Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I don't know about you, but I'm still high from Wednesday's victory. Sure, Chelsea played their scrubs, and sure, they got beat earlier today as well, but I still consider them one of the best teams in the world. I predicted a tie on the preview I wrote for this site, and deep down I knew that was probably wishful thinking. To beat them was beyond imaginable. The fact that Shola Ameobi was a key part of that victory was extra icing on the cake for me, since I sometimes feel alone in my support of him.
It is with some trepidation, then, that I look upon this game. Every single sign seems to point to a letdown game: The Magpies are sure to be bursting with confidence, and The Potters will surely be playing with the desperation that teams in the relegation zone often play with. Couple that with lineup uncertainty and our backup goalie receiving starts for the foreseeable future, and you've got the recipe for an upset at home - again.
Is it all doom and gloom? No, of course not. Stoke City is not a Premiership-caliber team. Stoke and Newcastle share two common opponents from this short season so far, and in both cases United's result was better. However, we all know that the transitive property doesn't work in sports, as anything can happen on any given Sunday, to borrow a phrase from American football. Stoke haven't scored more than 2 goals in a Premier League match all season, (on the flip side, they haven't let in more than 2 either) so this looks like a race to see who can score 2 first. The question in my mind is, Can Newcastle score two goals? With Krul in net (and for the record, I like him as a backup very much, but I'll be very happy when Harper is healthy), you can bank on Stoke putting one through. They've only been shut out once, and that was by Chelsea. I think The Toon is very capable of scoring two - where Stoke's defenders cause problems is with their size, and Andy Carroll should be able to counteract that well enough to put one home. It's also hard not to be excited about Hatem Ben Arfa. Will his creativity shine through again? Can Tiote be a catalyzing force again? If they are, they'll have no problem putting that second game-deciding goal home. NUFC win, 2-1.
As far as the lineup is concerned, I think you have to look at two patterns that are beginning to develop: (1) Chris Hughton is more than willing to play the hot hand and keep the same lineup that has worked for him before. Even when he had the choice of putting new acquisitions in against Wolverhampton, he stuck with the squad that had done him well the week before. (2) Almost none of the Starting XI from the Everton match played on Wednesday. This bodes well for their chances to play again today. My predicted XI is the same as last week,
Krul, Ryan Taylor, Coloccini, Williamson, Jose Enrique, Routledge, Tiote, Barton, Ben Arfa, Nolan, Carroll
Friday, September 24, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
However, I just cannot shake the notion that any game played in-season is somehow less important than another. No, the match played tomorrow will not affect the top flight table one bit - but you have to understand that confidence and form are not things to be trifled with. Even at the professional level, much of this game is played between the ears, and there have been many teams in the past that have believed that they can turn their form on and off at will, much to their peril. Teams that abuse this practice of picking and choosing which games to get up for typically do not succeed at the very highest level.
Now, does this mean that I think Chris Hughton should play every single one of Saturday's Starting XI tomorrow? No. But I don't buy for one second the idea that the supporters should somehow treat this match any differently. Here we are, on the eve of playing arguably the best club team in Europe right now, and yes, they may play several scrubs, but this match should be something to look forward to. Instead, the feeling among the fanbase is an overwhelming ho-hum, "I don't care if we win, just want them to show well"...and that's a shame. Do you realize that this team has never in its history won the League Cup? I want that to change. Don't you?
This is a good team, in my opinion. They're currently tied for 6th in the table. Imagine for just a second that they were able to stay in that approximate position for the balance of the season, and with some strokes of luck they end in one of the Top 4 places, just one season removed from relegation. That would be quite an accomplishment! But then what? We'd get to next season and there would be a ton of bellyaching about having to play extra matches in Europe. To me, this is the exact wrong attitude. Yes, placing well in the table is important, but at the end of the day, I want to see our lads on the right side of the score line, regardless of which competition they're playing in.
This, I believe, should satisfy those who don't want to risk injury to key players while also not giving up on the match from the get-go.
I expect Chelsea to play mostly subs, and I expect them to still come away with a comfortable victory, perhaps 3-1. One thing's for sure - if they lose, I'll take it just as hard as if they lost to Stoke on Saturday. So sue me.
