Newcastle United did what no other club in the Premier League had managed to do to this point in the season when they defeated Jose Mourinho's men at St. James' Park on Saturday. Jose would probably have you believe that the three most influential performances for Newcastle came from 1) Crowd (more for making match balls disappear when they went into the stands than creation of atmosphere), 2) Ballboys (for making match balls disappear or duplicate as the case may be) and 3) A cow (for um... what?)
In a world not dedicated to completely deflecting any attention off of a very expensive squad, there were truly some very strong performances from Newcastle's players. Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor had the unenviable task of stopping Diego Costa, who so far as we know is still living in Captain Colo's back pocket. In the most Steven Taylor fashion, a very very strong performance will be longer remembered for his 81st minute red card than the actual quality of his play prior to that point. Daryl Janmaat added another performance to make us forget the names of our last two right backs. There were performances to forget as well. Remy Cabella returned to relative anonymity and Chieck Tiote had 75 minutes to forget... before coming up huge when he was needed. In all, there were three players whose performances were most influential in assuring yet another 3 points against Chelsea went Newcastle's way in the Alan Pardew Era (Presented in Technicolor, but no particular order):
1. Jack Colback
Thankfully somewhere along the line – and probably rightfully so – the "Ginger Pirlo" hyperbole fell by the wayside. If anything, however, the latest on-pitch embodiment of our namesake song has continued to get stronger and stronger on the pitch for Newcastle. In fact, I really meant to make this post all about Jack Colback and how he was awesome and pack it full of numbers and stats and other impressive things. In all, however, the numbers don't seem to indicate the sheer influence that Colback had on the match. 26/27 passing is strong, but in a match in which Chelsea had two players who attempted more than 100 passes, it seems quite a bit less impressive. He had 3 interceptions, which is nice from someone who has defensive midfield responsibilities, but there are two plays in particular that cement him in the hierarchy of influential performances in this match. The Tackle, and subsequently The Pass.
Feel free to watch the first goal. It's fun. I intended to start the video at 1:18, though, which is Colback's tackle on Diego Costa. I can't seem to get the embed code to recognize that fact for some reason, so feel free to "manually" start the video there if you would like. --Jim
Add those two events to the 3 defensive clearances in the final 20 minutes and you start to get the picture of what Jack Colback is for this Newcastle United side.
2. Papiss Demba Cissé
Papiss Cisse looks to be back to his goalscoring best for Newcastle with 7 goals in 9 appearances in the 2014-15 Premier League season. Coming on as a second half substitute for ineffective Remy Cabella, he made the most of his time, scoring yet another brace against Chelsea. Neither of the goals had the wow factor of THAT goal from his debut season, in fact both goals were rather pedestrian, but he is getting himself in the right place at the right time... a skill that seemed to have eluded him for quite a while. 2 goals in 37 minutes against the Chelsea juggernaut gets you easy mention in this list.
3. Jak Alnwick
When word of Tim Krul's injury broke, any hope of a result against Chelsea kind of went by the wayside with the realization that Rob Elliot was going to be the man in the firing line instead of Newcastle's number 1. When Elliot himself succumbed to injury at the end of the first half, there was a very real fear that the entire thing could go pear-shaped with the introduction of untested Geordie Jak Alnwick. Holding a total of 6 senior-level appearances in his career (and those being for Gateshead in the Conference), smart money would have been on Chelsea's attacking talent to solve the young 'keeper. One of his first actions was the punch that he contested and won against Diego Costa. He would continue on to total 3 punches, 2 catches and 2 saves in 45 minutes of action, and while his job was made easier by the men in front of him defending like their hair was on fire, he stepped in with confidence and acquitted himself well. His only misstep led to the Chelsea goal off of the free kick from Steven Taylor's red card where he came out for the ball and didn't get it. It felt at the time like he hadn't properly identified who was where – had he properly identified where Didier Drogba was, he probably would have taken a different path to the ball. Ultimately, in a very small sample size, he's given Alan Pardew something to think about with regards to his backup keeping situation.