So we've all had a night to sleep on it now, and it still sounds as splendid as it did before... 10 matches, 22 points, Newcastle United sit in 3rd place in the table just past the quarter mark in the season. 11 points on the road. The talking heads and pundits are sitting, waiting for it all to come crashing down, and it very well may. Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea back-to-back-to-back is not what one would likely call a favor from the scheduling committee... but isn't there just that little bit in the back of your head that is telling you that maybe we're not going to walk away from the three fixtures with 0 points? Stoke City was supposed to be the beginning of the downward spiral for us... but let us be honest: while the tactic may not be what we would like to see on a game in game out basis, it was exactly what was needed on the day, and it was executed to perfection. Who knows where this ultimately ends up, but doesn't this squad feel just a tiny bit different? Grab a cup of coffee and kick your feet up. The Mags are undefeated... still, and they have just played probably their best match of the season. Enjoy it.
If you drew up the formation that AP rolled out Monday night, you would look at the paper and scratch your head. Jonas played a very very withdrawn left mid-- nearly to the point that he was actually a second left back... and the effective midfield line was a diagonal from he to Obertan in a very advanced right wing. There was no surprise in what Stoke tried to do- they know you know and they defy you to stop them... AP and the lads did. Convincingly.
But for all Ba's predatory instincts in front of goal credit has to go to manager Alan Pardew for getting the gameplan right. Key to combating Stoke's strengths is cutting off their delivery at source and Ba was the first line of defence in that respect as he was detailed to get straight on to goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and prevent him kicking out early. There also was plenty of hard work done out out wide, especially on Newcastle's left, with winger Jonas Gutierrez spending more time doubling up with Ryan Taylor on Jermaine Pennant than he did attacking. When it came to defending set-pieces striker Leon Best was employed to good effect at the back to combat their opponents' aerial power while Gabriel Obertan occupied a high, wide position to ensure there was always an attacking outlet.
I was not at all kidding when I put AP in the MotM mix yesterday. All credit to him for having the team and the tactic exactly right, and all credit to the lads for making it work. Also, I take back anything even remotely negative I might have said about Mr. Demba Ba in the very early part of the season.
Much has been made about Stoke's failure to sign Demba Ba in the January transfer window last season... but Pulis has it right-- it's a much different proposition to spend £9m on a player that your physio says you shouldn't sign than to pick him up for free. I'm just glad that we were the ones that got him for free.
"I have to pay tribute to my players, they stood up to be counted," Pardew added. "There were so many set plays and so many long throws into the box. "It is about discipline in terms of how we work as a team and defend set plays. Not many teams are going to come here and win. It is a great performance from us."
<Insert the skipping OSotP record here>
If you were standing a year ago and looking at the future and could honestly say that you saw this coming, then you're either a clairvoyant or a nutter. Probably more of the nutter, frankly. It is quite amazing tat all facets of the club have ended up coming together the way they have.
A bit of an audio interview with Leon Best. The goals have dried up for Leon a bit, but he did have a hand in each of Demba's goals v. the Potters.
There's not much really surprising in here-- but it is interesting that it is specifically said that Santon is challenging Simpson for the right back role-- I don't guess that you could argue that Santon should be in contention at left back at this point.
This one is mostly a retrospective on Tim's first start for Newcastle at Palermo nearly 5 years ago.
Yeah-- so this happened. Again. How many chances will Mr. Ranger get, do you reckon?
Also-- it is worth mentioning that I did see the schlock that the mirror put out Monday with the headline quoting Steve Harper as saying that he had wasted years at Newcastle United. Once you dug in and actually read the real quotes in the article, he hasn't even come close to saying that. I'm all for an attention-grabbing headline, but surely there's a line at creating quotes that were never really said. Seems like I got myself in trouble on the High School newspaper staff doing that once. Nevermind. We're third in the league!! HTL!