Monday, September 20, 2010
by Guardian Chalkboards
by Guardian Chalkboards
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Bookings: Perch 59', Enrique 67', Nolan 69'
Substitutions: Krul for Harper 35', Gutierrez for Ben Arfa 84'
CHN Man of the Match: Ben Arfa
Not many people thought that the Toon would go into Goodison Park and snatch away a victory, though you can't really blame anybody for being skeptical following last week's abomination. Not only did Newcastle win, they were dominant in this game, save for a few stretches where The Toffees showed a little bit of life.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Cheik Tiote says that Didier Drogba convinced him to join The Toon, according to the NUFC Official Site. He also says he is becoming fast friends with Hatem Ben Arfa. It's a pretty decent interview, so check it out.
James Perch told Steph Clark of The Northern Echo that he's not worried about a possible ban for too many yellow cards, saying that he will not hold back against The Toffees. He has to say this; is he supposed to say that he'll be tentative? You have to wonder if this will be in the back of his mind. This is why terrible officiating like that exhibited in Wolverhampton is not acceptable - it affects matches down the road as well.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Though Harper was good and The Toon had their chances, the unbeaten streak came to an end, and we take one more cheep shot.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
The previews for tomorrow's match are starting to pour in, and will likely do so all day. Here are two that are already up: One from Andy Hodgson of Talk of the Tyne and one from Ed Harrison. Make sure watch for our preview coming later today.
Sky Sports is reporting that Chris Hughton is not overlooking Blackpool. Within the article is a brief discussion of Hughton's selection dilemma, which we discussed ourselves yesterday. Hughton also told Lee Ryder of The Chronicle that he expects the home crowd to outshout the visitors. In a separate article, Ryder tells of an interview Hughton gave about selection. Hughton told Chris Burton of Sky Sports that Sol Campbell is "certainly available to play," and mentions that Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote are both candidates to be selected as well. Tiote will wear #24, which is of course Andy Carroll's old number.
Yesterday was "World Shola Day," as it marked his 10th year with the club. Toonsy takes some time to give him some props.
Peter Lovenkrands was caught speeding, but he will not lose his license.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Robert: So we've already set the stage in previous posts: Hughton has brought in several players, but the ones we already had have been doing some good work on their one. Obviously James Perch is somebody that was added early in the transfer window and has been contributing already, but what about these other guys who have never put on a Newcastle jersey before? Where do you put them? Who do you sit so they'll have room to play?
RKW: Well I guess the easiest way to approach the topic is to start with a Starting XI. As it is right now I think our best 11 on the field looks like this:
I realize this leaves us without a Defensive Midfielder, but I think you have to see if Barton and Nolan can do the work without getting in too much card trouble.
Robert: I think your omission of a defensive midfielder is interesting, but let's get to that in a second. Right now I see that HBA is the only new guy to crack your Starting XI, and you've bumped Nolan back. Is this more a result of what you think HBA can do, or a referendum on Nolan's work in his current position?
RKW: Well, everyone has been so good it's hard to pick on performance. So it's really more of where I think the great skill set of HBA can be best worked into our system. As he said recently, he wants to be the guy supplying ammunition to Andy. I like that idea very much, and I think he can do more in the middle than out on the right.
Robert: What do you think of this idea of sitting Barton since he already has several cards, and going from there once you've seen what you've got in these new players?
RKW: I like the fact that we have enough flexibility to have a quick replacement for Joey when he does serve his suspensions, and believe me he will. But, I don't like the idea of benching him like you would a basketball player in foul trouble. He's played so well and seems to have adjusted his attitude to avoid the outburst problems of the past, and I don't want to give him any reason to think we aren't 100% behind the new and improved Joey Barton - well, except for the mustache, we were glad to see that go.
Robert: No doubt. I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think I agree with you. If Joey were to sit now, it would almost be as if Hughton were doubling his suspension, since we seem to be in agreement that he will reach that suspension threshold. Might as well get some games from him while we can. What I'm struggling with the most is that I don't think he should sit, but really, who should? If you move Alan Smith out, you lose that defensive presence that you need in midfield as a result of Jose Enrique and Joey Barton (and occasionally even James Perch) creeping up toward the goal. Tiote is a defensive midfielder as well, but I see him more as a guy who can spell Smith when he needs it, rather than as a pure replacement. You can't replace your captain, so as much as it pains me to say it, maybe Routledge is the guy who needs to take a seat to make room for HBA. What do you think about that?
