I've been a long time away and it is good to be back and writing for CHN! Without "The Post Game" to write up I have been itching for the new season and we are nearly there. If the Headline failed to queue you in, this is the 6th write up of our great series "Eleven Days Of Newcastle" and it is on the right sided midfielder/winger.
This position could be one of the most interesting positions to follow this season. For simplicity sake we are doing "Eleven Days of Newcastle" based off of the 4-4-2 formation. The only problem with this is that last year we saw the emergence of Hatem Ben Arfa, and with that Alan Pardew wisely switched to a 4-3-3 to utilize his creativity and attacking ability. The development of HBA speaks as much to Alan Pardew's player managing skills as it does to HBA's talent. AP handled HBA extremely carefully coming off of a broken leg suffered during the 2010-2011 season. At times I was even a little frustrated with how cautiously he worked HBA back into the team. I felt that a player of his quality, with his creation and flair was not going to patiently wait for his chance to get back into the squad. I was obviously wrong, AP handled Ben Arfa beautifully and now we see a much more mature (though by no means perfect) HBA.
I feel it would be unfair if I simply tried to break down this position for the 4-4-2 because right mid and right wing are two very different positions. Hatem Ben Arfa shows us at times that he has the ability to be a world class RW, making dazzling runs, cutting in on his favorite left foot, leaving goalkeepers in his wake, and the ball in the net. At only 25 and with a few years still left on his contract, he is a player that most of the Toon Army hope we get to enjoy for many years to come. Netting 5 goals last year may not seem like a lot, but when you see that he only played in 26 games, with even less of those being starts, and even less of them playing as an out and out winger, the number seems quite good. There are very few players in the EPL that can receive very little and turn it into a scoring chance individually, and HBA is one of them. In truth, I am more excited about Hatem this year than any other player on the Toon. We all know that he was no where near full strength early last year and Pardew did not fully commit to the 4-3-3 until late in the season. It is nearly like a new signing has arrived on Tyneside. This year HBA will have a strong say on the league standings at the end and I feel very strongly about that.
There is not much to write on the subs at RW in the 4-3-3 because Ben Arfa is the predominant reason that AP switched to it last year. This may change as the team evolves and Sammy Ameobi and Sylvain Marveau return from injury, but even then, both of those players have been played predominantly on the left. Obertan has been the choice in the past, but has seemingly fell out of favor and and late last year completely disappeared. If Ben Arfa is not on the pitch, it is most likely NUFC will be running a 4-4-2 to capitalize on one of the best striker partnerships in the premier league. (mmm... that feels good to say doesn't it? Go ahead, you can say it out loud)
Ahhhhh, the traditional 4-4-2. Maybe not the most exciting formation in the world, but was the NUFC mainstay early in the season. Ben Arfa struggled at times as a Midfielder (I still love you!) as it didn't appear defending was quite as fun as nut megging a couple smucks and ripping one past the keeper to him. Who would have thunk it? When in this formation, which I am hypothesizing will be our predominant formation for most of the cup ties, I am a big Ryan Taylor fan. He has his weaknesses but most of those were exposed when he was stuck at LB covering for the injured Davide Santon early in the season. Raylor has one of the better free kicks in the league and when he is on can whip in some curvaceous crosses to those two beautiful Senegalese noggins waiting to smash them into the net! He may not be great defensively as a defender, but for a midfielder I think his defensive skills are above average. He has a brilliant motor and seems to make few mistakes when on the ball.
Raylor may be my choice but early in the season Garbiel Obertan was the favorite. The Toon Army ate this poor, former Red Devil man alive last year and he played less and less as the season wore on. There have now been a myriad of rumors linking him to a transfer away (mainly to Swansea), but until something concrete emerges he is ours! The simple fact is, barring an exit, we will need Gabby to show up this year. With the added wait of the cup matches and no one truly emerging as a great RM or a clear cut back up to HBA, Obertan must improve. He shows skill on the ball, and when inspired can be solid, but is one of the most inconsistent players on the team. I will say that he has looked solid in the preseason and shows promise in a more advanced role, but with Gabby I will continue to keep my fingers crossed. He could be a very important player for us, both off the bench and in cup matches so I guess that is all that we can do.