Newcastle will begin the 2013-14 season on Monday away at Manchester City. It's no fun watching Opening Day with no NUFC to keep you warm, so we cooked up this season preview around our roundtable just for you. Feel free to provide your own commentary below.
Who will finish in the top 6? (Feel free to expand on your answer, or not. Whatever. It's your life. Do what you want.)
Robert L. Bishop: Chelsea will be inspired by Jose Mourinho, Manchester United will struggle (relative to other recent seasons) under David Moyes, and Spurs have finally done enough to pass by idle Arsenal.
2. Manchester City
3. Manchester United
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Alfie Crow: Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea, ManU, Aresenal, Liverpool - I think if Spurs can keep Bale, with the additions they've made, they can challenge for the league title but ultimately I think City takes it.
Alan Hoffmann: I don’t really see any major changes outside of the traditional order. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal will all be up there. I’d place Tottenham up here, but losing Bale will hurt them a lot. I’ll pick Everton to finish out the top six. I’ll tip Chelsea to win the league.
Who will be relegated?
JM: 18. Stoke City
19. Cardiff City
20. Hull City
RLB: Hull City, Crystal Palace, and Stoke City, in some order. Hull and Palace will both struggle mightily, and I think the abrupt change in philosophy at Stoke will result in some terrible growing pains for a squad that was built to play a different style.
AC: Crystal Palace, Hull City, and Southampton
AH: The obvious candidates would be the newly promoted sides, and I think Hull City and Crystal Palace will go back down. I think Stoke City, Norwich and Villa could find themselves in a dogfight to survive.
Pick one team that will surprise in a good way and one that will surprise in a bad way.
JM: Good way: Everton - not that a 6th place finish is necessarily a "surprise" , but I think that Roberto Martinez is going to do some nice things there.
Bad way: Sunderland - I think that they will surprisingly manage a number of results and be flying high (Party with Marty, anyone?) and then surprisingly lose momentum and end the season lower-mid table.
RLB: I like Norwich City to continue to progress under Chris Hughton. He's made some shrewd buys (Leroy Fer, anyone?) and I can see them challenging for the top half of the table. On the other side, I can't help but think that Swansea City will struggle with the European schedule. Am I projecting based on what happened to Newcastle last season? Absolutely. Will they be in a relegation struggle like Newcastle were? Not necessarily. I'm just not seeing them challenge for Europe, which seems to be the popular narrative for them.
AC: I think Fulham is going to surprise in a bad way. They rely on Berbatov and I don't think adding Bent helps all that much. Surprising in a good way I think will be Newcastle, because I think their starting XI can be solid... depending on the formation. A lot expect them to be on relegation watch. I don't.
AH: I think Fulham could surprise in a good way. I think getting Darren Bent was a good pick-up for them. I think they may challenge the top six. Tottenham I think will be a disappointment. They may slip to a mid-table side.
Who will be the Premier League Player of the Year?
JM: Juan Mata
RLB: Stop taking my answers, Jim. I'll go with Eden Hazard instead, since I picked Chelsea to win the league.
AC: Robin Van Persie
Who wins the cups?
JM: [Insert sponsor here] Cup: Newcastle United; FA Cup: Manchester City
RLB: League Cup: Everton; FA Cup: Spurs
AC: FA Cup - Everton, Capital One Cup - Arsenal
AH: Those are such a crapshoot that it’s hard to predict. I mean, Wigan won one last year. Once you get past Newcastle not going far in either, what’s there to predict?
I'm just going to assume that you're disappointed with the transfer window. What one thing could be done before the end of the month to improve the squad? Is there a particular player you've got your eye on?
JM: Disappointment is a very weird word with regard to this particular transfer window. I think it's very easy to forget that we brought 5 players in during the January window. It would be great to get another striker into the squad this month, but here's the thing - we're not super-desperate (at least not after Rémy returns), especially if Pardew is going to continue to try to prefer the 4-2-3-1. Also, with the carrot of Nigeria's World Cup squad out there, you just might see Shola Ameobi buck the trend of his entire non-Championship career and continue scoring like he has in the preseason. Stranger things have happened.
Player I've got my eye on: Unrealistically, I'd love it if we went back in for Arda Turan. Not that he fills a need or anything... but I bought him in FIFA and you know that means it would work out in real life. Alternately, I would love to go in for Fabián Assmann (GK Independiente, ARG) because, well... you don't need me to explain it, do you?
