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How The North East Teams Are Doing So Far: Newcastle United

Saturday 28th January 2012
Cast your mind back three years ago. At the end of the 2008-2009 Premier League season, all three North East clubs were involved in a relegation scrap which went down to the final day's results.

All three teams lost, which saw Middlesbrough and Newcastle relegated to the Championship with Sunderland surviving by the skin of their teeth. Three years on and things are looking a lot brighter. Last season, after their immediate return, Newcastle finished in a respectable 12th position while Sunderland achieved their third highest finish in Premier League history in 10th.

Meanwhile Middlesbrough, after a poor start, finished well with the rebuilding of the team well underway. The good form of the North East teams has continued into this season with both Newcastle and Sunderland enjoying being in in the top half which Middlesbrough's promotion target still looking achievable.

This series of articles will look at how well the North East teams have done and where they can expect to finish.

Newcastle United (Currently 6th)

There is no doubt about it, Newcastle have been the surprise package of the season. The first half of the season has been beyond their wildest dreams and see the club exceeding expectations of everyone. Maybe everyone except Alan Pardew, who has made managing Newcastle seem like a simple job, something esteemed managers such as Keegan failed to do.
Newcastle's activity in the transfer market may have left a few fans worried. They arguably lost their two best players, with Enrique heading to Anfield and Joey Barton's Twitter rants resulting in him being released. However, Pardew's signings have shown to be more than adequate and filled their roles well.

This includes Demba Ba, who is arguably the league's signing of the season. After being released by relegated West Ham United, Pardew took a punt and it has paid off well. After a slow start, Ba has exploded into life, scoring 15 goals including two hat-tricks against Blackburn and Stoke.

His accomplishments haven't gone unrecognised, as he was December's player of the month and is included in many pundit's team of the season so far. Pardew's other signings have shown to be promising as well. Yohann Cabaye, signed from Lille, has formed a reliable partnership with Tiote in the centre of midfield, chipping in with a spectacular free kick against Manchester United being his highlight so far. Young Italian prospect Davide Santon is being slowly being brought into the first team, as Pardew looks to build for the future.

Newcastle started well, with a battling draw against Arsenal on the opening day. They then won the Tyne-Wear derby, with a Ryan Taylor free kick securing the three points for the Magpies, ensuring that the Newcastle fans have the bragging rights for the time being.

With a very promising start to the season, the real test came in November, facing both Manchester clubs and Chelsea. Roberto Mancini's superstars proved too much for the Newcastle team but securing a draw the week after at Old Trafford has shown just how much they have come along. December proved to be a difficult month as they won just four points of a possible 18, a run in form which meant that Newcastle were expected to slide down the table.

However, December started with the best result of the season, with a dominating and well deserved victory against Manchester United. Ba's spectacular finish showed how important he is for the team, with the defence showing why they have become a well gelled forced.

With Ba departing to play in the African Cup of Nations (ACON) the real test for Newcastle was how they would fare without their main man. A cute finish by Leon Best initially showed that they can cope, but the second half self-destruction against Fulham showing that despite their brilliant start, they are still a few weak links that no doubt Pardew will look to correct.

Senegal's surprising early departure from the ACON will only benefit the team, with his international teammate Pappiss Cisse joining the Magpies after impressing for struggling German team Freiburg.

Although Demba Ba has been the one banging in the goals, it's not just a one man team. Tim Krul has received plenty of plaudits for his heroic keeping, while Newcastle will be hoping they can secure him on a long term contract with teams such as Tottenham and Chelsea sniffing around.

Krul stands behind a defence who overall have been very secure with eight clean sheets and keeping out formidable strike forces such as Arsenal and Manchester United. Fabricio Coloccini has been very impressive, with him being given the captains armband as a reward, while Steven Taylor continues to give consistent performances.

Although we must acknowledge the fact that Newcastle's defence has been largely impressive, we can't ignore the fact that they have conceded three or more goals seven times this season. Their defence can be hit or miss, but thankfully for the club, they've had several impressive displays, helping the club to the position that they are in.
Another notable performer this season is Cheick Tiote. Perhaps most memorably known for his equaliser against Arsenal in the 4-4 thriller last season, his grit and determination to win the ball has made him a fan favourite at St James Park. This has seen interest from teams such as Chelsea, but Newcastle will look to keep him as his partnership with Cabaye seems to improve with every game.

Jonas Guiterrez seems to be improving every season at the club, while fit again Ben Arfa looks to be like a new signing with significant contributions, including an exquisite goal against Blackburn in the FA cup. Perhaps a one down side for the Magpies is that Obertan hasn't made as the impact that was hoped off him.

So what can the Toon army expect for the rest of the season? The signing of Cisse, rumoured to be around the £9million mark shows the intention of the club, and perhaps reduces the weight on the shoulders of Ba.

Ba and Cisse, who are well known friends and international teammates, could turn out to be a threatening strike-force, although we may see the best of Cisse next season after fully settling in. After only losing two games all season at home, the Toon Army can expect to see plenty of points still on offer as they look to secure a place in Europe next season.

As shown by the Manchester United result, Newcastle can beat anyone at home at St James Park so matches against Liverpool and Manchester City should be tasty affairs, with the Tyne and Wear derby also promising a feisty and explosive match.

However, it will be tough for the Magpies. One or two injuries could leave the squad dangerously thin, especially if talisman Ba was to go down injured. The team have several tricky away games left against title contenders and relegation candidates fighting for their lives.

The fight and passion that the team has shown means that the rest of the season is very promising. The team seem to bond well and are willing to play for the team and for Pardew, whose management of the team has gone largely unnoticed. For the first time in a while, the media is focused on the pitch, rather than the drama off it as seen a few years ago.

However, as shown against Norwich and Fulham, they are prone to collapsing at times but the question will be how they respond to them defeats as they look to maintain their positive start to the season. Unless the club suffer from a dramatic slide, they can look back at this season with positive thoughts. From being in the Championship team two years ago, the team will look to become established in the top half of the league, and they are well on the way in doing so.

My Predicition: 7th
Craig Lishman

Total articles: 9

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