As the start of the season draws ever nearer, players will be fighting to catch the eye of manager Alan Pardew in an attempt to get as many games as possible over the forthcoming campaign. Here, we will take an in-depth look at 5 Newcastle United players, and try to decipher where they will stand next season.
Over the past couple of seasons, French attacking midfielder Romain Amalfitano has been in sublime form for former club Stade De Reims. Despite not being the quickest of individuals, he has shown that he has the footballing mental capacity to constantly think one move ahead of the opposition, which more than makes up for his speed. With his fantastic passing skills, in addition to a quite unbelievable long range shooting ability, he got spotted by scouting dynamo Graham Carr. When it became apparent that Amalfitano was a free agent come July 1st, Newcastle did everything they could to make sure he became a Newcastle player, which is exactly what happened.
It is very, very unlikely that Amalfitano will go straight into the first team. Instead, he will probably have to prove himself first in Europa League matches, or when an injury arises. However, that isn’t saying anything about his playing ability, it’s just the Pardew policy with new players, which we’ve seen with Davide Santon, Sylvain Marveaux and Hatem Ben Arfa among others. When he is inevitably introduced into the first team, there is very little doubt that he will gel well with the rest of the team, and have no problems showing what he’s capable of in the best league in the world.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Hatem Ben Arfa proved last season exactly why he is one of the top talents in Europe. After his horrific leg break, it took him a very long time to get back into the swing of things and playing regularly. At the start of the season, he was only a bit part player in the team, for a number of reasons. Obviously one reason was the lack of match fitness, which would be expected, but also, boss Alan Pardew wasn’t a fan of Ben Arfa’s unwillingness to track back and help his defence. Pardew was adamant, saying that even though Hatem was the most talented player in the squad, he wouldn’t get extended playing time until this newfound mentality was fully instilled into him. However, after he had proved his new ways, it can be no coincidence that from the game after he was given a run in the team, Newcastle went on a seven game winning streak, almost propelling the Geordies into the Champions League.
Not only was his creative spark a huge source of created chances for the team, he also scored two world class solo goals against Blackburn Rovers and Bolton.
It would be very surprising if Alan Pardew didn’t see Hatem Ben Arfa as a vital player for Newcastle next campaign. The gaffer has (rightly) waxed lyrical of the Frenchman all summer, and with good reason. This could potentially be the first time that Newcastle have a fit Ben Arfa from the start of the season, which could be very bad news for full backs up and down the country. The Tunisian born attacker proved against almost every team that he played against that he has the confidence and ability to be a constant thorn in the oppositions side, and has a beautiful eye for goal. An in-form Ben Arfa will be pivotal to Newcastle doing well next season.
The term ‘impact sub’ definitely summed up Sammy Ameobi’s role last season. In the first half of the season, he made 9 league appearances, with 8 of them coming from the substitutes bench. He did, however, start against the eventual champions Manchester City, giving a very good account of himself. His tall frame often deceived opposition defenders into thinking that he didn’t possess the burning pace that he has. After impressing in a major way with the reserve side, he was deservedly given a shot at first team football, and did a decent enough job. Unfortunately for Ameobi, an injury bought an end to his season just as it was starting to pick up.
With an expanded fixture list brought on by Newcastle’s Europa League campaign, one would assume that Ameobi would see increased game time next season. On the other hand, he’s at an age where he needs to be playing regular first team football to aid his development. For that reason, Newcastle’s management team may decide that a loan could be the best option for him, as he would walk straight in to an upper Championship first XI. Either way, we’re hoping to see big things from young Ameobi in the coming season.
What is there really to say about the man-monster Cheick Tiote that hasn’t already been said? The destructive defensive midfielder has been absolutely fantastic since joining from FC Twente. Among his many incredible performances last season is the famous 3-0 victory over Manchester United, in which he man-marked Wayne Rooney for the full 90 minutes, and wasn’t beaten once. Despite the fact that his style of play picks up an insane amount of yellow cards, Newcastle need that outright steel in the core of their team.
According to Alan Pardew, Cheick Tiote has come back “ten time better” than last season. That in itself is a scary thought. Unfortunately, Tiote will miss a portion of the season through the inconvenient African Cup of Nations, but he will also miss games through inevitable suspensions, meaning he will want to play every single game possible. Whereas players such as Hatem Ben Arfa bring a creative flair side to Newcastle’s game, Cheick Tiote is a Premier League master of old-school no nonsense tackling, with some saying he is the best defensive midfielder to grace the league since Claude Makelele.
Newcastle fans didn’t get to see much of goalkeeper Rob Elliot in his debut season on Tyneside. The former Ireland Under-19 international only managed one game all season (the 4-3 victory over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup). Despite this, Alan Pardew has mentioned on numerous occasions that Elliot is one of the top trainers at the club, and would have no hesitation in putting him in for an injured Tim Krul.
While it may be obvious that Tim Krul will remain the No. 1 choice goalkeeper, Elliot is a more than capable player to have on standby, which he proved with many eye-catching performances in his Charlton Athletic days. Elliot may also see more first team football in the form of the Europa League, which will be a great opportunity for the Greenwich born stopper to show the Newcastle fans exactly what he can do.