I believe that the storyline is supposed to go something like this: "Newcastle United host Everton Saturday morning at St. James' Park in what will undoubtedly be their last chance to accumulate any points until mid-December." I don't think that I buy into that train of popular thought, but first thing is first: David Moyes and Everton do come to Newcastle trying to jump-start a season that by points has sputtered a little in the first quarter of the season. I'm not going to lie- on a personal level I have respected Everton and what they had accomplished before their alleged financial issues took hold recently... and I am not ready to look even into the second half of this match, let alone to the Stretch-O-Doom™ that awaits over the next month. Let us hope that AP and the lads have a similar idea with regards to focus. Points after the jump.
- Newcastle United have allowed only 5 goals in the run of play this term. Everton have scored only 10 goals all season. If the defense can keep their shape and discipline (and a clean sheet), the odds of hitting the Stretch-O-Doom™ (How'd they do this OMG but it's OK because they'll get 0 points from their next three anyway) on a high are very good.
- Leighton Baines v. Sylvain Marveaux/Danny Simpson - Although a match is never as simple as one thing, popular convention says "Stop Leighton Baines, stop Everton". If Sylvain Marveaux and Danny Simpson can keep Baines occupied, it could be a long morning for the Liverpudlians. The question is: Does Alan Pardew adopt a Jonas-style withdrawn role to try to keep the box free from crosses, or is it more defend by attacking type idea? If we funnel balls over to Sylvain and he can produce the creativity that it feels like he can, he could keep the Everton left back quite entertained. If he is not up to the task, I could easily see Jonas drift over to the right, Sylvain to the left and we would be just as well for it.
- Sylvain Marveaux and Danny Guthrie- As I touched on yesterday, it would not have been my choice to have Gabriel Obertan leave the side on the heels of his finest performance as a Mag. Sylvain Marveaux has shown flashes of creativity in the minutes he has managed to accumulate to this point. With the threat of Leighton Baines marauding up and down the right side of the Newcastle formation, the question is: will he get the chance? Cheik Tiote looks to be out of the lineup yet again (a decision that it is hard to argue with if the end result is that he is healthy v. the firm of Manchester, Manchester and Chelsea) and Danny Guthrie looks set to deputize again. Against Stoke he played a somewhat anonymous central mid between the boxes. It may be a dim view to take of Guthrie, but with Marouane Felliaini out for this match through suspension, if he manages to play mistake free and allow Yohan Cabaye to play a slightly more forward role (especially with Marveaux on the right-- they seem to have a little understanding working), that would be enough for me to be very pleased with his performance.
- If recent form between the clubs holds, it could all be decided by the half - check out this interesting stat from Opta: Opta stat: In the last four matches between Newcastle and Everton there have been eight goals scored, seven in the first half and one in the first minute of the second half.
- The last team to defeat Newcastle United in front of the home support? Everton, who managed a 2-1 result in March. Focus has not seemed to be a problem for Alan Pardew's charges, but if he needed extra motivation, could that be it?
Don't let the point totals fool you, Everton have had a hell of a schedule so far including having already faced Manchester, Manchester and Chelsea and also Liverpool-- losing out to 1-0 Manchester United, 3-1 to Chelsea, only (!) 2-0 at Manchester City and 2-0 to Liverpool. That's 4-out-of-5 losses to anticipated top-4 teams. They have lived thus far the season that everyone is predicting for us over the next month. It's really no accident that they are playing these teams so closely, either... there is enough quality in this side to hang with anyone. They are undefeated on the road (2-0-2) and are the only team to defeat Newcastle at St. James' in the 2011 calendar year. If Alan Pardew and company have shown nothing else thus far this year, it is that they have the ability to change tactics within the starting XI as is dictated by the opponent. They are going to need to exhibit this ability again to protect their home ground and head into the next month on 0 defeats and a top-4 standing. HTL!