Tag Archives: Newcastle

Top Players by Club – Part 3 of 5


Welcome to our look at the players that made the Premier League as watchable as ever, earned the respect of their peer group and endeared themself to their club’s fanbase – here’s our top player from every side:

Manchester United

Wayne Rooney Soccer Football Man United

wayne’s alternative pasttime

Ultimately, the Red Devils season has culminated in trophy-less disappointment. Further, the 2011/12 campaign was emblazoned with teething pains through a period of transition and evolution. With the noisy neighbours proving more deafening than irritating, the continued overarching shadows of Giggs and Scholes presiding over a dormant, unexciting midfield and the archaic Sir Alex, who’s tactical mismanagement has become a regular feature at Old Trafford, United have done well to challenge in earnest. With hindsight, Ferguson’s flippant disdain for a true holding midfielder in that Everton game, saw Fellaini reinvigorate the title race in a rampant display. And it was another Ferguson blunder, using the ignominious Park instead of Valencia, within a 5 man defensively steeped midfield, belying the brash confidence (sic: arrogance) that has typified United previously, that ultimately surrendered the title to City, when they met at close quarters.

If there are signs of creaking emerging from the titanic Manchester United bandwagon, then it has been their chief lieutenant in Wayne Rooney that has been tasked with keeping the vessel afloat. While Valencia took out the less official plaudits, the FFTD finger points at Rooney, with his swag of goals and constant energy about the park. Often it was Rooney who was willing his comrades to greater efforts with his demonstrative gesticulations that became an all too regular feature. Surely it is unfair to judge Rooney with a different yardstick to other Premier League front men at the behest of reputation and expectation? We’ve read articles suggesting Wayne’s efficiency and the impetus behind his goals have been less important than others, but in a year of comparative mediocrity and few genuine stand-outs, we’ll take England’s Wayne Rooney please and thank you.

Newcastle

Newcastle Football Soccer Graham Carr Transfer

a portrait of excellence

It’s difficult to recall the seemingly dire context that the Geordie’s season was facing from the outset. With the departure of Barton, Carroll, Enrique and Nolan (amongst others) prior to the season and the arrival of almost no one, save for unknowns such as Cabaye, many were predicting a difficult period for Mike Cashley and his boys. Further, there were murmurs of discontent around the tactical nous of Alan Pardew, who had been labelled as dour and unimaginative, pointing to a season of discomfort on Tyneside. Much has been written around the Moneyball renaissance of the club, laying the blueprint for those perennially facing the malaise of mid table to step up as realistic challengers to the traditional top 4.

More has been said as to the transfer dealings of Alan Pardew and his management team than most English clubs, particularly one that was ensconced in relative anonymity last year. And most of it has been sceptical, at best. What is clear, is that the burgeoning reputation of Graham Carr, as some sort of super-talent-scout seems warranted. Since joining in February 2010 it is clear that Carr has made building a French connection his top priority signing Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux, Cheick Tiote, Hatem Ben Arfa and Gabriel Obertan in that period. French talent is generally considered affordable, both in terms of wages and initial fees, and technically proficient. Going the other way has been a stream of house hold names: Barton, Carroll, Nolan, Harper, Enrique and Smith – the majority English, and all sold for exorbitant amounts. With the recent addition of Cisse, Newcastle have the spine of a side ready to continue to challenge going forward. At full strength, we see little difference between Liverpool, Spurs and the Black and Whites on paper, and this is an almost thaumaturgic feat given their championship status so recently. To this end, we’ll break convention and acknowledge Carr’s under-appreciated efforts.

Norwich

Grant Holt Norwich England Striker

that’s his name…

This year’s Premier League fairytale is undoubtedly the emergence of Grant Holt from the backwaters to the cusp of Euro 2012. The striker has seen 8 previous clubs, has been employed as a tyre fitter and appeared in Perth’s second division for Sorrento. Perth, Australia that is. The list of former clubs reads as a roll call of industrious, workmanlike and unfashionable outfits, including Workington, Halifax, Barrow and Rochdale. We won’t shove any morals of perseverance, or fate down your eyes, but instead, we’ll just thank Mr Holt for making every park footballer BELIEVE.

