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Can Newcastle Finish Fourth?

Monday 6th February 2012
5th February 2012 at a cold Sports Direct Arena and the home team grab a 2-1 victory over a defensively questionable and dull Aston Villa side, thanks to goals from two chaps called Demba. Whilst, there was nothing extraordinary about the result itself, it did propel Newcastle United back to fifth, just two points off fourth placed Chelsea and harbouring genuine aspirations of a return to Champions League football in Tyneside. They have indeed found themselves in similar positions for most of the season, but most people assumed they would just fall away by Christmas. Nevertheless, it is now February and Alan Pardew's Magpies are very much still in the mix for fourth.

So how have Newcastle found themselves back in the dizzy heights of the top six of the Premier League once again? Well, it is Pardew himself who should take a lot of the credit. After selling many of the club's ‘best' and most influential players in Andy Carroll, Jose Enrique and Joey Barton, many thought Newcastle would struggle, especially as they were replaced by cheaper less known players. But the likes of Yohan Cabaye have stepped up and brought real quality to the team.

Pardew's masterstroke signing was that of Demba Ba. Prolific at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, he had a decent first half-season in the Premier League at West Ham. He was infamously rejected by Stoke for his so called ‘degenerative knee' and the Potters' loss was Newcastle's gain as they took a gamble on his injury and brought him in. 16 Premier League goals later and I am sure Tony Pulis is kicking himself. Gabriel Obertan seems like another inspired signing. He never impressed at his time at Manchester United after signing from Girodins Bordeaux, but since his move to the North East, he has been brilliant, adding much needed pace and width to the team. And their most recent acquisition, Papiss Demba Cissé looks like a really good player as well. Only Mario Gomez scored more goals in the past two Bundesliga seasons than Cisse and at a time when Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool are all in need of strikers, Newcastle have done themselves another great bit of business.

He's also managed to get the best out of players that were already at the club like Cheick Tiote (who bossed the midfield as Newcastle destroyed Manchester United at home), Fabricio Colloccini (and his glorious perm) and Tim Krul, who has also been a revelation in goal since replacing Steve Harper at the beginning of the season. He alone won Newcastle a point at Old Trafford and has been probably the best keeper in the league this season along with Michel Vorm at Swansea.

Another man also deserves some credit, despite Newcastle fans most likely not wanting to admit it and that is the godfather of the ‘Cockney Mafia' himself, Mr. Mike Ashley. Despite the nonsense with stadium naming rights (which are probably best for the club financially anyway) and the farce that took place early on his tenure with King Kev leaving amidst mediocrity and Youtube signings, he has had a part to play in the club's renaissance. The Sports Direct chief took the decision to sack Chris Hughton who was doing well at the club after taking them back up and bring in Pardew. Whilst Hughton is a very good manager and a seemingly very nice man, it seemed as if he let the bigger egos in the dressing room (Barton, Nolan et al) get away with a lot and they needed a stronger manager to come in and take back control.

However, for how good Newcastle have been, their competition has been as bad. Arsenal and Chelsea are having their worst seasons since all round here was green fields and Liverpool are having to fill their annual quota of drawing with every team below them in the league. Newcastle are capitalising on the misfortunes on others and if Arsenal had not had as many injury problems, and if Fernando Torres actually scored goals and if Liverpool had not wasted all their money, then Newcastle would probably find themselves a little further back in the table.

But take nothing away from Newcastle. If they finish fourth they will fully deserve it. As they say, you can only beat what is in front of you.
Alex Boukhalfa

Total articles: 4

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