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


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

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

10 Keys to a Successful Season at Newcastle United

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.

As Steve McClaren was introduced at St. James Park, he declared that a top 8 finish was the goal for the upcoming season. This seemed like an incredible feat for a team that merely staved off relegation in the previous season; it wasn’t until the last game of the year where they secured safety in the PL. Fast forward 3 months, a brand new coaching staff, new philosophy and culture at Newcastle United and with it comes the fresh perspective of positivity; a word that has become awfully foreign in the North-East of England.

A top 8 finish may seem a tad unrealistic with the current squad. The evident concern is that this roster has a cluster of players at every position but there’s also an obvious lack of talent. A team with quantity at most positions, but not quality. A new coaching staff will bring a fresh perspective, give a handful of players a new start and an altered culture to the club. Let’s face it; anything or anyone not named “John Carver” is a step in the right direction. And then there are the signings of Wijnaldum, Mitrovic and Mbemba, all of whom should have a virtuous impact on the team but it cannot end there; the board needs to bring in more players. So, what are the factors to a successful season? Below I have listed 10 elements that’ll pave a way to a “successful” season for Newcastle United. Continue reading 10 Keys to a Successful Season at Newcastle United

Meet NUFC new-boy Georginio “Gini” Wijnaldum

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.

Newcastle United are no longer the only EPL team without a signing in the summer transfer window. Steve McClaren urged fans to be patient because the board and coaching staff wanted to ensure they were bringing in the right type of players, with character and top work ethic. The sort of players who do not see Newcastle as a stepping stone to build their name and move onto bigger clubs; they want to bring consistency and a culture change to the club. As most players have learnt, the grass isn’t always greener; ask Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Débuchy, Loic Rémy, Demba Ba and Andy Carroll, for example. How do you change the culture of a team? Well, for starters, you sign the captain of the Eredivisie league champion in back to back seasons. Last summer it was Siem De Jong from Ajax, and yesterday it was Georginio Wijnaldum from PSV Eindhoven.

The 3rd most expensive NUFC signing of all-time, Georginio Wijnaldum (pronounced Why-Nahl-Dum) was officially introduced on July 11th at a rumored fee of £14.5m. The 24 year-old midfielder was also on the Netherlands World Cup team last summer, scoring 1 goal and appeared in all 7 matches. Last season, Wijnaldum appeared in 33 matches for PSV, scoring 14 goals with 3 assists and was named Dutch Footballer of the Year. Born in Rotterdam, he came through the Feyenoord youth club and was with their senior team from 2007-2011. In the summer of 2011, PSV came knocking at the door of Feyenoord, who were having financial troubles and sold Wijnaldum for €5M. Eventually was named captain of PSV before the 2013-2014 season and a year later led them to their first championship since 2008.

Wijnaldum mentioned in his interview after being unveiled at St James Park, that fellow countryman Tim Krul has been pleading for Georginio to join Newcastle United for the past 8 years. Other Netherlands internationals on NUFC include Siem De Jong, Daryl Janmaat, Vurnon Anita and the aforementioned Krul; who will all hopefully make it an easy transition for Wijnaldum in the North-East. I went back and watched tape of the Netherlands matches in the World Cup and a certain #20 (Wijnaldum) kept standing out (for good purposes). Strong on the ball, great pace and always anticipates the play two steps ahead. Scored a beautiful goal vs Brazil in the 3rd place match, set up by our very own Daryl Janmaat!

It’s easy to watch YouTube clips and highlights of an individual player because they show nothing but the positives. I wanted to find out more, to do more research on the pros and cons of Wijnaldum’s game. I reached out to two PSV and Eredivisie watchers to help me assess his play and both had similar thoughts on Wijnaldum. SjorsvanVeen (@Sjors_vanVeen on Twitter) told me:

“Wijnaldum is a huge signing for NUFC, has power, pace and is a very complete midfielder. Favourite position is the number ten but can also play on the wing. The youngest debutant for Feyenoord at the age of 16, great prospect and plays box to box. Played the number 10 position at PSV for 4 years and was going to sign at PSG in January but had an agreement with Depay that they would win the Eredivisie league and both move in the summer. His weaknesses are that he’s got a low conversion rate, has a hard time finishing and a wild shot. Needs to work on that”.

Willem Vernooji (@WillemVernooij on Twitter) assessed Wijnaldum’s game by saying: “(GW) Often played the CAM but can play the CM, played there for Netherlands. Has a great sense to get in the box”. I asked them both to compare him to a player right now and both had the same exact answer “Simply put, there is no comparison; a player with pace, strong number 10 in very good condition, who can score. He is an extremely unique player and that is in fact a good thing. Let him make his own destiny and have others be compared to Wijnaldum”. The closest comparison I got was Blaise Matuidi or a Jonathan De Guzman without the free kick abilities.

It is interesting that both bloggers say he’s a number 10 and plays the CAM. NUFC already have that type of player with Siem De Jong. Steve McClaren likes to play a 4-3-3 with 2 holding midfielders (4-2-3-1), meaning the top of the triangle is already occupied by De Jong. So, where does Wijnaldum fit? Well, we sort of got a hint from McClaren after last night’s friendly against Gateshead. According to Mark Douglas, Wijnaldum is going to be playing a big part in the “Double 6” formation, and he will occupy one of the holding midfield spots, likely next to Jack Colback. “It’s a position most German sides use and translates into a box-to-box midfielder, prepared to work in the space between two penalty areas”, The Chronicle. “Basically, he’ll be playing the type of role made famous by Yaya Toure, starting from deep but getting forward to support the front men”, WhatCulture. Moussa Sissoko also played on the right hand side of the attacking midfield three in the friendly vs Gateshead, which is another hint that Wijnaldum will be one of the holding midfielders. After all, Wijnaldum (or Gini) does have experience playing that CM position in the World Cup with the Netherlands; it will be familiar for him.

Getting Wijnaldum over the line is a perfect example of what Steve McClaren said to fans in the e-mail on how important it is to get the right players through the door. This is a great first step and a fresh perspective for NUFC and their attempt to change the team identity and get rid of the club stigma. Bringing in a captain of a squad with top class character and international experience is massive. Watch Wijnaldum’s reaction once he enters St. James Park, it really speaks volume on his humbleness, modesty and attitude. Hopefully this is the first of many signings that bring with them a fresh perspective, leadership abilities and willingness to represent Newcastle with pride and honour. Gini wants to be here, he wants to wear the black and white and I think NUFC fans will witness that first hand this upcoming season.

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