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The road to redemption

5 years ago

Well we won an away game at last! And we are already being told not to get carried away!

I guess Steve McClaren had a similar PR line ready if we had to lost to another nondescript side, in a faraway land, playing 80% of our first teamers.

The horror of the first 15 minutes at Stamford Bridge has more or less faded in the long ‘undesirable’ break – but that game has put all the shaking of heads and quiet murmurs of NUFC “just having a bad time…” and “we have enough games to go…” deliberations to an end.

We are, and in fact have long been, in a relegation dogfight. It’s just that now that the road to perdition cannot be clearer for all detractors, and so we have 12 games, 6 home and 6 away, to rather take the road to redemption.

What went wrong?

Who cares! Wouldn’t retrospection add more pressure on a fragile bunch of players, who are yet to gel together and come to terms with the gameplay tactics of the gaffer, however good or bad it might be, even after two thirds of the season is over?

Well, to be honest, retrospection is most likely not in Steve McClaren’s skill set anyways, otherwise we wouldn’t have lingered among the unworthies of the Premier League for a full season.

So, what we need is a clear game plan for the next 12 games and in this piece I put forth a very simple proposition – different teams for home and away, with different aims and expected outcomes.

Home team – 4-1-3-2

Elliot, Janmaat, Colo, Mbemba/Taylor, Colback, Shelvey, Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Townsend, Perez/Doumbia, Cisse/Mitrovic

Roles and Responsibilities:

Mbemba if fit should slot in right in the central defence, with Colback out on left-back duty till Dummett returns. Shelvey as the lone CDM, picking up balls from deep in defence and spreading the ball out to the last third of the field.

Sissoko and Townsend as the wingers, alternating on the right and left fields, and with a sole purpose, getting those crosses into the box.

Wijnaldum slotting behind the two strikers upfront, we have four options plus Riviere, so multiple combinations possible, but the idea is to have numbers in the box and more shots on goal. My vote goes to Cisse + Mitrovic, if both fit. Mitrovic to do the hold-up, Cisse to make the runs for Shelvey to pick. Ideal.

Substitutions and contingencies:

Perez and Siem de Jong (lest I forget, if fit) must have the impact sub role in case of a deadlock or a deficit at the 65-70 mins mark. The formation to be kept fluid to drop to a 4-1-4-1 diamond or the traditional 4-4-1-1, but never to revert to a 4-2-3-1, except in a rare situation where we want to see out a lead for the last 5-10 mins or so. Aarons for Sissoko, with Townsend moving to the right would be an ideal substitution if Wijnaldum need to be rested. Sissoko can see out games in the central attacking mid role or CDM even.

Expected outcomes:

Bournemouth and Sunderland in March, Swansea and Palace in April. Four games, and no less than four wins. All 6-pointer relegation games, all must-wins for the parties involved, and we get a massive advantage first-hand: 50,000 Geordies behind the team.

City and Spurs at home should be put out of the equation if we win all four, else it will be really difficult. Only key performance indicator (KPI): Shots on goal. Everyone from Mitrovic to Cisse to Gini to SIssoko to Townsend to Shelvey, you get a sight at goal, you pull the trigger. Forget the beautiful game, the time is to get dirty and intimidating.

Away Team – 4-2-1-2-1

Elliot, Janmaat, Colo, Mbemba/Taylor, Colback, Saivet, Tiote/Anita, Shelvey/de Jong, Townsend, Aarons, Cisse/Mitrovic/Perez

Roles and Responsibilities:

No change in the back 4. The midfield has a lot of shocks, necessary exclusions in my opinion. Saivet, Tiote and Anita. Any two for a CDM partnership, based on fitness of course. For now, let’s have Saivet and Tiote.

Townsend on the right wing, with Aarons on the left. Shelvey or de Jong, I’ll prefer de Jong if fit, on the CAM duty, with a lone striker up front. Perez gets my vote here to start. So first change, no more crossing and hoofing, short passing, cutting in field as much as possible, keeping the midfield compact and looking to break into counter wherever possible.

Substitutions and contingencies:

Sissoko, Gini and Mitrovic as impact subs. If de Jong is fit, he goes into CAM, with Shelvey and Saivet as the CDM duo. Subs only in case of deadlock or deficit at the 65-70 mins mark. The formation can be alternated to a 4-4-1-1, or a 5-4-1. Sissoko for Aarons, and Gini for De Jong, with Shelvey falling back.

Expected outcomes:

Stoke, Norwich and Aston Villa. One winnable game every month. That’s the target. Keep a clean sheet with dogged defending, if get a goal in counter, great! See out the game with Chelsea-style defending. Commentators can frown and taunt, but the end result is key. Four/five points out a possible 9 would be a must.

Leicester, Southampton and Liverpool. I will give no importance to these games. Only target, try to keep a clean sheet. If possible, good. But these are way down the priority list.

So with this, the calculation stands like: STK (W/D); BOU (W); LEI (L); SUN (W); NOR (W); SOU (L); SWA (W); LIV (D/L); CRY (W/D); AV (W); TOT (L); MANC (L)

4-6 wins (4 home, 2 away; dare I say) = 12-18 points

2-3 draws (2 home, 1 away) = 2-3 points

4-5 losses = 0

Final season tally = 39-44

The job is yours Steve. Fingers crossed. HWTL…

Rishiraj Lahiri (Now from New Delhi after having moved 1,336 miles from Bangalore)

If not for the wonderful Black-and-white and Alan Shearer, I would have never got stuck with Newcastle. But then I fell in love at first sight, and the affair continues…. long distance….And one day, I will be there at SJP and I will cheer you on lads…

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