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’s almost perfect transfer window is a sign of things to come

Words by Matt Lazenby – follow him on Twitter @MatLazenby.

Fifty million spent, all star players retained and some of the deadwood cleared out. That sounds like a dream transfer window for Newcastle, however it was just shy of a few things that would have made it perfect. This seems to be a sign of things to come however as both Steve McClaren and Lee Charnley are hinting that the summer window was just the beginning for United.

It is correct to say that our window wasn’t perfect, although it is understandable that we couldn’t stretch the money to buy anymore players, as for our league position at the moment £50 million is a lot to spend and compared to the teams around us it is a landslide amount. However, McClaren’s previous press conferences have hinted that this wasn’t just a one off for Newcastle: ‘I wish I could have just spent it all now’ ‘The squad will look totally different this time next year. Did I want to spend £150 million in this window? Absolutely!’ This, coupled with Charnley’s very promising statement yesterday makes it seem as though there is a lot more money available to McClaren and that over the next few transfer windows we are looking to spend another £100 million.

If this does happen to be true and we can make some slight improvements on this transfer window then Newcastle will have a completely different squad that is worthy of challenging for the top 7 of the premier league. Mike Ashley finally investing a lot of money into the side is very refreshing for Newcastle fans to see and also seeing many of the players hit the ground running with brilliant performances can only excite Newastle fans more. If Mitrovic can keep his cool and start scoring as much as he is is getting booked then its hard to see how Newcastle fans can complain. However the window did see some bad points for us. Continue reading Newcastle’s almost perfect transfer window is a sign of things to come

NUFC Opponent Report: Analysing Arsenal’s trip to Tyneside

Words by Rob Saunders – you can follow him on Twitter @RobSaunders9.



Newcastle United vs Arsenal – 29th August 2015; St. James’ Park – BT Sport 1 – 12:45.

Before the season began, Arsenal were being touted as title favourites and with the squad and staff at their disposal, there was no reason to dispute that. Having signed Petr Cech from rivals Chelsea, a position that has weakened Arsenal season after season had been sorted. However, with the experienced goalkeeper being the only acquisition to date, and with Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to delve too deep in to the transfer market, cracks have again started to show for the Gunners.

Their performances this season have done nothing to suggest this will be the year Arsenal reclaim the title from Mourinho’s Chelsea, and fans are seen once again clambering for new faces before the transfer window shuts. Against West Ham, their defence was as fragile as ever, and their new £11 million man between the sticks had a case of first-night nerves – being at fault for one if not both of the goals in a 2-0 defeat. There were positives a week later, as Arsenal did what they often struggle to do; beat a lower side away from home; Arsenal wining 2-1, with Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil shining to stop the tactically astute (!) Alan Pardew and his Crystal Palace side.

Things were looking up for Arsenal, too. They hosted Liverpool next and with Brendan Rodgers’ side looking shaky up front, fans were confident of getting all three points. However, the first half was a nightmare for Arsenal, defensively poor and lacking promise up-front, had Petr Cech to thank for keeping them at 0-0 with the keeper getting over his nightmare debut with a string of fantastic saves. The second half was better, but still not good enough and Arsene Wenger has admitted his side has been ‘very average’ thus far.

However, Arsenal have arguably the best midfield in the league and one of the best in Europe. Attacking midfielders Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all have the ability to turn a game on its head, with Sanchez doing so many times last year to help Arsenal to finish 3rd in the league. With Ozil and Sanchez likely to be deployed on either wing, Newcastle’s defence will have to put in a similar performance to the one at Old Trafford a week previous.

Another plus for Arsenal is the way they play. Patient build-up play, silky passing and quick attacking movement makes it hard to stop them when in full flow. If Newcastle were to defend like they did against Continue reading NUFC Opponent Report: Analysing Arsenal’s trip to Tyneside

‘Hard hair, soft heart’ – introducing NUFC new-boy Florian Thauvin

Words by Chris Campbell for NUFC360 – a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates.


As Florian Thauvin emerged from the tunnel at St James’ Park, he took a moment to soak in the silence of an empty St James’ Park.

