Newcastle United 2-2 Chelsea: 20 Thoughts & Tidbits

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47. Written for NUFC360 – a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates.

This Newcastle United group has had a tendency to play up to their competition for quite some time now; and it usually happens versus Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. As a matter of fact, Mourinho is still winless at St. James Park throughout his coaching career; now there’s a stat. The game started off well for Newcastle, Ayoze Perez had a few opportunities before he put the Magpies up 1-0. Wijnaldum then headed home Perez’s corner kick and Newcastle was suddenly beating last year’s Premier League champions 2-0. Unfortunately, Chelsea did score two goals before the final whistle but it was still a great result for a winless Newcastle United.

Here are my 20 thoughts and tidbits:

  1. 20 year old Kevin Mbabu was told an hour before kick-off that he would be starting at left back versus Chelsea. And what a job he did. Having to cover one of the better wingers in the world, Pedro, and at times sticking with Hazard too, is no easy task by any means. But he stood his ground and held his own. Great composure from Mbabu, I would not mind seeing him get more playing time.
  2. Since the beginning of the season, Steve McClaren has been trying to find the best role for 2 players: Georginio Wijnaldum and Ayoze Perez. Gini played some #6 role and #10 role but today was different. McClaren lined him up on the left wing and it worked out wonderfully; Wijnaldum was one of the best Newcastle players yesterday.
  3. Same goes for Ayoze. We saw him on the left wing for a few matches but he has not really gotten a chance to start as a #10. Looked tremendous last night and really linked up well with Mitrovic all game. His goal was truly incredible; the first touch was beautiful and great poise to finish it. Perez always had the making for a #10, his touch, his pace; all he really needed was a chance to prove himself and I’m glad McClaren gave him that.
  4. The formation that we saw was sort of a 4-4-2 but with Ayoze trailing behind Mitrovic. Could McClaren have finally found his best starting 11?
  5. Mitrovic’s influence on the match was apparent the moment he stepped on the pitch. His mere presence has an intimidating factor to the opposing team. Having a target man is extremely important in today’s game of football, for a few reasons. When there is a goal kick, and Krul punts it up, he’s always trying to target Mitrovic because he knows he can chest the ball down, shield his defender and keep possession for a few seconds longer. Those seconds can turn into a back pass to a midfielder and you start an attack. On the other hand, you have someone like Ayoze or Papiss as a target man, and those goal kicks no longer become possession on 90% of plays.
  6. The big Serbian also got into Chelsea’s back four’s head throughout the whole match, especially Ivanovic. The two fellow countrymen were going at it back and forth throughout the whole match.
  7. On NUFC’s first goal, Kurt Zouma lost the ball but he was also paying a lot more attention to Mitrovic than Perez and this goes back to Mitrovic’s presence on the pitch and the influence he has. Zouma knows Mitrovic is great in the air, this is what he’s studied all week, this is what the coaches have been harping to him. So when a ball like that is coming up in the air, his first instinct is to keep an eye on Mitro instead of watching Perez slip right behind him. Just an example of how impactful Mitrovic is and will be for Newcastle United.