QPR

Jamie Mackie QPR English Premier League

where’d he go?

Predicted to be the strongest of the newly promoted sides, the R’s endured a miserable campaign that saw them escape relegation through some less than exemplary refereeing decisions at Stoke, made against Bolton, while they played City. Confusing. Anyway, we’d love to pick Joey Barton, and surprisingly we feel we could actually make a case for the infamous tweep, but instead, to ensure we don’t completely marginalise our burgeoning fan base, we’ll pick Jamie Mackie for this prestigious honour. Mackie has epitomised the endeavour and resilience that fellow promotees in Swansea and Norwich have enjoyed from the majority of their employees. Unfortunately for the Londoners, Mackie was at times the sole provider of the tenacity required for premier league survival – and in the end, it was survival by the smallest of margins. Look no further than Mackie’s gut-running/lung-busting/stomach-turning effort against City to be in a position to complete the header that afforded us with the golden finish. Mackie was player of the year when the Hoops came up, and if anyone can find out who it was this year, we’d be greatly appreciative.


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Friday Forecast – 4th May 2012


Didier Drogba Chelsea Liverpool FA Cup Premier League

up up and away didier

 

This is our preview for the weekend ahead – ensuring that our views are set in stone to be proven wrong come Monday.

Pick of the Week

Look no further than the Cup Final, scheduled in the evening for 2012. Traditionally the biggest match of the English calendar year, the lustre of the cup may have dulled of late, but for many, Wembley in May will always hold a certain sentimental privilege. The romantics haven’t failed us in 2012, with a perfect script delivering two sides converging towards fresh beginnings and distinctly new periods in the history of their clubs.

Newcastle vs City runs a close second and is the easy standout in the league. Here’s hoping for the type of titanic struggle that many of the “bigger” teams have already produced this season.

Bet of the Week

We like QPR into Bolton @ approx $4 depending on your bookie. Both sides are at home, against teams with nothing but Caribbean getaways to plan for. Expect sincere desperation from the trapdoor-threatened protagonists; for losing money is a legitimate motivation for effort. A loss in this fixture for either club, could see a miserable denouement of failure.

It’s a big Weekend for…

Several candidates over the next 4 days, but we’ll opt for a combination of Steven Kean, Venkys and the stumbling embarrassment that is Blackburn. Formerly a European dynasty, this marks a deterioration towards everyone’s most hated club. It is a little difficult to fuel the embers of sympathy for a side that has been overwhelmed by protests from within since before the new year. Even a win over a resounding Wigan may not be enough – a shambles that even poking fun at has become tiresome…

Tweet of the Week:

The Woy Hodgson XI

Wobinson
Wichards – Tewwy – Wio – Warnock
Gewward – Wodwell – Bawwy
Wellbeck – Wooney – Stuwwidge

#teamwoy

Best Article of the Week

That’s right, we also didn’t know Sol Campbell still warranted a formal retirement. Laughable really.

http://www.tottenblog.com/2012/05/happy-retirement-judas-scum-open-letter.html

What you should be listening to

Before a week ago, the name Tito Vilanova meant less to FFTD than the new Minister for Health in Bulgaria – but it did rekindle a genuine love for an absolute classic. You’ll work out where Mr Manager’s name fits in…

Come back next week for:

Season Reviews, Transfer musings, Euro excitement and dumb analysis as usual…

Have a footballing weekend!

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Monday’s Magnificent Five


Torres Chelsea

#elnino

Each Monday we select our own 5 a side outfit from the weekend’s action. Think of it as our own Nike commercial in a steel cage on a floating island.

Goalkeeper

At the back we’ll opt for the impressive Ben Foster (West Brom) who stretches his man of the match run to 6 home games on the trot. The retired international produced another stellar display against Midland’s rivals at the Hawthorns including two fine one on one saves from Agbonlahor and a commanding presence around his own six-yard box. His autograph will be critical going forward for the seemingly established yo-yo club.

