Friday, 15 February 2013

Papiss Cisse Has Been Stood Offside ALL Season There Are No Excuses

Sir Alex Ferguson used to say about Filippo Inzaghi that he was 'born offside' well the same can be said about our number 9 Papiss Cisse. He has been unnecessarily caught offside time and time and time again this season and after last night's unbelievably frustrating 0-0 draw with Metalist this totally avoidable part of Cisse's game has finally came back to haunt us.

I should be writing this article talking about how we have the advantage going into the second leg with a lead and a clean sheet to our names sitting in prime position to get into the next round of the Europa League. Instead I am talking about how a linesman may or may not have robbed us of that scenario and how our misfiring striker managed to not get himself on the score sheet at least once.

Let's get something clear straight away, the linesman made a mistake when it came to Cisse's open goal tap in. Ironically it was Sissoko who broke through beating the offside trap with success only to see the linesman wrongly raise his flag as soon as he touched the ball. Maybe Moussa can teach Papiss a thing or two? We were robbed. The second of Cisse's 'goals' was marginal to say the least but it has to be said he was fractionally offside. Which is of no surprise to me whatsoever. Cisse has been offside all season long!

When will this lad learn? I have lost count of the amount of times he has been flagged for offside when we are in a good position. I understand he likes to play on the shoulder of defenders for the through ball but he has to learn how to hold his run. Sometimes he just blatantly runs 2 or 3 yards offside leaving it impossible for anyone to pass to him. What is he playing at? What is the manager and his staff playing at not fixing this? It isn't hard to rectify is it?

What can be easier for a player than to learn and change how and when he makes his runs and where he is stood on a football pitch? You should learn this 'knack' as a teenager. It's a basic part of being a centre forward. Everyone gets caught offside now and then, idiots get caught over and over again. I've liked Papiss ever since he stepped into St James' to smack one past Shay Given on his debut but this being constantly offside is infuriating.

We have somewhat tolerated it up to this point as he has got himself on the score sheet vs Everton and Villa but after this Metalist debacle my patience has ran out. I am going to go on record and say that I think we are out of the Europa League after drawing 0-0. I think all of those missed chances will definitely come back to haunt us next week. Kharkiv looked like a decent team with the ball and in their own stadium they will be certainly a much stronger force to handle.

The clean sheet is the only thing we can hold on to and if we were to score the first goal in the second leg then we would have a decent chance of going through on at least away goals. But seeing how we failed to even turn up at Bordeaux and failed to win at the likes of Bruges and part timers Maritimo, to go to Ukraine and come back with a result is a big ask. We only have one away win in all competitions after all. We had to win last night in my eyes and we failed. You can blame the linesman all day but we created 3 or 4 clear cut chances and failed to score.

Every Cisse chance he missed was easier than the last. One on one with the keeper is never a foregone conclusion but you would expect the striker to put it away and not just hit it straight into the keeper. The cut back from Santon 6 yards out from goal should have seen the back of the net but again Papiss struck it straight into the keeper. The worst one of the lot was in the last minute of injury time. How the hell did that header not find the net?

He was in the perfect position, point blank in front of goal, looking straight at the corner of the net he needed to find. But yet he heads it into the keeper giving him the chance to get his hand on it to keep it out. That was a terrible miss. I would expect any player you can think of to have put that away whether they are a striker or not. Just put it in and we can take some satisfaction of a 1-0 last minute win and (almost) all is forgiven. That failure to score could prove to be fatal.

Derek Llambias said the other day that we have replaced Demba Ba in this January transfer window. Is he having a laugh? I hate to say it but if Demba was in our team last night we would be heading to Metalist with a healthy lead. We definitely need someone to come in who can at least a) score from 6 yards out and b) knows how to stay onside. Cisse is a good striker but he is not a reliable one I am afraid. Gouffran can make the LW position his own but we need more options up front.

All is not lost and I have no doubt my mood will be a lot more optimistic next week before the second leg but my feelings are that we have shot ourselves in the foot a few times too much which will come back to bite us on the arse big time. What a missed opportunity.