  8. Of course, there’s always a condition. Newcastle United need to find a way to keep Mitrovic on the field. He may be the player that turns the season around for the Magpies but first he needs to stay away from bad tackles and arguing with players or referees. He was tackled hard and was played aggressively all match but did not respond once. Hopefully he’s changed that aspect of his game but will stay aggressive, whilst knowing the borderline.
  9. It is no longer a secret, but we’ve got a superstar in Chancel Mbemba.
  10. Starting to really feel bad for Siem De Jong. He simply cannot stay healthy. As soon as he was subbed on, he took a shot to the head by Ramires and was down for several minutes.
  11. Speaking of Ramires, what an impact he made when Jose subbed him on. Scored the first goal for Chelsea, distracted Tim Krul on William’s free-kick goal and almost headed a third goal in. That’s why they are PL Champions and that’s why Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the game. Those are the types of substitutions that win games and turn seasons around for some teams.
  12. After the match, Mourinho said that Newcastle’s attitude was “typical of a team that wins nothing. I think maybe one of the reasons why Newcastle over the years doesn’t get good positions is because of this mentality, it’s because they choose some matches to sweat blood and in other matches, they don’t. This is an attitude typical of a team that wins nothing”. It’s very hard to disagree with those sentiments. A draw at Old Trafford and at home against Chelsea but cannot beat Watford and Sheffield Wednesday? Something has to change.
  13. That change does not come overnight but one of the main issues is the leadership in the locker room. I’ve spoken about it on multiple occasions and said that is the root of the issue and bringing back Coloccini this summer was a mistake. Not much more can be said on the topic.
  14. It’s unfortunate that Newcastle United could’ve have secured 3 points last night, it would have been a huge relief to get that first win out of the way and they could’ve started looking ahead instead of behind.
  15. Newcastle scored from a corner kick. No joke.
  16. I thought Sissoko and Janmaat were somewhat poor. A very disappointing season for Moussa thus far. He’s supposed to be the best player on this club and roster but has not shown it. Somewhat odd with the Euro 2016 coming up, you’d think he want to showcase his best work.
  17. Truth be told, I don’t think Chelsea looked good either. They probably will end up finishing in the top 4 but that does not look like a team that is going to win back-to-back championships.
  18. Newcastle plays Man City next, the team they always have the biggest problem with. With some confidence in their spirits, we can only hope the Magpies fight and work hard next match.
  19. Florian Thauvin has been a massive disappointment. He did not see a minute of the pitch last night and some were saying McClaren was disgusted with his play versus Sheffield. Hopefully we do not have another Ben Arfa case; player with tons of talent but bad attitude.
  20. I’ve seen a lot of scrutiny and fans calling for Steve McClaren’s head of saying that these recent losses and poor results are Mike Ashley’s fault. I don’t see the correlation. They spent over 50 million this summer; how is Mike Ashley to blame? I mentioned it earlier and I’ll mention it again: giving Coloccini another contract was one of the bigger issues. This club needs a new leader.