Defenders

While Roger Johnson was tempting (sic), we’ll take Gary Caldwell (Wigan) who kept the irresistible Newcastle front four to an afternoon of no returns. Caldwell seems a leader his teammates are willing to follow, adding inspiration that teams such as Wolves, Blackburn and QPR are severely lacking. His direction on the field is pivotal, being at the heart of Roberto’s improving back 3 experiment, with his dogged determination overcoming the on occasion unfashionable style.

Midfielders

Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal) is included as much for his month of April than the disappointing draw with Stoke. Criticised for basically not being Wilshere for much of 2012, he seems revitalised for no apparent reason, but we fancy Arsene’s slight change in touch line uniform to have done the trick. Whatever the case, the Czech international has finally produced in an Arsenal shirt, working both forward and back, to be the centre of the Gunners strong push towards a disappointing quarter final exit in Europe in 2013. Once again, Tomas found space between the lines against the Potters, providing the goal for RVP on a tray made of the finest in silver and adorned with the most opulent in decoration.

We’re cheating here and you can sue me (please! Could use some publicity) for fielding Luis Suarez (Liverpool) in an attacking role in behind our front man. Meh. Little Luis finally combined promise with outcome in a long overdue display of ruthless efficiency. The provocative Urugyuan, who is never too far from the headlines, was able to write his own this week, with a finish from 55 yards that the footballing public will have rammed down their throats for many years to come. Suarez’ creative flair was too much for the Canaries on an otherwise forgettable occasion.

Forwards

Fernando Torres (Chelsea), our absolute favourite at FFTD, leads the line after he finally produced the return his endeavours over recent times have deserved. It would be difficult to find a more criticised sportsman anywhere on Earth, but his long golden locks seem impervious to his boo boys. This effort was more than just goals, including tireless movement that proved far too much for an incompetent Rangers, outstanding hold up play that afforded Mata and Sturridge particularly, more space than Victor Valdes last Tuesday evening and a staggering work ethic that saw him tracking back to challenge in his own area at least four times by our count. Simply irrepressible. Nothing like finals footy to add a bit of motivation…

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Sunday’s Saturday Recap


wigan soccer football premier league

#wearepremierleaguewearepremierleague

It was an outstanding afternoon of football that saw a resurgent Wigan showcasing a brand more akin to European endeavours than relegation struggles and a mercurial Luis hatrick as the standout results. This is FFTD’s Sunday review:

We’ll start at the Hawthorns where a fledgling Aston Villa visited their traditional rivals with the chance to steer clear of a nervy month of May. Instead, it was the Baggies who looked the more likely, with Dorrans, Brunt and Thomas in particular finding ample space within a disorganised McLeish setup. At times it was difficult to see a holding player for Villa and in the end it was the much maligned Shay Given and a dubious goal line clearance from Hutton that rescued a point away from home. Their 16th draw of the season is a decent away point, but does little to arrest their worrying slide towards a Championship ready to swallow them whole (maybe spitting out the likes of Bent, Agbonlahor and Dunne to fuel the media’s transfer addiction).

Next we travel to Wigan where two of the form sides of the league square off in a match that had bearing on both ends of the table. In any other week, this would be the match of the round, but apparently only Mr Martinez got the memo with his side producing a scintillating opening 45 minutes, a just reward for Dave Wheelan and his managerial stickability. The Wigan front four were dynamic with the electric Moses an ever-present threat. The back 3 was resolute lead by the usual brilliance of their Omani shot stopper allowing a red hot Newcastle collective scant opportunity in front of goal. Wigan have grabbed 15 points from their last 7 outings, including wins over United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle in that run, to see them surely secure Premier League football in 2013, with winnable fixtures against Blackburn and Wolves to follow.