Have faith!

Follow this blog on Twitter @ToonBano 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

NUFC Team To Beat Metalist Kharkiv Tonight

We're finally back in Europe this evening and all Toon fans can talk about today is what the team might be. Pardew has gone on record saying he will pick a 'strong side' and so he should. In fact he should have gone a step further and said his 'strongest side'. With this in mind, this is the team that I would pick to beat Metalist and take a decent lead into the second leg:



Pardew has gone on record to say that Mbiwa will definitely start so Stevie Taylor will probably get a deserved rest after only recently coming back from injury. With Debuchy not chosen for the Europa squad there is a space to fight for and seeing as Simpson is a) struggling with injury and b) crap then Anita deserves to get back in the team as he has impressed in this position earlier in the season.

The centre of midfield and striker picks itself so the wide areas are up for grabs. I personally don't want to see Jonas Gutierrez anywhere near the first XI and I see no reason why Obertan shouldn't be allowed to continue his impressive European form on that left hand side as a like for like change for the ineligible and injured Gouffran. Marveaux has also impressed in Europe so having him cut inside on that right wing should be a certainty.

The above team is the best we have available and having the likes of Jonas and Perch who are nothing but makeshift players in the team would be totally unnecessary and nothing but a hindrance. A clean sheet is arguably the most important aspect to come out of this game as we have a history of going out on away goals in this competition. Specifically when the away leg is second. 2-0 to the Toon!

Howay The Lads!

Follow this blog on Twitter @ToonBano

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

This Year Could Still Be Newcastle's Biggest Landmark Premier League Season Ever

We have had some cracking seasons over the past 20 years in the Premier League from our very first where we tore up the league with Cole & Beardsley to finish 3rd, to the '12 point lead' year where we were an inch away from Premiership glory, to a couple of FA Cup Finals back to back, to Sir Bobby taking us to the Champions League from absolutely no where and of course last seasons unexpected 5th place finish.

This season however has been an absolute stinker, but what seems ridiculous, is that it could still turn out to be the No.1 landmark of a season in our Premier League history. That would be achieved if we finally win that trophy we desire by bringing home the Europa League. How could it not be to finally end that 44 year hoodoo and put to bed the mocking of 'what have you ever won?'

When a Toon fan gets asked this annoying question we instantly lay claim to 6 FA Cups, 4 league titles and that infamous Fairs Cup win in 1969. Unfortunately the follow up question is always 'well what have you won recently?' We then have to go through the heartache of 1996 to explain how close we were and how a couple of last minute goals at Liverpool and Blackburn stole our dream and then go on to casually mention we got to the cup final twice in 1999 and 2000. Which we never even looked like winning if we'e being honest...

Now this year has been a total shambles especially compared to last seasons 5th place finish which will go down as a definite success. But it has to be said if we were to avoid relegation and also get our name inscribed on the Europa League trophy it would turn out to be best of them all. Which seems insane right now but through all our Premier League impressive finishes we are yet to win something. Which is what football is all about at the end of the day.

Simon Bird in the Mirror claims that most Newcastle fans would take relegation if it meant we did win the Europa League which quite frankly is ridiculous. What is he insane? Relegation could be the death of this football club and no trophy is worth going through that. No chance. We have coped with having no trophy to cheer about for a generation now and waiting that bit longer won't exactly hurt us. Going down could kill us. The man's an idiot.

Our aim this season is to stay in the league, that goes without saying, but seeing as we have Metalist back to back with no league fixture in between there is no reason or excuse to not play our best team to hopefully see them off into the next round. Plus our league fixtures afterwards are very kind. We could see ourselves easily safe by the time March comes along and then the Europa League would become our No.1 objective. Do you know where we finished in the league in 1969? Do you care? Of course not.

If I see Pardew not playing his best team on Thursday or the Thursday after and then make excuses that the league is our main objective after limping out without much of a fight, I will never let him live it down. Ever. One thing is for sure we may never see European football for a long time after this year. We definitely wont be playing in it next year. There is only one way we will and that's to win it. Pardew has already thrown away our domestic hopes this year with his team selections, I don't want to see it again.