“Beautiful,” he said as he scanned his new surroundings. Neither the first nor last player to admire the unique construction and billowing stands that seem to touch the clouds, he was clearly content with his new home. For Graham Carr Thauvin’s presentation represented the completion of a chase dating back some three years when he witnessed a precocious winger delight the fans of Sporting Club de Bastia with his mazy dribbles and care-free spirit.

“It’s a really big pleasure to know the club has wanted me for such a long time,” Thauvin told NUFCTV. The former home of Michael Essien, Bastia had afforded Thauvin his first professional contract, something he was eternally grateful for. Nestled on the island of Corsica – south east of the French mainland – the club earned promotion to Ligue 1 in 2012 with the help of Thauvin.

Finishing a respectable 12th place, the campaign proved equally as successful for Thauvin individually as he recorded 10 goals in 24 starts. Collecting the Young Player of the season award, he was also named ‘best hope’ by tv channel Canal+, where he accepted his award live on TV. Quick to thank coach Frédéric Hantz and the technical staff for their help during the season, it had proven a breakout season for Thauvin in the French top flight.

Stood in front of his peers – including Remy Cabella- as he delivered his speech at the tender age of 20 there was an evident nervousness. The on-field swagger that had seen him take on the defenders of Paris Saint-Germain as if they were friends in the park had not yet translated to public speaking.

From there the seemingly endless discussion about him began. Much has been said about Thauvin the person – not all of it good.

One interview described him as Continue reading ‘Hard hair, soft heart’ – introducing NUFC new-boy Florian Thauvin

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

Swansea 2-0 Newcastle United: 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.


Glad this one is over. A sluggish start for Newcastle, who found themselves down a goal after 9 minutes. Shelvey slipped a pass through Newcastle’s back four and found Gomis all by himself with Krul, made a move and put it past the keeper. Janmaat kept Gomis onside, it was Mbemba’s man but he held the line properly. Coloccini needs to take control and leadership of his back line, absolutely poor on his part. After the goal, Newcastle seemed to turn the tide a bit and settle down, until the 41st minute, where Janmaat was handed his 2nd yellow and sent off. It was all Swansea from there. In the 52nd minute, Andre Ayew scored on a header (of course), with a beautiful cross from Montero. A very poor display, with some injury concern to Sissoko and a red to Janmaat, Newcastle United are in trouble next weekend at Old Trafford.

Here are my 20 thoughts and tidbits:

  • This was the complete opposite of the Southampton match. Very sloppy defending, no control, a sluggish start and some disciplinary problems.
  • Speaking of disciplinary issues: we got a little glimpse of the deep-rooted issues that has surrounded this club under Pardew and Carver today. With Janmaat’s red, that is now 5 red cards in 12 matches for Newcastle United. Absolutely inexcusable, we all thought McClaren would clean up the identity and discipline of this club. Haven’t seen it yet, but it’s very, very early in the process.
  • Haidara was once again shocking today. Not the answer at LB. Perhaps Dummett is the answer; I don’t know but would love to see another LB brought in. I’ve been yearning for Ghoulam at LB, would fit McClaren’s philosophy and back four perfectly.
  • Chancel Mbemba looked good, I don’t fault him for the goal, it was on Janmaat, who kept Gomis onside. When Janmaat received the red card, Mbemba was slotted in at RB and held his own but you can tell he did not look comfortable. Montero got the best of him only once but Mbemba won a few tackles.
  • With Janmaat’s red, he will miss the next match vs Manchester United. There aren’t any other RB options on the roster; this was one of the issues in the transfer window. I’m dreading having Mbemba play there with Steven Taylor in the middle. Chancel’s preferred and best position is CB; please do not turn him into another Yanga-Mbiwa! He does not have the creativity or passing touch to be a RB, he’s a rugged player with great pace, and unbelievable tackling skills but does not bring much going forward.
  • Daryl Janmaat was not good today, at all. The same player, who was without a doubt the most consistent for Newcastle last season, has started this one off on the wrong foot. Perhaps the one man we cannot afford to lose. He had a dreadful match, we understand the gameplan was to shut down Montero, but Janmaat is much better than that. Should’ve been a lot more cautious with an early yellow and the referee did let him get away with a few bad tackles but enough was enough. Even the match commentators kept mentioning how Janmaat needs to be more careful.
  • Was also quite disappointed in Georginio Wijnaldum. I do not think his best position is the #10. He should be playing next to Colback in the middle, as a #6, have Colback play Anita’s position and De Jong at the #10, but of course that was not possible today with Siem’s injury. Gini played well vs Southampton, but did not notice him much today. To be fair, no one played well.
  • Hopefully this puts an end to the Obertan vs Aarons debate. Rolando needs to start, he’s not the type of player that gets put on the pitch as a sub and thrives. He’s the type that gets better as the match goes on, needs to get his feet settled. I would like to see him start next match.
  • Did Papiss Cissé play today? He had 26 touches today in 54 minutes. Mitrovic had 32 touches in 13 minutes. Outrageous that McClaren keeps going back to Papiss.
  • On that note, why did the board pay £13M to have Mitrovic ride the bench? Him, along with Aarons, need to start vs Man U next weekend. They are the types of players that get better as the match goes on. Both need to start to have an impact on the match.
  • What’s happened to Tim Krul, by the way? Has been in shocking form since the World Cup heroics. I love this article by Malcolm MacDonald, an inside look at Krul’s recent struggles.
  • The back four gave up another headed goal today. Look at how poorly Coloccini defended Ayew’s goal. This is our captain, people. Embarrassing.
  • You could blame Coloccini’s fitness for his poor form last weekend, but enough is enough, he is not the same player he used to be. It is time to move on.
  • If there are any positives from this match, it’s that the board and Steve McClaren will realize that 3 players in are not sufficient. McClaren has recently stated that he is happy with the transfers and the way the team looks. Today’s result questions McClaren’s statements. The club needs more than 3. There are some glaring holes, a LB (Haidara?), CB (Coloccini?), winger (Obertan?). And now add to the fact that there are injury concerns to De Jong and Sissoko, it may hopefully fasten the process to bring some players in.
  • For the record, I’ve been supporting McClaren’s tactics and philosophy since his appointment, but playing 4-5-0 today was mind-boggling. This is not the club I chose to support. McClaren took Cissé off and put Aarons on but kept Mitrovic on the bench until the 82nd minute and replaced Obertan for him. You’d rather be happy with a 2-0 loss while parking the bus, than trying to get some goals while being vulnerable defensively and perhaps losing 4-0? I’d rather a team that tries!
  • If you think Mitrovic isn’t fit enough to play, do you think throwing him on the pitch in the 82nd minute will change that? He’s too good of a player to not be starting. (Ps, I’m still trying to figure out why this was deemed a yellow card. Mitrovic is growing a bad reputation, Tioté-esque. Not good.
  • Gomis and Ayew scored for Swansea. How ironic; two players that have been linked to Newcastle for a few years now.
  • Anita took a step back for me today. Was quiet. Thought he was very instrumental in the last match but was invisible today. Steven Taylor was surprisingly good.
  • These road matches are becoming an issue. Newcastle have won 1 game on the road in the last 14 and have had 1 clean sheet in the last 13. Problematic.
  • Is it time to panic? I don’t think so. It’s still very early in the season but NUFC have one of the toughest start of the season schedule in the whole PL. These are the types of matches they need to get a point out of, especially with the likes of Man U, West Ham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City coming up. For now, it’s one match at a time. It’ll be a great match next weekend at Old Trafford, talk to you then!

SWANSEA: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Williams, N Taylor, Montero (Routledge 76), Shelvey, Sigurdsson (Britton 86), Cork, Ayew (Dyer 72), Gomis

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Haidara, Colback, Anita, Sissoko (S Taylor 46), Wijnaldum, Obertan (Mitrovic 82), Cisse (Aarons 54)

Ref: Mike Jones

Crowd: 20,678