By Amit Shabilla Newcastle are now 6 points better off than they were this time last season and 6 points behind where they were in the season before (in which they finished 5th).
Pardew was recently quick to dispel any whispers of Champions League prospects this week, despite Loic Remy stating we have the quality to finish in the top 4. On paper our squad now does look stronger the team that finished 5th with only Demba Ba missing from the starting 11. The Senegalese international was sorely missed in the latter half of last season and Papiss Cisse and Geordie lad Shola Ameobi failed to fill the void.
This season, however, French international Loic Remy has taken centre stage up front with Newcastle, and his fine form has been nothing short of great with 8 goals in 10 games for United. The starting 11 has begun to show its quality with an impressive 10 points from a possible 15 (despite playing 3 of the top 5).
On Saturday, manager Alan Pardew also eluded to the quality he had at his disposal on the bench, bringing on fan favourite Vurnon Anita, the mercurial Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa and the out of form Papiss Cisse (who had another perfectly good goal wrongly chalked off for offside).
Also, established players such as Chiek Tiote, Yohan Cabaye and certainly from his last 3 games Fenham’s favourite son Shola Ameobi are now playing at their best. The latter had his best game for a long time against Norwich and was unlucky to not score mid way through the first half with a powerful shot low to Ruddy’s right.
He bossed both Norwich and his own teammates, literally telling Gouffran where he wanted him seconds before his header was parried and ultimately turned in. The Nigerian manager had very complementary words to say about Shola after his exquisite equaliser against Italy last week stating:
“Shola is such a vital member of the team. I already have the joy of managing this group of really young players who have so little experience of playing at the top level. With Shola I have more than a footballer; I have a second coach on the pitch,”
With many of the stars now Brazil bound it seems that the carrot of a place in the world cup finals has brought out the best in our internationals. In the battle for the Dutch no1 jersey Tim Krul let his gloves do the talking against Tottenham and his fellow Dutchman Vurnon Anita has also played very well this season (justifying the £6.5m we paid for him).
Our French Foreign Legion lead by the ‘little prince’ (L’Equipe) fought tooth and nail against the Ukraine and managed to overturn a 2-0 deficient, with Cabaye and Debuchy playing a major part in their nations world cup qualification. Chiek Tiote will also find himself in central midfield of Africa’s best prospect with the Ivory Coast.
Davide Santon certainly has the ability to play on the world stage, but may find his chances limited with Italy as Juventus left back Giorgio Chiellini is preferred to the former Inter Milan star. Shola Ameobi will be the only Geordie representative in South America (Michael Carrick doesn’t count for obvious reasons) and I believe he could surprise a few people with a few goals. Big men always tend to do well at tournaments.
With a good run of games coming up: West Brom (H) Swansea (A) Man U (A) Southampton (H) Newcastle could find themselves in the upper echelons of the Premier League come Mid December. Within those games there should be opportunities to gain points on the teams above us: as these are the teams around us playing each other.
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
Arsenal v Everton
Southampton v Manchester City
Manchester City v Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool
Obviously, first things first and Newcastle need to put another dominating performance in at St. James’ Park against West Bromwich on Saturday.
Following that a result at Swansea mid-week isn’t beyond our capability as we have proven to be clinical away from home on three occasions already and Swansea’s league form is clearly suffering from their Europa League exploits. Following that Old Trafford awaits for a real test of far we have/ or haven’t come, which was the setting for another thrilling 4-3 we were on the wrong side of last season. Dare I say if we continue our good form and add one or two in January, we could push for a Europa League or even a Champions League Spot.
Possible yes, likely no. In my humble opinion the top four at the moment (Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City) will be the top four come May, albeit not necessarily in that order.
That leaves Southampton, Man U, Everton, Newcastle and Spurs to fight for the remaining European spots.
A lot can and will change between now and Christmas, but I think our last 6 games look worse than our next 6 games.
|Last 6 Games||Result||Points||Next 6 Games|
|Cardiff (A)||Won||3||West Brom (H)|
|Liverpool (H)||Drawn||1||Swansea (A)|
|Sunderland (A)||Lost||0||Manchester (A)|
|Chelsea (H)||Won||3||Southampton (H)|
|Spurs (A)||Won||3||Crystal Palace (A)|
|Norwich City (H)||Won||3||Stoke (H)|
Hopefully Newcastle can continue to win football matches, whether it’s comfortable like Norwich or backs to the wall like Tottenham, either way it’s entertaining – not like last year’s Panto season – season.
Speaking of Panto Season, I started off by stating we were 6 points better off from where we were last season and 6 points behind our best finish for 7 years…For the record our noisy neighbours down the road in Sunderland are 5 points worse off than this time last season and 3 points worse off after 12 games than the season they last went down.