RKW: I see the whole midfield as a liquid entity. I think you go all offense now, but it's really an experiment, isn't it? If Barton and Nolan can't defend well enough or we see Barton getting carded for ticky tack stuff, we'll have to reevaluate. I see Tiote/Smith as a switch out based on the needs of the game. If you need that physicality that Tiote is said to bring then you go with him, but if you need the pace and crafty-ness of Smith you go with him. As long as Routledge keeps playing like he is I can't see him being on the bench. But if he does have a rough spell, Barton can play out there, then you can get that defensive MF back in the game. I guess my point is you have to at leas try out the all offensive MF since our back 4 have been playing so strong.
Robert: Speaking of the Back 4, do you think Campbell should get some playing time this Saturday? I think I'd like to see him come in as a late replacement, and for whom would obviously depend on the game situation. What are your thoughts?
RKW: I don't give him the starting job yet, not with Colo and Williamson playing so well, but I would like to see him in relief of someone. He's fit and I think that means he should get some time. If everything goes right on Saturday I think we could end up seeing every one of our new players, at least all the uninjured.
Robert: I was thinking the same thing, though I would be prepared not to see one of them since Andy Carroll may need a sub. I'd like to see him play 70 or so minutes, and in a perfect world, we'd have a comfortable lead at that point and can put Shola or Lovenkraands in there to play out the rest of the game. With that in mind, here's my Starting XI:
As I said, Shola or Peter would be ready to come in for Carroll, with Routledge also coming off the bench to replace HBA if it looks like the offensive chemistry is lacking. Tiote could come in for Smith, or Campbell could replace one of the defenders if their form is off. Obviously you want to be flexible with your subs, but I like trying to keep as much chemistry going as possible and I think this would accomplish that. Anything to add?
RKW: Well, we agree on the 4-4-1-1.
Robert: Yes, I would think that Hughton would want to keep the shape that has worked so far.
RKW: Routledge has been soooo good though. Ugh, this is a problem every manager wants to have. If I really think hard about what I believe Hoots will actually do, I think he'll stay with the starting 11 that have been so good over the first 3 games, and take a look at the new guys if and when we get the game under control.
Robert: I certainly wouldn't fault him for it. Sometimes you have to rely on the people that have gotten you where you are. If that were to happen, I would hope that the supporters would demonstrate some patience. It's really tempting to get out those shiny new toys and see what they can do, but if the same XI is going to be effective, I see no reason to change a winning formula.
RKW: Yeah, I'm right there with you, but I do think that if The Toon Army doesn't get to see Hatem Ben Arfa at St. James on Saturday there might be a riot. The game is almost sold out save for 700 seats the Seasiders can't move, and you have to think those folks want to see some of that flashy midfield work that has HBA all over the Youtube Highlight Video.
Robert: Very true. I have to believe, though, that winning will go a long way toward quelling any sort of personnel protests. The bottom line is that if the result is right, we'll all be singing Hughton's praises on Sunday, no matter who he puts out there.
RKW: Agreed, 3 points will buy our patience. I really do think Hoots will send the same 11 out there, and I really do think that that 11 will be up 2-0 at the half. That will give us the whole second half to see the stylings of HBA.
Howay the Lads!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Going into this week's match against the Wolves, Chris Hughton didn't have very many decisions to make. His squad had just gotten done thrashing Aston Villa 6-0, so there was little question that he would trot out the same Starting XI and the same formation.
In the 4-4-1-1, funneling crosses into the middle is key. You won't see the Magpies take very many shots from strange angles, and this week was no exception. Nearly all of the 13 shots taken were close-range shots from the middle of the box created by long-range crosses from the outside. Unfortunately, the only ones getting through were coming from the right side, as Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique were completely shut down on the left by Kevin Foley and Jody Craddock. Wayne Routledge, on the other hand, was extremely dangerous. His pace was troubling to the Wolf midfield and defense, and he came very close to connecting with Kevin Nolan twice. Routledge and Nolan were supported by Joey Barton who overcame several malicious challenges to be an offensive threat as well. Also supporting effectively was James Perch, who himself swung an effective cross to Andy Carroll that he was unable to get a good touch on. Carroll was a bit of an enigma. His goal on the Barton set piece made up for his egregious miss toward the end of the first half, but one can't help but wonder if it should have been a final of 2-1.