Our draw in the Europa is kind. We have avoided any of the true heavyweights until at least the semis with Anzhi or Hannover awaiting us in the next round. The only thing we have to deal with is the long trip to first Ukraine next Thursday and then possibly to Russia to play Anzhi. But if Hannover see them off then that wouldn't be an issue. We should be looking at the Europa League as the chance to save our season.

In fact, victory in the Amsterdam Arena on May 15th wouldn't just save this season but become a true landmark to be remembered forever as we finally open up the trophy cabinet to actually put something in it rather than to shine up what's been in there for years. As great and as proud as we are of those achievements...we need another one!

Howay!

Follow this blog on Twitter @ToonBano

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Has Alan Pardew Finally Seen The Light To Breed Success And Stability?!

As I get over the shock of actually winning a game from behind for the first time in over two years and trying to get my head around winning back to back victories for the first time this season...something amongst our latest turn in fortune has jumped out at me (apart from the new signings) and that is the system. A formation of 4-2-3-1 has been paramount throughout recent weeks and it's about bloody time. Maybe it's because Demba Ba is no longer in a black 'n' white shirt as he gets his head kicked in by Coloccini but the 'Hoofball 4-4-2' days seem to be over. Are they over for good?

If this is the case and we are no longer subjected to the nonsense of lumping it up to the strikers, even when we are losing, then Pardew deserves some credit for finally seeing the light. After all it's in my opinion that it was this factor of a pre-historic style of football that was holding this club back over anything else. Not the injuries or the Europa league but the totally cowardly non-attempt at even trying to play to our strengths and actually play some football. Our long ball stats are dropping like a stone with every game that goes by. Thank the lord.

You just need to have a look back over some of this blog's articles in the archive to see the absolute slating Pards has received over his total lack of any strategy. Now that he has seemingly sorted this crippling factor out look at the results. They haven't come immediately as we lost at home to Everton and Reading in recent weeks but that was mainly down to individual incompetence and baffling substitutions not because the system or style of football was ineffective. We were 2-1 down to Chelsea but we stuck at the 4-2-3-1 instead of resorting to 4-4-2 hoofball with Shola and turned it around. It works!

We even actually battered Reading in that first half and could/should have been 3 up if Cisse had his finishing boots on but Reading's keeper decided to have a 'worldy' for the first and last time this season to keep his team in the game. Once Pards made his 'mistakes' with substitutions Reading took full advantage. Plus some awful defending to allow Le Fondre to score two avoidable goals. What I will say though about that Reading game is it was a blessing in disguise. Especially as regards to reinforcements required.

I believe that shocking home defeat awoke Mike Ashley from hibernation with a straight kick in the balls and forced him to get his cheque book out as relegation was genuinely staring him in the face. Do you think Ash wants to miss out on this increased TV rights money and everything else the Premier League has to offer? No chance. So he and his sidekick got to work in bringing the players in that we actually needed in the summer. Not that the 4 new signings in as many days were knee-jerk reactions though eh Derek....?

As soon as Sissoko, Gouffran, Mbiwa and Haidara were through the door they rejuvenated our dressing room and club overall with some much needed assertiveness and impetus to take on the league, instead of laying down and dying with excuses spewing out our arses to explain what was going wrong. Excuses solve nothing. We needed action and we got it. Fair play to all for making it happen. Hopefully lesson's have been learned as regards to our transfer policy sluggishness. If you stand still in football you go backwards as the saying goes and it's true. Nobody can disagree after this season.

What Pardew also deserves credit for is who and where he has played our new signings. AP seems to have decided that 4-2-3-1 is the way forward and I am not going to disagree with him. Having Cisse up front on his own suits him down to the ground as he has a freedom he just didn't have playing up front with Demba Ba. Plus having two wide players in advanced areas is a must. It's a shame Jonas has took up one of those spaces but I'm not going to go into that. Benny is back soon so let's just leave Jonas to bask in his goal.

