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

Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal (& Andre Marriner): 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.

A frustrating match for Newcastle United supporters and the Geordie faithful. Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent off 16 minutes into the match with a debatable red card. The Gunners were dominating early on and the red card saw NUFC draw completely back; at one point the possession was 75-25 in the favor of Arsenal. Newcastle held their shape and defensive line until the 52nd minute, where an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shot deflected off of Coloccini’s leg and behind Tim Krul. A great defensive display by Newcastle; who could have easily come out of this fixture with at least a draw, despite a harsh red card from Andre Marriner, lost 1-0.

Here are my 20 thoughts and tidbits:

  1. I’m going to start off by saying that this was one of the poorest showing of officiating that I have seen in quite some time. Andre Marriner was handing out yellow cards to Newcastle players like candy on Halloween.
  2. Marriner did not have a handle on this match from the get go. This is the same referee that sent off Kieran Gibbs by mistake when it should have been Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain last season. How can someone like that still be employed as a Premier League official? Baffling.
  3. As for the Mitrovic red, we can sit and debate for days but one thing is clear, he is a building a reputation that is Balotelli-esque. The red was definitely questionable, there was no intent to injure and the ball was in the air. It was a clumsy, but costly, challenge. A borderline red but had this been Santi Cazorla or Sanchez making that challenge, it’s probably a yellow with a severe warning. Someone like Mitrovic or Tiote? Straight red. Unfortunately, in this case, you reap what you sow.
  4. Having Andre Marriner as a referee did have one advantage. Florian Thauvin tripped Hector Bellerin in the box and should have been a PK but there was no call.
  5. 6 yellow cards for Newcastle United (Sissoko 3’, Mbemba 19’, Thauvin 26’, Anita 48’, Wijnaldum 49’ & Coloccini 92’) and of course a red for Mitrovic in the 16th Only Cazorla was booked for Arsenal, and that wasn’t until the 49th minute.
  6. Speaking of discipline, this is now 2 red cards in 4 league matches and 6 in their last 14 games for the Magpies. It is surely becoming a growing concern for McClaren and the coaching staff. Need to get that sorted out.
  7. Continue reading Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal (& Andre Marriner): 20 Thoughts & Tidbits

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

Newcastle United 0-0 Manchester 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.

A staggering defensive display from Newcastle today, one that fans had not seen in quite some time, was one of the main reasons for a startling draw at Old Trafford today. Wayne Rooney seemed to have put Manchester United up early but was flagged for offside. Man U kept pushing and had the Magpies on their backheels. Once Newcastle settled down and kept a little bit of possession, Mbemba delivered a wonderful lob that met Mitrovic’s head but rattled the crossbar. There were some other tremendous opportunities for Manchester; one from Chicharito late in the match, but Tim Krul displayed some utter brilliance to keep it out. Steve McClaren subbed Tioté on in the 78th minute and the team held their defensive shape to escape Old Trafford with a point.

Here are my 20 thoughts and tidbits:

