Each successive match that Newcastle United play this season seems to bring with it a new goal or achievement that feels very very weird to talk about. While many of us (particularly around here at CHN) are focusing on the Europa League as the end-goal of our excellent season, the fact remained prior to kickoff that if we took all 3 points from our visit to Wales we would be temporarily 2 points out of the Champions League. Let's just let that sink in for a moment.
In the first edition of Swansea v. Newcastle this season, neither team were able to find that incisive attack and Swansea walked out of St. James' Park with a well-earned point (and a point I personally was despondent to send with them). That fixture came in the only real stretch of the season that could be termed a "swoon" for Newcastle this year, however. Now, with it all to play for, Newcastle seem to be returning to their best form of the year taking 12 points from the first 4 matches of their last-10 run in.
Although the scoreline would indicate a comfortable victory for the Mags, there was plenty to talk about for Newcastle supporters, particularly during the first half. The Toon walked into the locker room following the first half with a severe deficit in possession (depending on which outlet you looked at, it could have been as bad as 78/22 to Swansea)... but were up 1-0 through Papiss Cisse. While Swansea did dominate the possession stat, it has to be said that they were always lacking the quality in the final third to trouble Newcastle too terribly much. It may not have been fun to watch as a supporter, but the club always looked in control and had the game in front of them. I would hear Efan Ekoku point out (rightly so, for me) that there is a difference between being "outpossessed" and being "outplayed'. It has to be said that, however frustrating to watch, Newcastle were in no way outplayed today.
There was hope that, during halftime, Alan Pardew would light into the players a bit and stress possession over what looked to be an emphasis on the counter attack, but that was not to be. Swansea still held the ball at will, passing it around with no real effect, and it was into the last third of the match when that man Papiss Cisse would yet again pull a piece of striking brilliance out of his bag, leaving Michel Vorm absolutely no chance on a well taken goal in the 69th minute. James Perch and Mike Williamson were solid again at the back, rarely being troubled even when Brendan Rodgers brought on his leading scorer late in the match to try to pull something back for the Swans. 6 matches left for Newcastle, alone (temporarily) in 5th place... 2 points off of 4th. I think we'd have all taken it just like this if offered in July before the season started.
Of note in the second half: Cheik Tiote was withdrawn with a "slight hamstring problem"... that'll be one to keep an eye on.
The ability of Swansea to get up and down the wings troubled some to view, and sparked a little debate about the formation and we had a little discussion about 4-4-2 v. 4-3-3 during our live thread... why not weigh in down in the comments and have your say?