Newcastle United 1-2 Watford: 20 Thoughts & Tidbits

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47. Written for NUFC360 – a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates.

The worst start in 16 years saw Newcastle United drop their 3rd game in a row. Six matches into the season and their 0-2-4 start means NUFC are 19th in the standings and in relegation battle with fellow North East rivals Sunderland. Playing at home versus a lesser Watford club should’ve been a no-doubt 3 points in the bag. With that being said, no game is played on paper; Watford was the much better team today, plain and simple. Odion Ighalo scored twice for Watford and Daryl Janmaat put away a nice goal for NUFC.

Here are my 20 thoughts and tidbits:

  1. When Steve McClaren was first appointed as manager, there was talk of a new culture, identity, attitude etc. 6 games into the season and other than a draw vs Southampton and draw at Old Trafford, this looks like the exact same team as last season. 50 million spent and it seems like the root of the problem is still prevailing; yet everyone is having a hard time identifying what the exact problem is.
  2. In my opinion, bringing back Fabricio Coloccini is one of those major problems. He is way past his prime and it was time to move on yesterday. Giving him a new contract and handing him the captaincy back after a summer of transfer rumours was a major mistake; he’s been one of the worst, if not the worst, player for NUFC through 6 matches.
  3. The first goal was on Massadio Haidara. He needs to learn to just punt it up the field when no one is available, enough of this fancy stuff and trying to keep possession, or losing the ball in his own end. Mike Williamson can teach him a trick or two.
  4. Today we saw the importance of a full back in McClaren’s tactics through the display and vital role of Janmaat. This is why I am mind boggled that there wasn’t more of a push to upgrade the LB position in the transfer window. Haidara is not good. Names like Faouzi Ghoulam, Jetro Willems and Raphael Guerreiro were the most mentioned. I would not be surprised to see one of those, or any other LB, come to Newcastle in January.
  5. We also saw a very forward formation today. Defensive midfielder Vurnon Anita was on the bench today and Colback was the holding midfielder. Sissoko started the game as the #10. In the 2nd half, Siem De Jong was subbed on for Papiss Cissé, LM Ayozé Perez became the lone striker and Sissoko pushed out wide.
  6. Speaking of Cissé, I sincerely hope this is the last we’ve seen of him. Cissé, along with Coloccini, should’ve both been sold this summer. It almost seemed like NUFC played with 10 in the first half because of Cissé’s play.
  7. There was a much better display and push by NUFC in the second half; perhaps this is the formation McClaren will go with from now on. Unfortunately, after Janmaat’s goal, it seemed like it was too little, too late.
  8. Watford is a well coached team, very disciplined and were winning every single 50/50 ball. When that happens, it comes down to which team has the most heart and puts in the most effort, as opposed to being the more skilled club. They were outnumbering every NUFC player 2-1 on every ball, always getting help defensively. Kudos to them. That’s how you win games.
  9. Wijnaldum did not have a good game either. He has been invisible. I’m starting to think McClaren has not found a proper role for him.
  10. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Rolando Aarons start at LB. I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t see how it would hurt. He may not have the physical ability or strength to play the position, but how much worse can he be defensively than Haidara? At least he can deliver a proper cross.
  11. Speaking of crosses, or lack thereof, what a poor showing. I can’t count how many times NUFC were delivering crosses, or attempting to, and it was blocked by a Watford player. I thought bringing Thauvin in would change that; apparently not. Strikers are not getting good service from the midfield.
  12. Watching Florian Thauvin today brought back memories of Hatem Ben Arfa and the numerous times he would try to create something when there was nothing happening. Sometimes the simple play is the right play. Get your teammates involved.
  13. Daryl Janmaat was spectacular. He always is. So is Chancel Mbemba. Both players are game in, game out the best players for NUFC on a nightly basis. If only the rest of the team would follow suit.
  14. Sissoko and Janmaat were linking up well in the 2nd They have a nice connection.
  15. However, Sissoko did not play well as the #10. He’s much better on the wing. Ayoze was invisible today too.
  16. Back to Coloccini. The second goal was a despicable display of defending by him. There are far too many times where a striker will shield the ball with Coloccini on his back, and Colo will back off, instead of sticking on the striker, which leaves his center back partner vulnerable.
  17. Everyone keeps bringing up Charlie Austin and how £15 million looks like a bargain now. I hate to say it, but bringing Charlie Austin may not change anything if the service is still poor from the midfield. With that being said, anyone is an upgrade over Papiss Cissé nowadays.
  18. With Chelsea and Man City coming up, Newcastle needed to get a minimum of 4 points versus West Ham & Watford, but came out of the two fixtures with 0. Troubling times ahead.
  19. It is far too early in the season to start talking about relegation, but there are some definite reasons to be worried. All the talk by McClaren about changing the identity of the club, yet the same problems are re-surfacing.
  20. Has there ever been a captaincy swap this early into the season? Wouldn’t mind seeing the band going to someone like Janmaat, Colback or even Wijnaldum. I would like to see Lascelles get a shot.

Newcastle United: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Haidara (Aarons 80′), Sissoko, Colback, Wijnaldum, Perez, Cisse (De Jong 45′), Thauvin (Obertan 86′).

Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Prool, Manuel Jurado (Ake 80′), Deeney, Cathcart, Anya, Abdi (Berghuis 76′), Watson (Guedioura 88′), Ighalo, Capoue.

Ref: Roger East

Crowd: 47,806

MOTM: Daryl Janmaat


5 Players NUFC Should Target as the Window Closes

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47. Written for NUFC360 – a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates.

