By Ian Carroll
It’s been an odd summer. After United finished the season well before everybody else, signing off with a 3-1 win at West Ham in January, this last few months have seen something very rare happen- Newcastle United have actually bothered to sign some footballers. Some, no doubt, better than others, but it’s hard not to be a little bit optimistic about seeing Cabella (loves a step-over, looks like he gets dressed in the dark) De Jong (the right one this time, probably won’t be here longer than a year-eighteen months) and Janmaat (seems totally unremarkable, as all good right backs should be) turn out in a black and white shirt (as an aside, we still wear black and white, of sorts, despite what you might have seen in preseason)
Others are less exciting- Colback arrived with little or no fanfare, but his move caused quite a bit of fuss among our friends down the road, so can only be a good move, and he’s certainly a decent squad player. Whether or not the head butting, tactical wizard in the SJP dug out sees him as that, or an actual replacement for the mardy lad that went to PSG at the end of last season (see above) remains to be seen, of course. Riviere looks quite lively, though probably not a replacement for Remy, while Ferrayra and Perez will arrive with little or no expectation on them. Perez, in particular, probably won’t feature much.
What’s equally as odd (in a way) is the departure of Shola. It’ll be very strange not looking over to the dug out with a quarter of an hour to go and not seeing the great man limbering up. I’ve watched his appearance on MTV Cribs a few times to try to get over it, but it’s still going to be strange. He hung around for years, he was hopeless a lot of the time, but in a strange sort of way, we’ll miss him. Debuchy has gone as well, after being terrible for six months then good for a season. I’m sure he’ll do well for Arsenal, and pick up plenty of unnecessary bookings. Marveaux has gone, which was both inevitable, and a real waste, while Hatem Ben Arfa is still there, despite the best efforts of the owner, manager and captain.
Dan Gosling has gone as well.
It’s very hard to know what to expect this season. It’d be nice if Moussa Sissoko could actually impose himself on games in a way that he hasn’t done since his debut (in February 2013) it’d be nice if Papiss Demba Cisse could get himself fit and get back in the team. And, if that team isn’t just hoofing aimless balls in his general direction then that’d be even better. I’m still convinced, despite some of the evidence, that there is a very good goalscorer in there somewhere. The defence is a worry- Krul and Janmaat ought to be solid, and Haidara should be fine if he’s given a run in the side, but the centre halves will probably cause us all sorts of problems. Colocinni has been dreadful for nearly two years now, Williamson is average, Steven Taylor is an clown, and not a very good footballer, while Yanga-Mbiwa could be good, or he could be bad, but he’ll most likely get played at full back. Which brings me neatly on to the man that picks the team…
At most clubs, the manager wouldn’t have survived the second half of last season. The players clearly weren’t listening to a word he was saying to them, the abuse he got from the crowd during the last home game was quite resounding, he headbutted an opposition player and he blamed everyone else but himself for what was happening. But, he’s still here. He says we’ll be much more offensive this season (I’m much too clever to make some lame joke about us being pretty offensive last season, so I’ll leave that to you) which would be a start, though I think this relies solely on Cabella and De Jong. He says he’s got a squad to challenge the Champions League places, yet also thinks that we ought to be aiming to get 48 points, 1 point less than we got last time. This neatly sums up part of the problem with Alan- he talks a lot, and most of it…all of it, is not worth listening to. He’s not going anywhere though, so on that basis, sending out a team that tries to win games would be a huge step forward, and if he could keep the number of left backs on the pitch to a bare minimum then I’ll be happy.
First up is Manchester City on Sunday. Given the fact that they are much better than we’ll ever be (the romance of the Premier League and all that) and we’ve not beaten them in the last 16 (SIXTEEN) games (and even then Michael Owen scored our winner, so I don’t really count that) I expect nothing less than a fairly heavy defeat. After Sunday though, there’s a fairly generous run of games, so plenty of scope to get a decent start, as we did three seasons ago. If it goes the other way then I can see things just carrying on from where we left off last season, with excuses and left backs galore…