NEWCASTLE UNITED 2012/2013 SEASON PREVIEW
Last season will be hard to top. Not only did the club make it back to Europe but there was something to play for right up until the last match. It was one of the most exciting seasons in a long time for Newcastle fans and it was made all the better by the fact that it was all a surprise. This season will be much more frustrating, regardless of results, with expectations so much higher. Last season was played with house money. Here is my preview…
There seems to be a lot of disappointment around the lack of transfer activity from Newcastle this summer. We certainly need help in defense and help in attack. I personally buy into the old cliche; “A player returning from injury is like a new signing.” Steve Taylor and Sylvain Marveaux with help strengthen the team much more than people are recognizing. New signings (Bigirimana, Good) are exciting but are moves for the future. Romain Amalfitano is still a bit of an unknown. He is a younger talent but unproven at the highest level. He was likely picked up on a free transfer to add depth and to be a player down the line. The major signing so far is Anita from Ajax. Newcastle fans should be excited for this signing despite Pardew’s plan for the player being up in the air. He is a utility player which we have grown to love. Anita is different though. He is a Ryan Taylor on steroids. He is able to play more positions and play them better than most people on the roster. I look for him to figure into the defense more than the midfield barring injury.
The main area not addressed is at the RB position. Danny Simpson played most of last season at RB and although he had his moments, he just wasn’t good enough. His biggest weakness is that he gives attackers too much space which, at times, put Coloccini and Krul under unneeded pressure. This needs to be addressed for Newcastle to gain better consistency and take that next step. Anita is known as a utility player but is unlikely to be in Pardew’s plans at the position. The Debuchy saga has dragged on long enough that his transfer looks unlikely but with the player making his desire to leave the club public and demanding talks with Lille there is still hope.
The biggest and best news though is that Cabaye, Tiote, Ba, Krul, etc. are all still at the club. Almost all of our star players quickly squashed speculation linking them with moves away. Even Demba Ba, who would have pocketed more than $2million if he left, wanted nothing to do with a transfer away from the club. This means more than a club holding on to their best players. It means a clubs best players truly believe in what the manager is doing and want to be a part of it. Any talk of unrest with players like Tiote, Cabaye, etc. and clubs would have been firing in bids left and right.
KEYS TO THE SEASON
- Demba Ba needs to show that he can play with Cisse. I know a lot of it has to do with Pardew’s tactics, and that’s fine, but he didn’t score a goal when he started with Cisse. He is a better player than that. If he isn’t going to score goals he isn’t going to help Newcastle much. There are much better players out that when it comes to the traditional LW role.
- Hatem Ben Arfa needs to have his head straight all season. After he settled down and won a place in Pardew’s XI he was phenomenal. He scored two of the most impressive goals I have seen in a long time last year showing just what he is capable of. Prior to that he was pretty poor; whining, low effort, bad attitude, etc. His talk throughout the off-season leads me to believe we will see the HBA Newcastle needs but we will have to wait and see who shows up on game days.
- Steven Taylor is back and Newcastle need to feel his presence. His return is like a new transfer. We all know he is a very capable defender and he can get the goals off of set plays that Pardew said he needed. He needs to stay healthy though and that is something he has not been able to do over the last few seasons.
- Role players need to play big roles this year. There is a lot of potential “depth” at Newcastle but few players have really proven themselves yet. The likes of Marveaux, Anita, Gosling, Abeid, and Vuckic will need to be able to perform when called upon. With injuries and suspensions they all could quickly find themselves starting a number of games. Obertan fits into this group as well but I wouldn’t say he is “unproven”. We know what he is capable of. He had some great moments last season but he also had too many moments that were poor. The mental side of the game is big for Obertan and if the fans are behind him cheering he will do well backing up HBA.
5th Place EPL – I know a 5th place prediction might be seen as unrealistic or overly optimistic but this isn’t a fan expecting too much. Most predictions have Newcastle behind Spurs and Liverpool but there is plenty of good reason to think that Newcastle can, and will, finish above those teams.
For starters, Liverpool haven’t done much at all to improve their team. In fact, they have continued their over-spending on average players a-la Newcastle United prior to our relegation. I am not suggesting Liverpool are headed for the same fate but high transfer fees lead to high expectations. Expectations that some players just can’t handle. The managerial change hasn’t done much good for unsettled players like Andy Carroll either, who started to look like that player Liverpool thought he would be near the end of last season into the Euros, and seems to not be a part of Rodgers’ plans.
Spurs are likely to lose Modric in the next few days and only have one experienced striker in Defoe. That, mixed in with the questionable AVB, and Spurs could end up finishing 7th, 8th, or 9th. I still think Spurs have a better chance to finish above Newcastle than Liverpool though. Despite troubles at striker and Modric’s departure they still have a lot of talent in the team and will certainly add to it before the window closes.
Europa League, Carling Cup, and FA Cup – I can’t see Newcastle progressing very far in more than one of these competitions. With the focus on qualifying for Europe again, I think Newcastle will see which competition they are left in and make a run at it. They just aren’t deep enough with talent to juggle 3 cup competitions with the league like Manchester City, Chelsea, etc. are able to do.
Really, as long as Newcastle make Europe again the season can be seen as a success. It is important to the club financially and is great luring transfer targets, but more importantly, we need it to keep a hold of our star players.
2012/2013 League Prediction
1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
10. West Brom
15. West Ham