With the transfer window coming to a close, Newcastle United have spent nearly £50 in incoming transfers. This is the most Mike Ashley has sanctioned in funds in a single window, topping last summer’s £38 million. As a matter of fact, 3 of the top 5 most expensive Newcastle United signings came this summer; #5 Florian Thauvin (£12m), #4 Aleksandar Mitrovic (£13m) and Georginio Wijnaldum (£14.5m).

Even with the spending and trying to fix the mess Alan Pardew left behind, Mike Ashley and the director’s board have finally omitted to addressing various needs on this roster. At the beginning of the window, you could make an argument that Newcastle United needed 2 CBs, ST, Winger, CM and LB; and that was only if no players were sold. So far they have addressed 4 out of those 5 positions and the only big name players that left are Mehdi Abeid and Remy Cabella. They addressed one of the CB positions with Chancel Mbemba, who looks like a superstar. Mitrovic signing addressed the striker position, but if Cissé is sold in the closing days of the transfer window, NUFC could be easily enticed into pursuing another forward. The Thauvin signing fixed the issue at winger and Wijnaldum addressed the need for another CM.

Despite all of these signings, there are still some needs across the club’s roster. Is Massadio Haidara the answer at LB? Mitrovic has discipline issues and is having a hard time staying on the field; could that be an issue? What happens if Coloccini or Mbemba get hurt? Is NUFC comfortable with Steven Taylor? We keep saying this but the club has a lot of quantity but lacks quality. Here are 5 names that Newcastle United should look at as the transfer window closes:

5) CB Joel Matip (Schalke 04): 6’3, 196 lbs, 25 years old. Cameroon international, valued at approximately £10 million. Matip would be the perfect fit, at his height and length, next to a 6’0 Mbemba. He has been linked to Newcastle all summer long and the rumours won’t go away, despite him committing to Schalke for at least another year. Newcastle would have one of the youngest and up and coming stars at CB together. Fabricio Coloccini is 33; it’s time to move on. Matip would be a step in the right direction.

4) LB Raphael Guerreiro (FC Lorient): 5’6, 147 lbs, 21 years old. Portugal international, valued at approximately £8.8m million. Lorient president Loic Fery recently came out saying Fery said: “I don’t need to explain why we want €12.5m when Kurzawa and Digne are valued today at €25m. No one [is] untransferable, but at a fair price”. Guerreiro made 33 appearances for Lorient last season, scoring an impressive seven goals from left back. He can also play on the wing, this would address a few positions for Newcastle and would definitely start ahead of Massadio Haidara.

3) ST Benik Afobe (Wolverhampton): 6’0, 172 lbs, 22 years old. England international, valued at approximately £10million. The former Arsenal academy player has seen a Newcastle bid already rejected and Steve McClaren recently stated that they are not pursuing Afobe. Truth be told, McClaren also said they weren’t going to be signing anyone else this summer two days before signing Thauvin; therefore, it does not mean much. Rumours and speculation claim that Newcastle may be better off pursuing him in the January window. Continue reading 5 Players NUFC Should Target as the Window Closes

An Inside Look At Florian Thauvin and why his path to Newcastle United resembles Hatem Ben Arfa’s

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47. Written for NUFC360 – a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates.

On August 19th 2015, Newcastle United officially announced their 5th signing of the summer. 22 year-old midfielder Florian Thauvin was signed from Olympique de Marseille for a £13 million transfer fee, which brings Newcastle’s summer spending to a whopping £50 million.

This is the most Mike Ashley has sanctioned in funds, in a single window, topping last summer’s £38 million. Long gone are the days of complaining about the owner not spending and investing into the club. Included in the deal with Marseille is Newcastle midfielder Rémy Cabella, who was signed last summer for £10 million from Montpellier. Cabella is going back to the Ligue 1 and will suit up with French giants l’Olympique de Marseille on a loan deal with an option to buy at the end of the spell. The Thauvin signing stands as the 15th French players to sign with Newcastle in the past 5 years (Cabaye, Débuchy, Amalfitano, Sissoko, Haidara, Yanga-Mbiwa, Ben Arfa, Cabella, Kemen, Gouffran, Obertan, Rivière, Marveaux, Rémy, Thauvin).

