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Top 5: Ways to Build on Last Season’s Success

It would be difficult for any Newcastle fan to look back upon last season and pick out a handful of tips to forward on to Alan Pardew. I’ve been given the tricky task of identifying the areas on which we could improve on heading into the forthcoming season.


Although some of the small factors that affected last season were out of hand, i.e. injuries to key squad players, striking the woodwork a frustrating amount and Tiote picking up his compulsory booking, there are improvements which could be made to help see us through the season.

Once the season came to an end, the concern was that our top players could pick up knocks during international games. However, the lack of action in Euro 2012 for the likes of Krul, Ben Arfa and Senegal’s omission of Ba and Cisse from their Olympic team, already gives us a in pre-season fitness boost that will be key for the start of the season. The news that Ivory Coast will face Senegal in a AFCON qualifier means that we lose at most two first teamers come January, rather than when Tiote joined the Dembas on African duty earlier this year.

So, no knocks picked up from the summer break and potentially not as many departures during the AFCON in January. All is well. Yet there are some areas which still need to be assessed as we head into the new season.

5. Strengthen the squad

The arrival of exciting prospects in the shape of Gael Bigirimana, Roman Amalfitano and the imminent signing of 19-year-old Australian Curtis Good gives Pardew peace of mind that he will have fresh legs and keen young players eager to prove themselves in the Premier League.

Willie Donachie and Peter Beardsley are also doing their bit to help develop products from the Reserves and academy to make sure that the silver fox can sleep quietly at night. The strain of midweek and weekend games will inevitably take its toll on the team, and at times Pards will have to bubble wrap some of his players in order to progress in each campaign and cup competition. The allure of going all out in the Europa League will be there, but the focus should remain on sustaining and continuing to develop in the Premier League.

The result of remarkable seasons in the top flight back to back has lead to more established and talented players to consider a move to the north east, another will undoubtedly do any harm to reputation outside of England, especially with a respectable European campaign to boot. The glamour of European football is back on Tyneside, let’s hope we can show Europe our own glamour and passion on the pitch.

4.  Pulling the trigger

It’s hard to remember a season where we have had so many outstanding goals. Cisse’s strike at Stamford Bridge, along with Ben Arfa’s solo effort against Bolton will forever be remembered as the goals of the season. When we’ve managed to find the back of the net, more often than not, we’ve found it with mouth-watering finesse and with breathtaking strikes. However, we only managed 12.9 shots on average per game, the 14th lowest total in the Premier League, with the 13th lowest amount for shot on target (4.1). The impressive stats that followed our defensive performances at the beginning of the season and the records broken by Demba and Papiss are something that we can take pride in. Although, as our goal difference demonstrated, we will have to challenge the keeper and get more shots away to guarantee another top half finish.

3. Over the wall

When polled on their favourite goal of the season, many fans may opt for Ryan Taylor’s perfectly struck curler against the Mackems, or Cabaye’s set piece strike in the victory over Man Utd.

There’s no doubt that we boast a number of quality free-kick takers in our squad, for both delivery and precision, yet in last season’s campaign we scored from eight set plays, with only Swansea and Aston Villa managed less. Quite a stat when you see that both Manchester sides scored more than twice as many, City with 19 and United with 18 respectively. The lack of having Steven Taylor in the side may be key to this, and fingers crossed he will return to become a dominating presence in the box when it comes to set pieces next season.

When looking back over last season, I remember growing frustrated by poor or low swung in corners which came to nothing, especially when we would be chasing down a decisive goal. No doubt Pardew and his training staff will be working on plenty of set play situations on the training ground, with a fully fit squad to experiment with.

2. Stop the leak away from home

Re-establishing St James’ as a fortress would have been high on the agenda for everyone at the club, in aim of progressing from the 12th place finish from the previous season. Once your feet land back on the ground after the dream that was the 11-12 season, and you’ve stopped singing what you’d let Coloccini do to your other half and review the table you see that, unfortunately, there is still a significant gap in quality with the teams that surround us.

Looking at the top five of last season’s table shows the gap in standard when it comes to goal difference:

LP

Club

Goal Difference

1

Man City

64

2

Man Utd

56

3

Arsenal

25

4

Spurs

25

5

Newcastle

5

6

Chelsea

19

Although both halves of Manchester racked up more goals than Shola has Fenham lovechilds waiting in the wings to carry on his legacy in black and white, we’re still a way off matching the goal difference of our London rivals, while still being only a few points away from a Champions League finish. On average we conceded 1.34 goals a game, despite having such an impressive unbeaten streak at the start of the season. In total we conceded 51 goals, the third highest in the top half of the table after WBA (52) and Fulham (51).

A staggering 34 of those were conceded on the road. Score lines such as the 5-0 loss to Spurs, 5-2 to Fulham, the 4-2 defeat at the hands of Norwich and especially that crushing scrubbing at the DW at the tail of the end season, not only must have hampered confidence away from home but it also affected our goal difference in the long run. Strengthening up the defence with new faces and international experience will hopefully prevent the leak at the back on our travels.

1. Improve Bouncebackability

With all the statistics and records that have been pumped out from last season, the one stat that played on my mind (especially during the home game against the Mackems) was that throughout last season we failed to come from a goal behind to win.

Even more worryingly, Pardew is yet to turn a game around once we have gone a goal down in his tenure on Tyneside. Quite a distressing record when you think we could be travelling across Europe and will have to dig deep to get a result. Pards did a remarkable job after taking the reins from Hughton, and the comeback against Arsenal will go down in Newcastle folklore. However, if we want to continue to challenge for the top five and European contention we will need to have the ability to turn a game around when needs be.

Newcastle fans can take great satisfaction in the performance last season. They can also take great pleasure in knowing that Pardew and his staff, along with a little help from his squad, will work upon these weaknesses and more, to ensure we’re still fighting strong come the end of next season.

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