The four letter word Newcastle fans are now shouting even louder
Five weeks ago, I wrote an article for The Mag about what Newcastle fans had seen in the latest match.
After a start to the season of one win in eight games, United were facing Man U.
That article what I wrote, was entitled: ‘The four letter word Newcastle fans were shouting on Sunday against Manchester United’…
I made the point (see below) that whilst Matty Longstaff quite rightly grabbed all the headlines with his winner and all round performance, there was in reality a far more important stand out factor.
Namely, the addition of pace to the team.
Allan Saint-Maximin came back into the starting eleven after injury that day and he caused Man Utd all kinds of problems.
His electric pace and direct running gave Newcastle a totally different edge, it unsettled the opposition.
The French winger wasn’t alone though, as Miguel Almiron was almost as lively on the other side.
No coincidence either that Man Utd was also the game where DeAndre Yedlin made his return to the first team after injury.
Moving forward five weeks and Newcastle have played Man Utd, Chelsea, Wolves, West Ham and Bournemouth in the last five games, three wins, one draw and just a single defeat.
Saint-Maximin and Almiron have started all five games.
As have Yedlin and Willems.
The Dutchman isn’t a great defender but he is a better attacking player than Matt Ritchie and just as importantly maybe, he is more mobile/quicker than the Scottish international.
Rafa Benitez developed a great team formation to get the best out of what he had last season.
He recognised that with so many quality options at centre-back, it made sense to play three of them in a back three/five formation.
Rafa made clear any number of times during his management days at St James Park that he desperately wanted to add more pace to his team.
However, he was hamstrung by Mike Ashley refusing to allow proper investment in the squad, or indeed any net investment in summer 2018. Buying attacking players with pace and ability isn’t viable on such a tight/non-existent budget.
Rafa Benitez was further handicapped by Kenedy showing absolutely no interest or desire in his second loan spell.
With his three centre-backs, the Spaniard was desperate for two quick wing-backs and two quick attacking players to play off the main striker.
Even with just the signing of Almiron we saw a massive difference that his pace made. Perez not particularly quick but he and Almiron playing so well off Rondon, especially on the break, Yedlin bombing down the right and Ritchie holding his own on the left.
For me it is no surprise that now with Saint-Maximin, Almiron, Yedlin and Willems all on the pitch together, Newcastle are looking far more of a threat. Both with and without the ball.
When Steve Bruce has occasionally cast off his usual defensive tactics, it looks even better. If the team are allowed to push further up the pitch then these four, along with Joelinton, can press the opposition and create pressure even when they haven’t got the ball.
A bit of a shame really that Steve Bruce went so defensive and deep against Wolves in the second half when leading, inviting them to pressurise and score. The same at Chelsea, the few times that Newcastle pressurised a suspect looking home defence, it was panic all around. I think if Bruce had been braver then it would have been a win against Wolves and who knows against Chelsea.
Pace is the one thing that opposition players hate and fear because no matter how good you are, if somebody like Saint-Maximin gets the run on you, you aren’t going to catch him. You look at that Yedlin equaliser on Saturday and that was a goal that was purely down to pace and of course the player prepared to gamble the ball might fall his way.
I look forward to Villa away after this break and I just hope that the likes of Almiron and ASM get plenty of shooting practice in the meantime, as if they can add goals to their pace, who knows where it could take us.
My article on The Mag – 9 October 2019:
Newcastle fans had a new hero to shout about on Sunday.
Local lad Matty Longstaff giving a great all-round performance that was topped by that beauty of a goal.
Manchester United might have been rubbish but so what?
They have beaten NUFC plenty of times when we have been rubbish, so who cares?
The 19 year old midfielder might have scored the winner and picked up the man of the match award but this victory was built on far more than that.
If we are honest, it was’t really down to a much improved footballing display.
It isn’t a criticism, just a fact.
Newcastle did have their moments but yet again it was a game with predominantly defending and when United (the proper one that was around long before the Manchester one) did have the ball, they yet again struggled to create chances and indeed hold onto the ball.
Instead, this win was built on excellent workrate and commitment, plus one other vital ingredient.
That four letter word….pace.
That was the big advantage Newcastle United had over their Manc rivals, pace and mobility.
Matty Longstaff ran more than any other player, you couldn’t have a bigger contrast from say having Shelvey in the team.
He ran all over the opposition never letting them settle and of course that up and down, all over the pitch, energy saw him running onto the ball just outside the Man Utd box in the 72nd minute.
So many times this season we have seen Joelinton and Almiron completely isolated but that wasn’t the case on Sunday.
Arguably all five changes to the team brought more pace and mobility.
As well as Matty Longstaff you had of course Allan Saint-Maximin, his pace speaks for itself and it totally unsettled Manchester United, including when helping to set up the winning goal.
Jetro Willems isn’t fantastically quick but gets up and down the pitch far more than Atsu and of course he was there to get the ASM pass and lay it off for Longstaff’s goal.
Ciaran Clark has more mobility than Paul Dummett and played very well and of course DeAndre Yedlin, pace is his biggest selling point by far. Plus he played far far better than Krafth who has looked woeful.
Miguel Almiron has taken a lot of stick this season, some of it deserved, but when you are usually the only player sprinting in the team, it doesn’t make life easy.
For the winning goal it was he who kept a clear head and picking the ball up very deep on the left in defence he held onto it. Usually he would have seen an isolated Joelinton and a handful of defenders but instead there was ASM who he picked out with a superb pass in the middle of the pitch and the rest is now history.
Newcastle United might not have the best players or team but when using the pace (and mobility) that exists in the squad, just maybe that can be the key to a far better season.
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