While some may say this is a straight swap of similar type players, it most definitely is not. Florian Thauvin is a natural winger, some Marseille fans say he is best used on the right side, but others claim he plays better on the left. Rémy Cabella was used all over the place and sometimes out of position last season under Pardew and Carver (surprise, surprise). Naturally a #10, Cabella would’ve been behind Wijnaldum, De Jong, Ayoze and Sissoko, in that pecking order, to play the CAM position. There was simply no room for him on the roster anymore. Cabella was seen as a flashy, tacky and flamboyant type of player, whereas Thauvin is more known to be a hard-nosed, pest. The U21 midfielder had drawn comparisons to Franck Ribéry when he was coming through the French system.

The signing of Florian Thauvin puts an end to a multi-year chase by head scout Graham Carr and the director’s board. Newcastle United have wanted this player for a long, long time. It is almost like a trophy signing for Carr. In January 2014, he was named by The Observer as one of the ten most promising young players in Europe. The ruggedness of Thauvin continues a trend of character that we’ve seen through players in the transfer window, including Mitrovic, Wijnaldum and Mbemba. McClaren wants to change the identity of Continue reading An Inside Look At Florian Thauvin and why his path to Newcastle United resembles Hatem Ben Arfa’s

Newcastle United Need a Change of Identity

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47. Written for NUFC360 – a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates.

Long gone are the days of Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer. The days where Newcastle United was a feared group of players, a team that the opposition would circle on their calendars months in advance. With one of the best stadiums, a loyal and passionate fan base and an elite scouting network, it simply does not make sense that NUFC keeps struggling year after year. I was never in the “Pardew Out” brigade, but having a switch in the managerial position could have been a blessing in disguise. Yes, just merely avoiding relegation could have also been a blessing disguise. Why? Because it meant a major change was in order. Hopefully that dire shift will bring back the Geordie identity that Sir Bobby once brought to St. James on a weekly basis.

Newcastle United have not finished higher in the English Premier League table than 3rd place since the 2002-2003 campaign; the middle of a stretch of 3 consecutive seasons with top 5 finishes (2001-2002: 4th; 2002-2003: 3rd & 2003-2004: 5th). Since then, NUFC finished 5th only once again (2011-2012) and were also relegated in 2009. Under Alan Pardew, Newcastle United finished 12th, 5th, 16th, 10th and 15th (although he left midway through the season).

How does the shift in identity happen? Well Continue reading Newcastle United Need a Change of Identity

Newcastle United supporters are a fickle old bunch…

….is the opinion of a football fan that hasn’t a clue of the true goings on at St. James’ Park. If you firmly believe Newcastle United fans are a fickle bunch of noisy Northerners then I feel embarrassed for you. Either you’ve been trapped under a stone for the past 50 years, or you don’t actually follow much of what happens at St. James’ Park, bar a quick watch of Match of the Day. Either way – do you have the right to cast a blunt, uneducated opinion on the club’s loyal followers? Being honest, I couldn’t be more disconnected from the current ‘sporting organisation’ then I am now. Any hope, excitement, life has been drained since Mike Ashley bought the club in 2007. I’m tired of Newcastle United and I’m not the only one. Recent attendances will suggest exactly that.

Since Mr. Ashley gained control of Newcastle, the club has stooped to incredible lows, both on the pitch and off it. He arrived with little to no knowledge of how football works, and it soon told with the carnage that was to unfold in the 2008/09 Premier League season. Long story short, the club was relegated for the first time in 16 years.

A swift return to the top flight ensued, as Chris Hughton led NUFC back in historic style. Then after a decent start to life in the Premier League, Hughton was sacked for reasons that are still unknown. He was replaced with an unemployed Alan Pardew, who had been sacked by then League 1 outfit Southampton. The mind boggles Continue reading Newcastle United supporters are a fickle old bunch…