This is the Newcastle United we all know and love
Very few times this season have Newcastle United shown great fight and desire throughout an entire 90 minutes.
I could probably count the number of times on one hand.
Too many times this season Newcastle United have looked uninspiring, and even when we do manage to get our noses in front, fans have little confidence in our ability or desire to hold on to the lead.
However, Saturday’s 3-2 win against Southampton had a different feel.
Playing on the front foot clearly suits the players Bruce has at his disposal and the addition of Joe Willock certainly bolstered the dynamism and energy of the midfield. This was evident in the early stages of the Newcastle United game vs Southampton, with three goals scored in the first half of a Premier League match for the first time in five years. Yes, FIVE years!
Miguel Almiron in particular looks to be comfortable in his preferred position and put in a typically industrious performance, which was topped off with a brace of goals.
Whilst the attacking play of the past few games, the second half against Leeds, Tuesday’s game vs Crystal Palace and yesterday’s vs Southampton, have been a lot more exciting compared to what we have been used to this season, it was the defensive efforts that impressed me the most against the Saints.
Newcastle United pressed a shaky Southampton defence, who shipped nine vs Manchester United in midweek, from the first whistle. Their efforts were rewarded as they forced mistakes and won the ball in dangerous positions. Newcastle’s third goal came from Almiron’s relentless closing down, forcing a mistake from Ryan Bertrand and finishing clinically beyond Alex McCarthy. This defending from the front is a more enjoyable watch than the sitting back we have had to suffer through the majority of the season.
The dynamic of the game changed after half time as Newcastle United were required to defend resolutely and protect their lead. Following the James Ward-Prowse freekick that made it 3-2, Jeff Hendrick got himself sent off and left Newcastle United in a difficult position.
However, what followed was fight and desire that has been too often absent from this Newcastle United team this season. At times sitting in what looked like a 5-4-0 formation, the team worked hard for one another.
Their task became even tougher when Fabian Schar got injured and Newcastle were left with nine men, as Bruce had already made all available substitutes. Newcastle United weren’t disheartened by this. They challenged for every header, closed down effectively, and made heroic blocks.
The last time I remember seeing such a performance where our team fought so fearlessly was that win away to Leicester during the Benitez era, where the video went viral of consecutive crunching tackles that gathered cheers from the away fans as if we had scored a goal. This is the Newcastle United we all know and love.
I found myself cheering for every punch Darlow made, every time Paul Dummett threw himself at a shot to make the block, and every time we won a defensive header. The team were pulling together in the same direction and it was a joy to behold. This is what we want to see from our players.
Far too many times have we seen pundits claim to know what we want. ‘Newcastle fans expect too much’, they say, ‘they want to be in the Champions League.’ No, we don’t expect that. It would be brilliant to be in the Champions League for any team of course but that isn’t what we demand. We just want hope.
We want a team that shows us that they could achieve more than just existing in the Premier League. When we have sat back and failed to threaten, the team and therefore the fans are devoid of optimism.
When a team performs like they did yesterday, battling for every tackle, causing problems for the opponents and working for each other, Newcastle United fans have evidence that it can be built upon.
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