For Newcastle, it was a day of extreme disappointment; possibly a day that has been looming for some time. After such an emphatic string of victories, a loss was just around the corner, and with City and Chelsea looming, this result could spell the end of their admirable top 4 challenge. Their irresistible attacking quartet were off colour in the final third, producing just the 2 shots on goal for the afternoon. Similarly, their impressive defensive pressure was left on Tyneside in what must surely be their worst day of this campaign. Pardew can look forward to trips to the glamour and glitz of Romania, Poland and the Ukraine next season.

Ironically, the game with no bearing on the league produced a fine spectacle with an entertaining 4-4 for the second time in a week. Swansea and Wolves left their defensive plans on the training paddock and decided goals were a more acceptable option. For Wolves, who have conceded a whopping 79 times, they may have been more accustomed to such a flippant, carefree defensive attitude, but our Welsh brethren looked less than impressed after capitulating from their 4-1 stranglehold. Make sure you get the highlights from this one.

Sunderland and Bolton provided another absolute belter that must be disheartening for the precariously poised Trotters who may have used up any emotional impetus from the fortunes of Fabrice. While Coyle was upbeat about his side’s chances and Davies’ late equaliser may have felt like a point saved rather than 2 that slipped away, coming into the game, many pundits earmarked this as a chance to move clear of serious trouble. Instead, Bolton remain well and truly in the mire of relegation and now three points from a home tie with the Albion may not be enough. Instead, they require possibly more than a point from tough away trips to Spurs and the Britannia to book their place in the league going forward.

In a game less consequential than a UN summit, Liverpool travelled to Carrow road without their glistening starlet in Andy Carroll, but with a rampant Suarez who in the end was the difference between the sides. Rumblings from within the Kop about the outdated Dogleish have been momentarily quashed and a strong finish in the league and cup success could keep King Kenny in a job for 2013 – an unfavourable outcome in FFTD’s opinion. Don’t watch this game whatever you do, but catch that Suarez goal from here.

I hate Stoke – so yeh whatever…


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An Alternate Pecking Order…


How it Works:

This is our attempt at ranking the sides according to their expectations with position 10 being a perfect meeting of predictions with reality, position 1 representing maximum outperformance and 20 signalling quite the opposite. For example, United and City were largely expected to compete for the title, hence they’ll be stuck mid table in our rating system, and Swansea/Norwich were expected to take their parachute payments straight back to the Championship, meaning they’ll feature towards the top.

 

#toonarrific

#toonarrific

1. Newcastle.

It’s difficult to recall the seemingly dire context that the Geordie’s season was facing from the outset. With the departure of Barton, Carroll, Enrique and Nolan (amongst others) prior to the season and the arrival of almost no one, save for unknowns such as Cabaye, many were predicting a difficult period for Mike Cashley and his boys. Further, there were murmurs of discontent around the tactical nous of Alan Pardew, who had been labelled as dour and unimaginative pointing to a season of discomfort on Tyneside. Much has been written around the Moneyball renaissance of the club having laid the blueprint for those perennially facing the malaise of mid table to step up as realistic challengers to the traditional top 4. See more around about here:

2. Norwich

I’ve revisited a feature in fourfourtwo from July 2011 that included all 10 football “experts” tipping the Canaries to face the drop. Not so. Mr Lambert has combined the three elements of a successful first season in the top flight: a goal scoring striker (Holt), Solidity at the back and Determination/Self Belief. Norwich have epitomised efficiency; beating the teams below them at home, and turning Carrow Road into a tricky encounter whether your name is RVP or Gary Caldwell.

3. Swansea

In a similar vein to Norwich, the Swans have proven that Welsh football does deserve its spot in the English top flight. Bringing a fluid style to the League, Brendan Rodgers has given supporters a refreshing change from the typically drab brand served up by some of the sides adjacent to the Welshmen on the table. As with Norwich, they’ve secured their defence first, with Ashley Williams surely developing into one of the more underrated players in the league. Next they’ve added proven creative quality all over the pitch, particularly with the mercurial Sigurdsson since January. Lastly they’ve made the Liberty into a place of respect and trepidation for visiting supporters.