RLB: How about someone who can deliver consistent service? I'm still interested in Scott Sinclair, assuming he hasn't signed with West Brom by the time this publishes.
AC: I'm happy that Remy got "over the line" but it seemed as if that was already in the cards. I'd like to see the Toon get across either another striker or a winger so they stop this foolishness of Sissoko and Cisse out wide. I'd also like to see them shore up the depth at centerback a bit. I think someone like Ideye Brown would be a great value addition.
AH: I think another striker would be nice. Maybe a little more help in the midfield. But, I’m not holding my breath. We’ve been linked to a lot of players and everything fell through. As for players on the squad, I’m looking forward to watching a healthy HBA.
In your opinion, what's the best way to deploy Loic Remy?
JM: In my happy land world, he would be Demba Ba in the 11/12 4-3-3. Alternately, as a second striker in a 4-1-3-2.
RLB: Yeah, I would like him out on the edge. A Remy-Cisse-Ben Arfa front line would be okay with me.
AC: Personally I think the team should play Remy at the left wing, which will allow him to use his pace and give them a threat out wide on each side, with Ben Arfa at the other wing and Cisse in the middle.
AH: In a supporting role behind Cisse. He’s someone that can score on his own and take some of that burden off of Cisse, but he has to work better with him than Demba Ba did.
Who will be Newcastle's Player of the Year?
JM: Yohan Cabaye - not only will he not be sold, he will find a way (in a World Cup year, mind) to play a titch higher and pick out the passes that he was picking out in 11/12.
RLB: Tim Krul. I like him to have an injury-free, bounce-back year, and improved depth in front of him can only help.
AC: I think Mousa Sissoko can be the team's player of the year, granted he's actually allowed to play as a central midfielder.
AH: HBA. Seriously, I am excited to see him being fully healthy. (Note: this means we will sell him tomorrow). Ed. note: You'd better hope that doesn't happen.
Who will be Newcastle's biggest surprise player?
JM: Shola Ameobi. I don't think he's going to challenge for the Golden Boot or anything, but I'm not going to be surprised if he ends up in double digit goals across all competitions.
AC: I like Tiote as the surprise player, in that I think he'll be more consistent and not be a walking yellow.
AH: I don’t know if it would be a surprise if Moussa Sissoko came out, but I would like to see more from him. He lacked some finish in the final third last season and I’d like to see him get some good deliveries into the box.
What would have to happen for you to consider this season a success?
JM: Top half finish and at least one extended cup run (i.e. reaching a final)
RLB: If Newcastle don't finish in the top half, it will be a disappointment. I'm fully prepared for this eventuality.
AC: For me a successful season is a deep run in one of the cups (semi-finals) and finishing in the top half of the table.
AH: I honestly think we have the squad for a top half of the table finish. If we stay healthy (no way it’s as worse as last year) then we can do that. Also, one good cup run isn’t to much to ask for, is it?
What is your ideal Starting XI?
JM: Krul; Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon; Tiote; Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Gouffran; Cissé, Rémy
RLB: I'll stick with the 4-2-3-1, because I want both Cabaye and Sissoko playing in roles well suited to their strengths. Yanga-Mbiwa barely edges out Steven Taylor. I'd be happy with either.
Krul | Debuchy, MYM, Coloccini, Santon | Tiote, Sissoko | Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Remy | Cisse
AC: My ideal starting 11 is a 4-1-2-3 (left to right) Krul -- Santon, Colo, Taylor, Debuchy -- Tiote - Cabaye, Sissoko -- Remy, Cisse, Ben Arfa. I think this puts the players in their best positions to not only succeed, but link up to each other's strengths. Debuchy likes to get up field and attack and Ben Arfa likes to drift towards the center, so with both of those on the right side it should synergize well.
AH: I’m going to steal from Alfie Crow on twitter: krul - debuchy - colo - ymm - santon / tiote / cabaye - sissoko / remy - cisse - hba
Where will Newcastle finish in the table?
JM: Ninth, but I'm not going to be shocked if we end up higher.
RLB: The median between 5th (2011-12) and 16th (2012-13) is 10.5. I'll pick Newcastle to come up just short of that. 11th place.
AC: I'll go with 8th.
AH: 8th. And it will somehow feel like a massive accomplishment.