Fergalicious. Definition? Make the boys go loco...
Ok, but seriously, I made an off hand comment following Jonas's Red Card on Saturday that AP should give Newcastle's resident youngen, Shane Ferguson, the nod against Chelsea. Fergie came on strongly at the end of last season, but has yet to see the field this year in the Premier League campaign. While he has been a stalwart in the reserve side, Fergie hasn't broken into first team action, largely due to lack of need. When you're fourth on the table, have a wonderful Argentinian Spiderman playing at nearly top form at the spot, and focusing your attack through the central midfield, why throw the kid to the wolves? With Gutierrez suspended, Alan Pardew has a pretty vital tactical decision to make before Chelsea comes rushing into Sports Direct Stadium (or uh... St. James's Park?!?!) on Saturday. A case for the kid following the jump.
Shane. Ferguson. 20 years old. Grown ass man. Really quick, strong, and impressive left... player? Last year he lined up both in the LB and LM positions, and could do both with amazing grace. In a bizarre combination of Enrique's strength (#Imissyousomuch) and Jonas's speed and finesse, Fergie showed flashes of being absolutely T-to-the-A-to-the-S-T-E-Y, boy he tasty. He has poise, he has confidence, he has the potential to make wonderful crosses into the box and to get back into a solid defensive position, and, unlike some other Fergies, he has impeccable control over his bladder.
Now, there are the naysayers who quip the following counter-arguments, all somewhat legitimate:
We need to start a more experienced player: My response to this one is simple... like whom? Perch has played in some limited time at the right flank coming in for Obertan, and conventional wisdom would say he could play on the opposite side as a wingback as well. Guthrie also has experience on the flank, though he mostly has been deployed on the right. Marveaux would obviously be the best bet (perhaps better than Jonas on a regular basis) but his injury rules him out as well. As many of our readers are quick to point out, it's difficult to use experience to your advantage when depth is such an issue.
We need to experiment with player roles: Officially speaking, Hatem Ben Arfa is listed as a Forward/Wing, meaning if we were to deploy him on the left flank, we could use him as a freelancer for the side of the field. Pardew employed Harris Vuckic in this role twice during pre-season, netting a goal in the process. Clearly, if you have a pure winger like Jonas, you'd like to use him, but if you've got "athletes" who can move around the field, it may be foolish not to put your best starting XI in the lineup. While moving HBA to the flank and putting Leon Best or Shola Ameobi alongside Ba in the front could be effective, I doubt it would be our best option. Consistency is the key to results, and thus far out 4-4-2 has worked wonderfully. Simple, pure, and effective.
We need to change tactics: With such a dearth at the LM position, some might think it may be in our best interest to move into one of two different options: a 4-3-3 or a 5-3-2. Either way, we simply eliminate the position in question. With Jonas gone, Cabaye would move closer to the touch line, a mid like Guthrie or Smith (#TioteIneedyou) would play right in the middle, and Gabby would move a tad closer to the middle. We would then employ HBA as an attacking mid alongside Best/Ameobi and Ba, or put in a freshly healthy Williamson or the plucky Gosling in the back, and really just role out a whole new package.
All of these options leave something to be desired, and I have advocated extensively that we really need to begin grooming homemade talent if want to evolve into the superclub we know we can be. Jonas, who is unabashedly my favorite Magpie, is also 28 and has hinted at motivations to play elsewhere in Europe, while Shane Ferguson is 20, and a wide-eyed Magpie through and though. He is young, he is quick, and he has a style that fits well with Pardew's vision of a "wingback" like Enrique and Jonas used to fill last year.
Looking forward, as much as Obertan has impressed, if we can develop Jonas on the right with Simpson while Fergie continues to develop with the surprisingly adept at LB Ryan Taylor, we could be in for a long haul treat on our flanks. Raylor has the speed, strength, and ball control power to consistently flip flop roles with the young Fergie, who has proved very adequate both in defense and attack. While it may not be the most flattering comparison, Fergie does strike of a young, raw Danny Simpson. And while Simpson commits howlers that make him the bane of Toon Army existence every now and again, it is difficult to deny his Premier League clout, as he has proved very proficient at the fine art of knowing when to fall back and when to help build the attack.
Football is changing. The classical positions no longer fit their archaic restrictions in formation, and soon all eleven men on the pitch will be expected to contribute to both the attack and the defense. Nemanja Vidić, one of my absolute favorite players, is perhaps the last of a dying breed: a "true" center back. It is Fergie's ability to play from goal to goal, alongside his raw athleticism, that makes him the proper choice to start developing for Newcastle's future. He deserves a shot on the biggest stage around, and nothing has been bigger so far this year than the final leg of the #StretchofDoom. Shane Ferguson can help us, legimitely, in Jonas's stead on Saturday morning, I hope Mr. Pardew gives him a chance.