4. Arsenal

The North Londoners were coming off a somewhat tumultuous summer and were facing constant taunts about their youth and lack of physicality when that 8-2 happened. The Gunners displayed a resolve that many believed they were incapable of, to turn their campaign into a success having ensconced themselves squarely into European football for next year. They’re just a decent centre back and a Wilshere away from a serious title challenge in 2013. While 4 may seem a tad high, rewind to September and you’ll recall the back pages awash with the demise of the Emirates and Mr Wenger.

5. Tottenham

While Spurs now have a veritable title contending squad on paper, their current disappointing standing should not undermine their outperformance for the majority of the season. Much maligned in recent times, the Yids have surely been distracted by off-field managerial developments, undoing the considerable progress made in the first 2 thirds of the league. With the easiest run in, the Londoners could still secure the coveted fourth position that could be crucial in retaining the spine of their carefully constructed side.

6. West Bromwich Albion

The Baggies have avoided second-season-syndrome with aplomb under the masterful guidance of Woy. They continue to operate within the tightest of budgetary constraints and have uncovered even more quality free-bees in Gareth McAuley and Billy Jones. They look to have established themselves as part of the Premier League furniture; the way it should be for a club with such a richly developed history. Improving on 11th and 47 points from last time around will be an outstanding achievment.

7. Manchester City

I’ll put the blue half of England’s footballing capital just ahead of their red counterparts, as even though several pundits predicted Tevez et al to win from the outset, actually following through, and putting the title within their own grasp with 3 fixtures remaining is another story all together. Distracting European struggles and the oft unfathomable off field antics of Super Mario and his golfing buddy in Tevez couldn’t sway Mancini from his own rights of passage. Most importantly, the Blue Moon Rising looks set to continue, with a 2013 that could see further development both on and off the pitch.

8. Manchester United

Sir Alex and his boys are tracking squarely to where we expected and slot neatly into the striker’s jersey. Disappointing cup and European adventures have marred a season that has produced results, but has been enveloped by a pervasive backwards looking bias with the continued dominance of Scholes and to a lesser extent Giggs. A major plus is the flourishing partnership between Welbeck and the hairy-again Rooney – but their season hasn’t been anything spectacular.

9. Chelsea

With an ageing squad many feared the worst, but the revelation of Mata, the obvious benefit of experience and the defiant change in fortunes under Di Matteo, has seen Chelsea finish the season in a strong manner. While missing European football would be nearly calamitous for our favourite Russian oligarch, the Blues have beaten Barcelona somewhat convincingly in Europe and could still lift the much sought after symbol of power that is the European Cup. So much relies on the final month of the playing year for this side that will surely undergo a rampant reconstruction through the summer.

10. Everton

It still bemuses to watch the Toffees struggle through January, leading to rumblings about the Moyes’ use by date and the shoestring budget, before predictably embarking on their customary second half run that includes big team scalps and persistently positive results. Lower-top half with a decent cup run is getting a little predictable and if marked improvements aren’t forthcoming over the next 2 seasons, the Blues will begin the slide downwards. This is not a league for standing still.

11. Sunderland

The Wearsiders have made progress under O’Neill but have somewhat failed to capitalise on their outstanding vein of form over the festive period and sit in a disappointing lower half position. Not too much to report here – bang on average for me.

12. Fulham

Fulham could easily be lower, but expectations of a realistic European push should be tempered with the addition of a new manager and an array of fresh faces gracing Craven Cottage. In promising signs for the future, many of their signings have shown enough to suggest an optimistic outlook. The continued development of Dembele into a proven talent (should progress to Ben Arfa next year), Dempsey into a genuine top-liner (should progress to Arteta next year) and Pogrebnyak into a prolific sharp-shooter (should progress into Ba/Cisse next year) could spell a strong challenge in 2013 from the noisy neighbours from London.

13. Wigan

In Roberto Martinez, Wigan has one of the finest young managers in football and their apparent survival for another season can be largely attested to the gaffer and his swelling reputation in the game. On paper the worst squad in the league, Wigan haven’t really progressed, nor digressed through 2011/12 and could find themselves feeling a form of final day deja vu.

