Topical Top 5: Best Ever NUFC Formations

Over the past month of Black November, which has seen NUFC lose 4 out of 5 Premier League games, one topic of conversation stands out above any other. The formation. Every one has an opinion on it. The 4-4-2 Alan Pardew has insisted with pretty much throughout this season is despised (I would say) by most fans. So in the interest of doing something topical, as well as getting away from writing about how worse this season is getting, a topical top 5 is in order. 

So looking back over the past 20 years of Premier League football for Newcastle United here is my take on our Top 5 formations:

Topical Top 5: Best Ever NUFC Formations

5) 2008 Keegan's 4-3-1-2.- No NUFC historian will write eulogy's over Keegan's second time in charge. But when he went 4-3-1-2 in the spring of 2008 it was seen as a tactical master stroke. Playing Michael Owen in the hole was a fresh new idea that instantly worked. Its a shame Keegan never got the chance to build on this as he was soon gone. Highlight: Spanking Spurs away 4-1. Who could forget?

4) 2010 Hughton's 4-4-2 diamond - When we were promoted back to the Premier League under the guidance of rookie Chris Hughton, his tactical nous helped us have a cracking first season. His philosophy of Nolan at the tip of a midfield diamond in front of Tiote with Jonas and Barton lying deep either side was rightfully applauded. His sacking was a unwarranted but luckily his successor didn't rip this up and start again as Alan Pardew continued Hughton's good work. Highlight: Beating the mackems 5-1 then Arsenal 1-0 away in the space of a week. Nice work.

3) 2001-2004 Sir Bobby's 4-4-2 - It was simple. It was effective. We had wide players who constantly delivered quality into the box. We had Bellamy's pace playing off Shearer's old fashioned centre forward bullishness. We had Dyer's legs with Speeds nous in the middle. Premier League finishes of 4th, 3rd and 5th place were the rewards. Some of our best Premier League games were played out during this period with the Man Utd 4-3 win and two back to back epic away victories at Arsenal (3-1) and Leeds (4-3) to go top of the league at Christmas. An historic Champions League campaign also came our way with memories all Newcastle fans will never forget. To this day you will still never see a mackem in Milan. Highlight: One night in Rotterdam when we qualified from our Champions League group after losing the first 3 games. Historic.

2) 2012 Pardew's 4-3-3 - The infamous 4-3-3 which inflamed a 6 game winning streak as NUFC pushed for a Champions League spot is still spoken of today. It's what most of us want to see back at this football club. There is no reason to abandon this highly successful system given the fact the exact same players are still here to carry it out. It could/should be the future of our football club for many years to come. Sort it out Alan. Immediately. Highlight: Its debut destruction of West Brom still lives fresh in the memory.

1) 1993-1996 Keegan's 4-2-3-1 - People look back at the KK Entertainers era and think of all out attack. What they ignore is his tactical ability. Long before Wenger and Mourinho arrived on these shores, King Kev had a team that played with two out and out attacking wingers (Ginola/Gillespie or Sellars/Fox), a marauding midfielder from deep (Lee), with one centre forward (Cole or Ferdinand) and a player, sorry genius, in the hole (Beardsley). This system was way before its time in the English game and was highly successful. As soon as we got in the Premier League teams just couldn't handle us. This isn't just down to the attacking mentality but outclassing them tactically. Brilliant time to be a fan. Thanks for the memories KK. Highlight: No trophies but the fact Newcastle United even competed for the title, never mind consistently ripped the league to shreds, is some achievement.

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Is Demba Ba Harming The Team With Selfishness And Greed?

So that's 4 defeats in a row and considering our fixture list for the rest of 2012, we are without doubt in a relegation battle. On 80 minutes at Stoke we were 1-0 up and I was saying to myself, if we end up drawing this game I will be gutted. The fact we ended up losing it is a tough one to take. The manner of the goals we conceded were frightening as they were so basic and avoidable. If you concede these type of simple goals and don't create many chances, then you can't expect anything else than relegation fight. No matter who you are. We've been here before and last one we were in...we lost.

However, what I will say is last night showed signs that we are capable of avoiding the unthinkable as the performance wasn't as bad as you might expect down at Stoke on a cold Wednesday night. We should have won, we definitely shouldn't have lost. We're clearly a better team than Stoke but are just in a rut of form at the minute with our confidence and luck on the floor. We could so easily had been given a penalty before they equalised and wrapped up the win. Instead two sucker punches later and we lose. That's what happen's when you're at the bottom. Last season we would have won that, no doubt about it.

Now something I have noticed this season, came even more apparent Wednesday night in the shape of Demba Ba's performance. We know Demba is an out and out goal scorer, but I swear, he is the greediest most selfish player I have ever seen wear a black and white shirt. It's incredible. He NEVER passes the ball when he is anywhere within 30 yards of the goal or when other players are better placed. The Stoke game was a glorified example of this.

For our goal, when Tiote closed down the Stoke player winning back possession in the middle of the field and the ball fell to Demba, did anyone expect him to pass it? Even though he had three players in better positions then him to put in at goal? I know I didn't. The thought of Demba Ba passing the ball doesn't even enter his brain. We got lucky in the end as his inevitably saved shot was fumbled by the keeper and Cisse did brilliantly to stick in the rebound. But we didn't get as lucky 5 mins later when he did it again. He had the ball 25 yards from goal and instead of putting in a team mate, he selfishly went for goal, where this time the keeper held on to the ball.

His selfishness is astounding. He is so selfish that in my opinion it is actually harming the team. Demba has 8 goals to his name this season, third highest in the league, which is fantastic. However, as a team we only have 14. This is 3 less after 14 games into the relegation season. Cisse has been struggling for goals this year and part of the reason comes in the shape of his strike partner. He just doesn't pass to him. I feel sorry for Cisse. He does his best to hold the ball up and look for his team mates. Demba does nothing of the sort, not any where near the goal any way. He has a voice inside his head telling him not to pass it and look for self glory. We have all played with one these lads at some point in our lives, they are infuriating. There's nothing worse.

