the end of the first half and the second goal was fantastic.
“It was good that Papiss scored, that Gabby did that and Gini also scored.”
This was apparent for both goals Southampton scored, which came down the left side. A lot of blame in the stands was put on Haidara, however, the support he received from Obertan was non-existent.
In all of his time here, I cannot remember one game in which Obertan has played well, as in an 8/10?
If anyone can think of one then please, answers on a postcard. As far as I’m concerned, there has been no in-game evidence that Obertan warrants a start. Although Gouffran may be a very poor player, and not at all a wide midfielder, at least he chips in with a few goals every once in a while.
The solution is to bring a solid wide midfielder before the end of the window. Some may laugh but I would have taken Stewart Downing from West Ham (in fact, first and foremost I would have held on to Gutierrez for one more year).
There have been calls for Rolando Aarons to start. Although going forward he is unquestionably a better and more exciting footballer, I still feel like he would not solve the problem of giving some much needed protection to the full-back.
How Obertan gets a game does amaze, he must be a hell of a player in training.
I hope Obertan proves me wrong, I want every Newcastle player to succeed, but after 4 years of hoping Obertan is going to ‘kick on’, surely it is time for a change.
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