14. QPR

The Premier League new boys were expected to be the strongest of the sides coming up, but for much of the season the R’s have struggled to build any form of momentum. In saying that, their best run has developed at the pointy end and Mark Hughes is using every reserve of his managerial experience to build a case for 2013 in the top division. With serious financial investments being made, it is disappointing to see the side still scrapping for survival, but in the end, 17th and up will be acceptable.

15. Bolton

Bolton’s primary objective from the outset will always be 40 points as quickly as possible and a team of their calibre should not be struggling as they are. Bolton have been entrenched in the relegation doldrums for more than 50% of the footballing year and if they return to the first division, it will be due to inept off-field dealings that saw the departure of Elmander and Sturridge without replacements – leaving an attack devoid of quality in Klasnic, N’gog and Kakuta. Could easily be lower than 15th.

16. Stoke

The Potters invested heavily with a number of seemingly astute purchases of proven top-flight quality. Tony Pulis’ fantastical ride may be grinding to a halt, however, with a year of taking steps firmly in the wrong direction. Europe was simply too much to ask for a seemingly ageing and threadbare squad. Their no-frills and, more than occasionally, dour style has lead to more detractors than supporters, as the likes of Swansea have shown it is possible to survive without wasting on average 13.8% of your games on Rory Delap’s arms. Distinctly below average.

17. Blackburn

When it emerged that Steve Kean’s new employers were unaware of the possibility of relegation, the tone was set for an overwhelmingly forgettable campaign for all those involved. There have been few protagonists from this sorry saga to emerge with any flicker of credibility, maybe Hoilett and Yakubu are the only ones, and while still undecided, relegation seems deserved for this season of underperformance.

18. Aston Villa

Villa were a difficult team to place. Almost everyone questioned the arrival of the Big Eck to the Midlands, but I’m sure few could sincerely predict the woeful events that have followed. Watching the Villians is a truly difficult thing at current, with consistent fan discontent from the terraces juxtaposed with a non-existant goal threat on the pitch. Villa Park has become the worst place for football and is a crude characterisation of everything that is wrong and outdated with the English game. Too many quality departures over recent years.

19. Liverpool

So much has been written that any expansive comment feels unnecessary. In a year that produced such rampant, flagrant spending and such inept on field performances only Liverpool and their continued arrogance could ensure they dominate footballing rhetoric. Welcome to mid table anonymity Mr Dogleish.

20. Wolves

In the end, it wasn’t third time lucky with the West Midlander’s challenge whimpering into submission with the shambolic Terry Connor at the helm. Wolves were devoid of creativity up front, apart from the sometimes dangerous Fletcher, and were woeful at the back with summer signing and captain Roger Johnson becoming the home fan’s boo boy early on in the piece. With stadium expansions well underway, the club could face serious financial struggles over the next 5 years.

So there we have it:

Newcastle, Norwich, Swansea, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Brom take the European places with a season of outperformance. City, United, Chelsea, Everton, Sunderland, Fulham and Wigan are aligned with pre-season hypotheses. QPR, Bolton, Stoke, Blackburn, Villa, Liverpool and Wolves end a diffcult season.

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Get on board the Toon Bandwagon: Newcastle, on and off field progress.


Newcastle’s outstanding early season success could not be more disparate from their continuing never-ending stream of off field melodrama. The 3rd place club’s lofty standing is all the more noteworthy for their appearance in the second tier of English football just the two seasons earlier. Following a transfer window that was unspectacular, if not decidedly worrying, the consensus amongst football pundits pointed to mid-table mediocrity at best. Sydney Morning Herald reporter Craig Foster predicted the Toon to flirt with the Championship for the majority of the season. So, how has this unheralded collective, steered by the oft ridiculed Alan Pardew, become a team that many hope could usurp the traditional balance of powers amongst England’s elite?