Wednesday night Cisse made a brilliant run beyond Demba as he turned a Stoke player in the centre circle, if Ba had found him with the simplest of passes, Papiss was completely in at goal. It wasn't as if Demba didn't see him. He did. But for some reason he did what he always does and hesitated in giving him the ball. Ba then eventually got fouled and the chance had gone. I went mental watching that. Cisse was in! He could have wrapped the game up there and then. This is what I mean that his selfishness does actual harm to the team. Time after time after time where he should pass, he shoots. Its all about me, me, me, me, me. I wouldn't mind as much, but he has never scored from one of these 25 yarders or us. Never.

Its not just his lack of passing that harm's the team currently but also losing possession. His control and hold up play is abysmal at times. When the ball is lumped up to him by the centre backs it's like a pinball machine. It could fly off anywhere. Against Stoke he was dispossessed 5 times which was more than any other player on the pitch. His passing stats weren't great either with 20 out of 26 successful (via NUFC_Stats). The fact he only attempted 26 passes tells its own story. He also unsurprisingly has 0 assists this season and only had 2 to his name in the whole of last season. For his 8 goals this year he has taken a massive 56 shots. He may be our top scorer but that does not justify not being a team player. (ESPN Demba Ba Stats)

His selfish nature is also harming the actual shape of the team. We are yet to hear a formal explanation as to why Pardew has ditched the 4-3-3 we witnessed with great success last year but the only reason we can come up with is because of Demba Ba. Or his reluctance to fall in line to be precise. As Demba went on a goal scoring fast, where as Cisse was banging them in left, right and centre, our Number 19 decided that it was because he was playing on the left wing why his goal scoring dried up. He decided he didn't want to play there as it was costing him scoring goals. He wanted (demanded) to play through the middle and it seems Pardew fell to his wishes. As after we beat Stoke 3-0 in April of this year, that successful system with Ba on the left has never been seen again. We as a team have never played as well again either.

But why would Pardew do this? Why would he harm the team for the sake of keeping one player happy? Well that comes through another shape of Demba Ba's greediness. His contract. We all know he has a release clause in his contract for a measly fee so the feeling of we need to keep him happy has come over our manager and football club as a whole. It was reported we were negotiating a new deal for our top scorer in the summer to get rid of this release clause but it never materialised. Reason being he was outrageously demanding £100k a week. This doesn't surprise me as if you look at Demba's history with contracts and transfers you can see why some people within football describe him a bit of a 'mercenary'.

When Ba was at Hoffenheim he refused to play for them and tried to force a move to England. After they reluctantly agreed, after initially threatening him with legal action, he got his move to West Ham. On signing for West Ham he and his agent's negotiated a release clause in his contract for if the club got relegated. West Ham in their arrogance or incompetence agreed. So once they went down, he was free to leave for whom ever he liked. So Newcastle stepped in and took him with no transfer fee involved.

Now what this also entailed is because Demba had no transfer fee needed to require his services, he and his agents could make a killing on signing on and agent fees. Which they did. Derek Llambias stresses that Ba was not a 'free' transfer in the recognised sense. What he means by this is the club paid massive fees to Demba and his agents in the light they saved themselves money on a transfer fee. Its genius really. But it doesn't even stop there. Because like we all know, the contract agreed with NUFC involves yet another release clause. In the shape of a minimum fee release clause of £7.5 million. Not a big fee at all. Certainly if Demba made a success of his time at Newcastle you would think it wouldn't put of any suitors. Not a bad job done for a mercenary you may agree?

A defence for Demba's actions comes in the form of his dodgy knee. We all know Stoke apparently turned down the chance to sign him because they thought his knee was a ticking time bomb. But is it? Has Ba had any issue with his knee at all at Newcastle yet? Don't think so. So maybe even this is a trump card to justify clause after clause in his contracts. If you can make a club think they are making a gamble on you, you can strengthen your own position by making out of the ordinary requests. I am sure Derek Llambias didn't have a problem agreeing to a minimum fee release clause because he probably thought making a £7.5 million profit on a player is a good deal at the end of the day. Plus his knee might go so it wouldn't even matter. Nicely played Demba, nicely played.

Now I dont want this to sound like a witch hunt against our top scorer because it isn't. I like Demba. Where would we be without his goals? All I want is for him to start being a team player as we need him to now more than ever. You can get away with shooting on site as long as the team are winning. When we are losing and hardly creating chances as it is, it isn't on. Not when his strike partner is feeding off scraps, rebounds off the keeper and goals flying in off his arse. Get your head up and pass it. Please. For the love of God. Pass it!

Carlton Cole said about Demba Ba when he was at West Ham, "When Ba was here you didn't bother asking for the ball or making a run because he wouldn't pass it to you." Their team got relegated that year. We don't want Papiss Cisse saying the exact same thing to the press this time next year after we have gone through the ultimate humiliation of relegation again. Whether Demba Ba will be even a Newcastle player come February is highly debatable with his release clause ready to kick in again with Liverpool & Chelsea needing their forward line strengthening. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We love Demba but he has to start putting his selfishness aside and being a team player. We are haemorrhaging points at the minute. We cant afford to carry his ego any longer. We are missing creativity with Ben Arfa & Cabaye out injured and with only 14 goals as a team, he has to start playing in team mates in better positions than him. Now Cisse has got himself a proper goal, we need to give him as much opportunities and chance to build his confidence as possible.

Onto Wigan we go...relegation six pointer? Must win.

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