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Newcastle United Preview 2015-16: The Midfielders

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With Steve McClaren's possession football that Newcastle is playing, the midfield will be critical this season and there are numerous exciting options for Stevie Mac to choose from.

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Newcastle United is days away from the 2015-16 season and there are several spots that could be improved with signings. But midfield is not one of them. This is by far the strongest area for the Magpies, but now the coaching staff and fans need to see it flex its muscles that way it can and should.

The best part of the midfield, and may also be the most frustrating is the number of combinations that can be used. I doubt there is going to be a fluid starting lineup unless NUFC employ some kind of a 6-man midfield because the team is that loaded in this position.

Returning Starters

Jack Colback

At times last season, Colback was arguably Newcastle's most valuable player. Dogged and undeterred with his defensive duties and runs his socks off every week for the shirt. He was an instant fan favorite, despite earning his stripes from Sunderland's Academy. The only thing he needs to improve on this season is put the ball in the back of the net more. It looks from the preseason like Colback will be NUFC's main set-piece taker and that needs to improve considerably from last season. Colback delivered a well taken side-footed tally that he scored in NUFC's 3-2 win over Everton on Dec. 28. Little did we know, that would be one of the team's last reasons to celebrate for the rest of the season.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 35
  • Goals scored: 4
  • Assists: 6
  • Yellow cards: 12
  • Red cards: 0

Moussa Sissoko

This man confounds. He can be breathtaking with his powerful marauding runs through the midfield, but equally frustrating as those lead to off-target shots and/or passes. He is always being linked away from Tyneside -- many times by his own quotes in the paper. If SM can get him to stay locked in for an entire season, which also means keeping him focused on NUFC and not his move to a London club or Liverpool, Sissoko could be magnificent. But that is a big "if." Sissoko's most important goal from last season is the one many forget because we celebrate Jonas Gutierrez's more, but it was Moussa who put NUFC ahead to stay in that final-day victory over West Ham. But Newcastle needs much more than 4 goals a season from Sissoko if they are going to again challenge for a European spot.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 34
  • Goals scored: 4
  • Assists: 6
  • Yellow cards: 7
  • Red cards: 2

Remy Cabella

There is no way to sugarcoat this. Cabella was a complete flop last season. He made a good show with all of his step-over dribbling moves, but when it came to actually providing an end product through crosses or putting the ball in the back of the net, he was not good enough. The hope is that he will improve this season.  Although currently injured numerous reports keep saying Cabella has been offered as a makeweight in transfer talks. He FINALLY scored a goal against Hull, it was a terrific strike. It was the only goal he provided and that needs improve immediately or Cabella will and should be gone.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 31
  • Goals scored: 1
  • Assists: 2
  • Yellow cards: 2
  • Red cards: 0

Returning Squad Players

Siem De Jong

De Jong is listed as a forward, but  needs to be Newcastle's first name on the team sheet at midfield. No one had a more difficult opening season as a transfer than de Jong. This is not about on pitch woes like Remy Cabella -- this man went through a collapsed lung! The fact that he is back on Tyneside at all is a reason for celebration and joy for de Jong's health. And he is motivated to make repay NUFC's faith in him.

"It's going to be a really important season for me. The key for me is to stay fit," de Jong said after Newcastle's first friendly in Milwaukee. "I am dong all I can to stay fit; do as much as I can and train as hard as I can so I can play a lot of games this season."

De Jong will be crucial for Newcastle's success this season. He showed during the preseason how influential he is. At Ajax Amsterdam, he scored double-digit goals in 2012-13 and 2013-14. He is healthy and 15 goals from De Jong is not an unrealistic projection.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 4
  • Goals scored: 1
  • Assists: 0
  • Yellow cards: 0
  • Red cards: 0

Rolando Aarons

This guy ranks 1B on returning players I can't wait to see contribute for a full season. Just like 1A, De Jong, Aarons' 2014-15 season was completely disrupted by injuries. When he was in the game, his pace down the wing and skill was a sight to behold for all Magpies fans. If he can stay healthy and NUFC get his contract sorted, Aarons could be a fixture in black and white for this year and years to come.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 4
  • Goals scored: 1
  • Assists: 0
  • Yellow cards: 0
  • Red cards: 0

