Newcastle's stuttering start could see them return to obscurity
By John Fernandez
Newcastle United have suffered a stuttering start to the 2012-13 season and find themselves firmly in the deep, dark regions of mid-table, so what has been different from their lightning fast beginning to the season last year?
Well first and foremost when you look at the Toon’s success last season, it’s obvious that while the frontmen gained the plaudits, the rear guards exemplary early season performances were the driving force behind their ascendency. Until the 19th November, Newcastle managed to keep themselves unbeaten and the solid defensive partnership in the centre of Fabricio Colocini and Steven Taylor which led to four clean sheets in the first section were the bedrock of their season. Colocini's ability on the ground which saw him come up as Newcastle's joint highest pass completer (which when you're competing with a master like Cabaye is impressive), combined brilliantly with the no-nonsense attitude that Steven Taylor brings the the back-four. It's a classic one does the nitty-gritty the other gets it out to the midfield.
At full-back Danny Simpson silenced his critics with his great defensive performances. He made 39 defensive clearances, 9 more than his nearest rival in the Premier League, Branislav Ivanovoic and he also made 7 goal line clearances, the most in the league last season as well! He is yet to hit full pelt this year, while Davide Santon has been steady in the other slot when he was picked.
Its true James Perch and Mike Williamson aren’t any of the Toon faithful’s top picks for the defensive positions, but as stand ins they are doing well enough to keep their team respectable, even if they have shipped some rather simple goals this season. The sooner Collocini returns the better for Pardew’s men.
Newcastle’s midfield woes
Newcastle’s awkward start to the season though has not just been down to defensive re-shuffles. The lack of midfield lynchpin Cheick Tioté over the first four games has meant that the Magpie’s midfield has lacked balance and over-relied on the talents of Yohan Cabaye.
New signing Vurnon Anita has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, against Chelsea he gave away a soft penalty and looked of the pace for almost the entire game. Now while he may yet surprise people and grow into a Premier League midfielder at the moment it simply does not look the case. The partnership of Cabaye and Tioté last season was where the successes of last season were built and the sooner they are back, the better for Pardew’s men.
Tioté’s industry and tough-tackling work as a perfect foil for Cabaye’s pinpoint passing, while the two provide a solid screen for the back-four as well, filling in as full-backs Danny Simpson and Davide Santon maraud forward to supplement Pardew’s tricky widemen.
The return of the curse of the number 9
The final and most glaringly obvious point is Papiss Cissé’s lack of form in the first five games, which saw his deficiency of luck culminate in a penalty miss against Norwich. Demba Ba has supplemented this by finding good form over the past few games, but surely after his impressive showings last season it’s only a matter of time before Cissé starts hitting the back of the net again.
With Cissé it’s all about his confidence, if he gets a goal soon which invariably he will then we should see the number 9 that terrorised Premier League defences for the tail end of last season return.
Can Newcastle return to the heady heights of last season though, is it just a blip in form, or will they have to settle for mid-table obscurity, my guess is the latter. Unless they can really get their big guns back firing it looks like dreams of Europe may just stay as dreams.