  1. It was a very sluggish start, Newcastle was luckily to not be down 2-0 early on, but once they weathered the storm, and kept possession, the Magpies looked much better. They got better as the game went on.
  2. There was a major gap between the midfielders and defenders at the beginning of the match. Anita, Colback and Wijnaldum were not on the same page as Steven Taylor and Coloccini. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Januzaj and Rooney had plenty of room to roam in the middle of the field. But once again, when Newcastle weathered the storm and picked up their defensive responsibilities, the game took a turn.
  3. This should be the last time we see Gabriel Obertan starting. Ayozé displayed some great defensive instincts on the left hand side and was helping Haidara as much as he could. The same cannot be said for Obertan. Depay and Mbemba were going at it 1 on 1 95% of the time and Chancel was on an island by himself, without the help of his winger. Poor display by Obertan today, with Thauvin fit and much better options (Aarons, Ayoze, Sissoko if healthy), Obertan’s days in the starting lineup are numbered.
  4. We got a glimpse of what Mitrovic brings to the table when he receives proper service. In the 20th minute, the Anderlecht boys connected for the best chance Newcastle had all match. A great cross from Mbemba reached Mitrovic’s forehead and his powerful header smashed the crossbar. Here are two angles of the chance: &
  5. Speaking of Mitrovic; I thought he was great today and displayed some fantastic power and defensive abilities. He was tracking back and clearing away corners; something we never saw from Papiss Cissé. However, soon he will realize that he won’t get all the calls all the time, that this is a different league and he’ll start having a massive target on his back (if he hasn’t already). This guy is becoming problematic for the opposition and they are trying to rattle him as much as possible. Kudos to Mitro for standing his ground today and not reacting to bad tackles and receiving another yellow.
  6. This was by far Coloccini’s best game this season. No doubt, man of the match. Held his ground, was a leader on the back line and had them all pick up their defensive duties. Key blocks and uncanny tackling; we got a taste of old Colo today. Happy to see that.
  7. Someone else who has been poor recently but was incredible tonight: Tim Krul. Had an astonishing game changing save on Chicharito in the 79th minute ( that protected Newcastle from earning no points today. Krul was in control all day. Was he showing off in front of his old national team coach?
  8. Keep in mind, Newcastle was missing arguably their two players today (Moussa Sissoko and Daryl Janmaat). Stupendous performance without those two.
  9. What more can you say about Chancel Mbemba? I keep harping on his abilities and defensive prow. Memphis got the best of him at times but the Chancellor held his own. Not your typical RB, a much more natural CB, he did present some beautiful touches and as previously mentioned, delivered an incredible ball to Mitrovic.
  10. Florian Thauvin also looked the part today, which is impressive since he has only had about 2 training sessions with the club. He looked like he belonged today, it won’t always be smooth sailing but you can tell he’s got the touch and vision to be a player in this league. Hopefully he is the solution to the problematic and dreadful service Mitrovic has received up top. Here are some of Thauvin’s touches today (
  11. Another solid performance by Wijnaldum. By no means did he wow or stand out, but he was quietly good and that’s still impressive in a defensively tactic scheme put out by McClaren today. He pushed out wide with 10 minutes left in the match and played well; this man can play all over the field. Once Sissoko is healthy, those two will strive playing together.
  12. I thought Ayozé was also quietly good today; he brought a different dynamic to the wing that Obertan does not bring and is responsible defensively, which is important when playing next to Haidara. Perez’s craftiness and his knack of knowing when to cut left or right, or turn around the defender is incredibly important when you play on a starting 11 that lacks creativity; and let’s be honest, creativity is one of this team’s biggest deficiency.
  13. Wijnaldum and Mitrovic were on the same page, and their confidence and comfort with one another will keep growing as the season goes on.
  14. Vurnon Anita was good, once again. He did not have the best of games versus Swansea last week but looked worthy today. Nice to see his career and game revitalized under a manager that knows how and where to play him.
  15. In Manchester United’s defense, Wayne Rooney’s goal was not offside.
  16. Haidara’s positioning in today’s match is something else ( Seems like he’s more of a winger than a fullback these days. This is one of the club’s biggest issues; they need a real LB and/or a cover RB. Cannot keep playing Mbemba on at RB anymore, don’t want him to become another Mbiwa.
  17. This was one of the most exciting 0-0 matches I’ve watched in quite some time.
  18. At the 78th minute, McClaren brought Tioté on for Perez and the team sat back and did their best impression of mimicking a wall. 45 clearances, 32 tackles, 26 blocks (!!), 13 interceptions and a clean sheet. Like I said, a wall.
  19. With one of the toughest start of the season schedule in the whole Premier League, coming out of Old Trafford with a point is a big result and a major boost of confidence for this team going forward. It all goes back to the players listening to the manager’s words and executing the proposed plan. Need to see the same performance next week at home versus Arsenal.
  20. Fans started seeing the impact Steve McClaren is having on this club. A reformed team and the tactics seem to be working. Today he had a plan and the team exquisitely executed it. The club may have looked exposed early on but the veterans like Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Krul made sure the team held their ground to come out with a point. Instead of harping about gaining a point away at Old Trafford, McClaren talked about missing out on 3 points. That is the difference between him and Alan Pardew. Talk to you next week!

MOTM: Fabricio Coloccini

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul, Mbemba, Taylor, Coloccini, Haidara, Anita, Colback, Wijnaldum, Obertan (Thauvin 69), Perez (Tioté 78), Mitrovic (Cissé 88).

MANCHESTER UNITED: Romero, Darmian (Valencia 77), Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Schweinsteiger (Carrick 59), Schneiderlin, Januzaj (Hernandez 67), Mata, Memphis, Rooney.

Ref: Craig Pawson

Crowd: 75, 354


Newcastle United player ratings:

Tim Krul – 8

Chancel Mbemba – 8.5

Steven Taylor – 7

Fabricio Coloccini – 9

Massadio Haidara – 6.5

Jack Colback – 6.5

Vurnon Anita – 7

Georginio Wijnaldum – 7.5

Ayoze Perez – 7 (Cheick Tioté – N/A)

Gabriel Obertan – 5 (Florian Thauvin – 7)

Aleksandar Mitrovic – 8 (Papiss Cissé (N/A)