There are two glowing reasons that arrest the attention following a brief statistic perusal:

  1. On obvious Gallic collaboration
  2. A resolute and at times desperate defence
More has been said as to the transfer dealings of Alan Pardew and his management team than most English clubs, particularly one that was ensconced in relative anonymity last year. And most of it has been sceptical, at best. What is clear, is that the burgeoning reputation of Graham Carr, as some sort of super-talent-scout seems warranted. Since joining in February 2010 it is clear that Carr has made building a French connection his top priority signing Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux, Cheick Tiote, Hatem Ben Arfa and Gabriel Obertan in that period. French talent is generally considered affordable, both in terms of wages and initial fees, and technically proficient. Going the other way has been a stream of house hold names: Barton, Carroll, Nolan, Harper, Enrique and Smith – the majority English, and all sold for exorbitant amounts.
fuckyehalanpardew

fuckyehalanpardew

In their seminal work, Soccernomics, Kuper and Szymanski relate a football themed “Moneyball” approach to success in the sports management business. In the book, the pair focus on the transfer dealings of Lyon as a model business template. Amongst other things, it involves a more business like approach to sport, including valuing players at current market levels, eliminating emotional responses such as sentiment or pride, and building a culture around the team’s on field performance. Newcastle have well and truly subscribed to this mantra. Selling Any Carroll was a move bemoaned by the majority on Tyneside, and when a high-profile replacement never materialised the concerns grew in volume and fervour. Mr Carr, however, was able to peer through the veil of overpriced centre forwards to pluck the prolific Demba Ba for free. Ba’s eight goals loom mockingly over Big Andy’s struggles at Anfield.

Further, Newcastle understand the importance of a world-class shot stopper, something that the boys at Soccernomics identify as a traditionally undervalued asset. The emergence of Tim Krul, arguably the form goalkeeper in the league (ask any Wolves or Spurs fans particularly), has been just as crucial as the much heralded fluidity of the midfield.

When the talismanic Nolan left for West Ham and Sam Allardyce, a manager steeped in old-fashioned and inefficient management practices, journalists critiqued the move mercilessly, but in truth the mercurial Cabaye was snapped up 6 days prior on the 10th of June and has proved a more than capable replacement.

If paradigm shifting has been a centrepiece of the two-year revival, then an on-field evolution has been the impetus over the first quarter of this season. Ben Arfa and Marveaux have been quoted continuously in French print media praising Mr Pardew’s approach to the beautiful game and his dogmatic pursuance of “rhythmic football”. Pardew has instilled a passing and possession game into his remodelled squad while maintaining a penchant for grit and toughness without the ball:

“The stats we’re producing in games excite me. Our passing levels are up and our passing has certainly improved in terms of controlling games. That’s something we needed to get better at. Last year, we got into winning positions, but couldn’t control things sufficiently to stop the other team putting pressure on us. In one recent game, though, we achieved 400-plus passes, which we hadn’t done since I’ve been here. That puts you up with the top sides.”

Further, Pardew has revamped the side’s preparation with a raft of scientific and analytical improvements. The introduction of additional GPS tracking systems and a finer eye for detailed preparation has underscored a higher benchmark in 2011. Steven Taylor, a previously underachieving defender, was recently quoted as describing Pardew as “the hardest to please and most demanding” manager of the previous procession of 9 that have revolved through St James.

His meticulous style seems to suit newly instilled Captain Coloccini, who has relinquished some of his duties as a focal point through which to attack and has given his defensive duties first privilege. With the entire leadership group of last season moving on, the Argentinian seems to be relishing his new role and has been instrumental thus far.

Many have been predicting the honeymoon period to grind to a halt over previous weeks, but strong results against Everton and Tottenham have raised eyebrows. Despite this, most view the coming three fixtures, both Manchester clubs and Chelsea, as the period that will rectify the pecking order and scuttle the unbeaten opening to the season. But with a prolific Ba, an injury free Ben Arfa and a rebirth of the much maligned Leon Best, the renascent Newcastle’s v2.0 could remain for some time yet.

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