Defensively, The Toon were solid once again, save for the one lapse that led to Sylvain Ebanks-Blake's spectacular goal. There's not much to say about Steve Harper; the only shot that Wolverhampton got on target was the aforementioned goal, and there's not much you could have expected Harper to do in that situation. Perch did his best to play the ball, but with a striker to his right you can understand his hesitancy to get in front of the shot. It does seem that Mike Williamson might have been a tad bit out of position, but I think you can chalk the goal up to Ebanks-Blake simply exploiting a small gap. Aside from that momentary lapse, the only other moment that seems to stand out is the Perch tackle in the box that wasn't called. It was a risky move that paid off, but it wasn't necessary and he would do well to avoid dependence on the referee's generosity in the future. It should be mentioned that Alan Smith did well in support. He won several 50-50 balls and made key tackles down the stretch.
The big takeaway of this match will be that the one goal scored in the game came off the foot of Jeff Cunningham, which brought his career total to 129, now just 3 shy of Jamie Moreno's MLS record. But, we would say that there were a few other headlines worth a look.
This was the first MLS game that we'd ever had the mind to take in, and I have to say at the end of the first half I was feeling pretty disappointed in the skill level of these professional athletes. Moreover, my compatriot mentioned specifically their lack of patience. By 15 minutes gone both sides had completely abandoned their game-plans in favor of hopeful and long forward passing, overly rushed shooting, and a melange of other nit-picky crud.
We also noticed that our predicted Man of the Match, Brek Shea, was in top form, but was continually frustrated by teammates whom, at best made poor passes to the lad, and at worst looked him over completely. We counted 12 smart runs he was on that his side was unable or unwilling to put the ball to him for. It left us wondering if there wasn't some locker room justice going on out on the pitch. There were at least 3 egregiously bad plays in which Shea was the obvious best choice the pass that went instead to another. We couldn't puzzle it out and in the last 20 minutes it seemed to be really getting to the kid.
We mentioned the horrible officiating and it was bad from start to finish. The cards all seemed deserved, but there seemed to be an inordinate amount of "no-calls" when a call should have been made, and a bit of whistle swallowing when there were obvious fouls. This included a ridiculously disallowed Eric Alexander goal. Off of a Brek Shea shot that keeper Stefan Frei didn't handle cleanly, but was still hovering over, Alexander booted it in right out from under him. The ref blew it dead and we were aghast. There was no illegal contact and no foul play; it was as if the keeper had a right to all the turf in a 3 foot radius and in that space the ball was unplayable. The shabby show continued a few minutes later with an utter mugging of Ruben Luna, who was in on goal late in the second half. It was the type of call that you could see perhaps not being called in the opening minutes, but it was a very hard tackle and it seemed the defender didn't even try to play the ball.
All in all a disappointing match, but not so disappointing that we won't be out at
Toronto FC Lineup: Stefan Frei, Dan Gargan, Adrian Cann, Ty Harden, Nick Garcia, Maksim Usanov, Nick LaBrocca-Carded: 46, Joseph Nane (Jacob Peterson 58), Martin Saric-Carded: 15,89,89, Mista, O'Brian White
Monday, September 6, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
We'll be honest, it's hard to expect much out of this one as TFC has a few out to the Canadian National team. FCD has a couple missing too, but we expect their depth to be able to handle the depleted Toronto side at home without much issue. Ferreira will still be around to make sure things go as planned and Brek Shea should be able to do as he pleases in the Toronto Midfield. So even with Hernandez and Harris out on suspension, we feel confident on The Red Stripes chances to extend that unbeaten streak to 13.
Prediction: FC Dallas 3-1 Toronto FC
On the TV:
Fox Sports Southwest or FSDallas, MLS Direct Kick with DirectTV
Let's get to the links...
Thursday, September 2, 2010
The transfer window reviews are still coming in. Scott Wilson of The Northern Echo quotes Chris Hughton as saying that he's content with a quiet Deadline Day. Miles Starforth of Jarrow & Hebburn Gazette praises the moves that were made. His headline is about Mike Ashley, but really the article is about Hughton. Hughton was complimentary of Ashley's financial backing; however, what stands out about these transfers to me are the quality of players received for relatively little money. Starforth also notes that Ben Arfa, Tiote, and Campbell will all be ready to face Blackpool on September 11.