Vurnon Anita

He never seemed to click with what Alan Pardew wanted, or never had a chance to show what he could do in that system. As poorly as he fit the Pardew "system", he appears to be just right for what Steve McClaren is installing.  Anita has been kind of a forgotten man, but with the likes of fellow Dutchmen de Jong and Wijnaldum in the midfield, Anita could be a fixture this season. In preseason he has shown to be capable of the holding midfielder role.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 19
  • Goals scored: 0
  • Assists: 1
  • Yellow cards: 3
  • Red cards: 0

Mehdi Abeid

Mehdi Abeid was an interesting case. Abeid made four starts in the opening half of the season and Newcastle went unbeaten in those games. The Magpies then lost his next two starts against ManU and Liverpool and never started again. Abeid has shown he can be solid when called upon, but there is now a logjam of quality midfielders and he may be the odd man out.  Recent rumors have him heading to the 2.Bundeslinga.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 11
  • Goals scored: 0
  • Assists: 0
  • Yellow cards: 1
  • Red cards: 1

* Received second yellow card to get his red card.

Gabriel Obertan

Gabriel Obertan was contributing to the Magpies during their early-season success and surprising everyone while doing it. Then an injury derailed his season. The Frenchman has pace and creativity, but like Cabella, there is not enough end product for these moves.  He received plenty of playing time in preseason and seems squarely in the same second-chance group as Vurnon Anita.  The new manager had conceded that he was giving a lot of players that second chance in the preseason and that some had impressed while others had not.  It seems likely that we will know on Saturday which camp Obertan fit into.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 13
  • Goals scored: 1
  • Assists: 1
  • Yellow cards: 3
  • Red cards: 0

Cheick Tiote

The man who scored arguably one of Newcastle's Top 10 goals of all time has in recent times spent more time on the sidelines than the pitch. Tiote can be the best central holding midfielder in the EPL at one moment, and then give away possession, a bad free kick and or yellow/red card the next. If he can rediscover his form of several seasons back, he could be a great player for Newcastle. If Stevie Mac can get the best out of him, he could be an important cog for Newcastle this season.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

  • Appearances: 11
  • Goals scored: 0
  • Assists: 2
  • Yellow cards: 5
  • Red cards: 0

Sylvain Marveaux/Harris Vuckic/Gael Bigirimana

These guys were either loaned out or relegated to reserves last season. Vuckcic has already electrified Youtube with a goal in a preseason friendly and scored 9 goals for Glasgow Rangers while on loan. Newcastle fans just want to see him do something in an EPL game. Marveaux also was on loan, Ligue 1 for Guingamp, where he scored one goal and had two assists. Bigirimana did not play for the first-team squad last season and looked out of his depth in preseason appearances last month.

THE Newcomer: Georginio Wijnaldum

The Dutch Football of the Year in the Eredivisie, Georgino Wijnaldum is the superstar player that Newcastle fans have longed for. He scored 14 goals for PSV Eindhoven and has already found the back of the net during preseason appearances for Newcastle. If Newcastle finish in the top 8 this season, Wijnaldum is going to take the Magpies there.

The ideal starting midfield

Rolando Aarons

Georginio Wijnaldum

Siem De Jong

Moussa Sissoko

Jack Colback

This group would have Colback as the holding player with Moussa bombing down one said with power while Rolando does the other with speed while De Jong and Wijnaldum quarterback everything in the middle in a 4-5-1 formation.

What Sunday's Starting Midfield Will be

Aarons

Wijnaldum

Colback

Sissoko/Gouffran

Who knows how Gouffran keeps getting on the team sheet because he should really be a sub. Stevie Mac will probably employ a 4-4-2 which takes away a player from Newcastle's biggest strength. He will bring De Jong or Wijnaldum off the bench, which is a mistake in my opinion.