We all expected Sissoko to slot in centre midfield allowing Cabaye or Marveaux to take up the position 'in the hole' but no. Pardew has recognised Sissoko as the man for the job and hasn't it paid off? Finally I can categorically say Pardew has made a decision most people wouldn't necessarily go with that has paid off. Moussa has been a revelation playing off Cisse with Cabaye and Perch protecting him. His power and pace along with his eye for a pass has worked perfectly. His goals against Chelsea are a handsome bonus.

Gouffran on the left has been a welcome addition to our team as this is exactly what we have been crying out for. A natural forward playing from the left in an 'inside forward' role with the instincts to drive at goal. This is what Demba Ba offered during the 4-3-3 days that was under appreciated. Ba may not have scored himself but this position offers balance and a constant threat across the forward line. Having Jonas constantly drop in front of our left back doesn't stretch the opposition's defence. Gouffran now does this and does it well.

Once Ben Arfa is back we will have a completely balanced team and strength in every area to give any team a run for their money. Plus Chieck Tiote is back to make up a midfield trio of Sissoko, Cabaye and Tiote we're all frothing at the mouth at. Name me a stronger midfield than that in the Premier League. Solid doesn't even begin to describe it. I always felt that even with his goals Demba Ba was holding us back as a team and was actually harming it with his selfishness and greed. I said as much here. Now that he is gone, it's there for all to see.

We look like a team again. We actually pass the ball around to each other, we seem to have confidence in each other and our assertiveness to stop the opposition scoring and sticking the ball in the net ourselves is already a lot better. Yohan Cabaye coming back into the team and Coloccini deciding to stay has of course helped us massively but our turn in form is deeper than that. We have team spirit again. We had lost that this season. It is now back and hopefully for good.

Derek Llambias has been doing the rounds lately stating that Pardew is here to stay and that stability is the key for this football club. Well that's all well and good but it is success that breeds stability not just keeping someone employed for the sake of it. Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have earned their long stays in management with the same club by being successful. If Fergie hadn't won the FA Cup in 1990 he would have been sacked. He was even very lucky to have lasted that long. If Wenger hadn't have been instantly successful he may also have had the chop.

The jury is still out on Pardew as to whether he is the right man to take this football club forward. He did amazingly well last season but you have to say that has been evened out by being pretty much abysmal this season. There is no way this football club should have been subjected to a relegation battle. Not with this squad. Injuries have been unwanted problems with 2/3 players out at any given time but they have not been a 'crisis' with 6/7 first team players out leaving us to the bare bones. Don't believe that nonsense for a second. Have a look over the starting XI for each game this season if you doubt it here

I have been (rightly) calling Pardew up on the decisions he has been making this season and recognising his obvious failings that has contributed to this total mess of a season. But if he is adamant that a new system of 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 with a strategy of passing the ball to each other and using a player in the hole is the way this team is to play it's football then maybe there is hope for us after all. If he also now has a bigger voice over bringing much needed players in then he used to have, then again, maybe Pardew as NUFC manager might just work after all.

Pardew has been nothing but a puppet up to this point of his managerial career at Newcastle Utd, used to spew the propaganda and nonsense Llambias and Ashley want to feed the fans and media alike but don't have the balls to do it themselves. It's no coincidence Llambias has now started doing press interviews again after we have won a couple of games. Where was he when we were dumped out the cup at Brighton? Puppet Pardew was left alone to bear the brunt.

Next season will be massive for Alan Pardew and will go a long way to decide how his career here at Newcastle will go. If we have a good season he will get the time off the fans. If he has one like this year, the fans will rightfully call for his head and give Ashley and Llambias a decision to make. If he actually manages to win something like Alex Ferguson did in his third full season, then he can stay as long as he wants.

Because like I say, it's success that breeds stability. Nothing else.

Onto White Hart Lane we go for three wins on the bounce?.....Howay!!

Follow this blog on Twitter @ToonBano