Speaking of Mr. Campbell, he told BBC that he is indeed targeting September 11 for first team action. I have to believe that he'll be on a short leash if he does get the start. Also, I saw several stories (here is one example) that expressed surprise that he would make the roster. Of course his level of fitness has been widely questioned, but I never thought his standing with the team would be in jeopardy. Before today, I hadn't stopped and done all of the math, but ultimately we only had 23 players that needed to be listed anyway, so why would anybody be left out? It makes me feel silly that I ever entertained the idea that Steven Taylor might not make the cut.
Alana Coates of The Montreal Gazette is apparently very impressed with HBA, and not convinced at all that the rest of the squad is anything special. I like HBA. HBA will not be the face of this team.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Hatem ben Arfa
Notice that Steven Taylor DID make the list. I think this is a good thing - we'll surely need him at some point before January.
Lots to Celebrate for Nile and McLoven as they leave the pitch.
The first tally came in the 8th minute when Peter Lovenkrands sped behind a flatfooted defense and passed across goal for Nile Ranger who, with a bit of work left to do, put the ball neatly to bed in the far corner.
Less than two minutes later Nile Ranger would return the favor in a way. Sprung free into the box, his attempt to play around the oncoming keeper Trevor Carson was thwarted, but Trevor simply didn't play the ball and the penalty shot was given. Lovenkrands hammered home from the spot and it looked as though it would be smooth sailing for the Toon.
In fact, they did ride those two goals into halftime, but not without seeing Xisco Red Carded for aparently flicking his leg out at SAFC's Jordan Cook. Match reporter Dan King called the straight red, "harsh, even if Xisco should have known better," citing little to no contact in the scuffle.
The Magpies continued to coast on their heavy lead until Jordan Cook put in a penalty shot that came when Matthew Grieve went down in the box under the heavy defesnse of Jack Colbeck. But, it was too little too late in the 84th minute, and the Toon would celebrate victory just minutes later.
- Sol Campbell played the first 45 and looked fit, thoug he admitidly didn't get much work as the Newcastle Reserves were clearly the class of the match.
- Though the Mackems will probably cite the starting of first teamers, Lovenkrands, Taylor, and Ranger, as the main catylysts in their demise, we need only remind them that they had first teamers on the pitch as well in, George Mcartney and Andy Reid, as well as newly signed Marco Angeleri
- Xisco will miss 3 first team games for the Red Card: Blackpool, Everton and the League Cup match at Chealsea.
NUFC: Tim Krul, James Tavernier, Paul Dummett, Ryan Donaldson (Phil Airey, 81), Sol Campbell (Ben Tozer, 45), Matthew Grieve, Ryan Taylor, Brad Inman, Nile Ranger, Xisco, Peter Lovenkrands (Greg McDermott, 81)
Unused Subs: Ole Soderberg, Jeff Henderson
SAFC: Trevor Carson, Marcos Angeleri (Matthew Fletcher, 72), Blair Adams, Adam Reed, Michael Kay, George McCartney, Robbie Weir (Nathan Luscombe, 62), Jack Colbeck, Ryan Noble, Jordan Cook, Andy Reid (Liam Bagnall, 81)
Unused Subs: Ben Wilson, Dan Madden
Howay the Lads!
First, some reviews on the job Chris Hughton and Mike Ashley did this summer, from Mike Jones of Talk of the Tyne, toonsy, and Ed. Paul Bestall of EPL Talk gives us some thoughts on Deadline Day.
Scott Wilson of The Northern Echo chronicles Hatem Ben Arfa's journey to Newcastle. Actual quote from HBA: "I considered stopping playing football." I cannot shake the idea that if he ends up making 25 appearances, making the deal a purchase, that he could do this same song and dance with us if one of the Big 4 were to come calling. Make no mistake, I'm glad he's on board, but I'll probably always have a paranoia about him holding the team hostage.
Sol Campbell played 45 minutes for the reserve squad yesterday, and The Daily Mail was there to take pictures. This won't do anything to silence those who would criticize his physique. Ben Collins of Sky Sports noted that Campbell has been stepping up his fitness regimen. Campbell is quoted as saying that he'll play 60-70 minutes in the next reserve squad match, which should take place during the international break.
Speaking of internationals, Andy Carroll will not be representing the U-21 squad at the Euro 2012 qualifiers because of an ankle injury. Shola Ameobi will not be representing Scotland...because he's not eligible to do so. Silly Craig Levein.