With pre-season done and dusted and with all the focus now on the big kick-off of the Premier League season it gives us some time to reflect on what we’ve witnessed so far.
I’m not on about Twitter controversies or rumour of player unrest. I’m not on about Mike Ashley, Derek Llambias or the £35 million. I’m not even on about the Visa issues and logistical issues of our tour of the US or the fact that our squad was split in two at what is a vital time of the season. Instead I want to focus on what we have seen on the football pitch. I mean after all, that is what it’s all about isn’t it?
It’s seems odd that a summer of discontent had brought about some bright spots but to me there have been some very impressive performances from some of our players in the run up to the new season. I know it’s folly to read too much into pre-season friendlies, but to me some of the performances of some of our players have given me a decent sense of optimism as we head into the new season.
I suppose the best place to start is with those who will be featuring in the first team, which takes me onto Yohan Cabaye. Now we’ve not seen a lot of him in fairness as he has been holed away in Holland due to a technical hitch with his American Visa, but from what I have seen of him I’ve been impressed and have no concerns about him fitting into life in the Premier League.
Cabaye is full of energy, has a great range of passing, runs all day and can tackle. He is the complete midfielder that we’ve been missing and teamed up with Cheik Tiote in the middle I’m struggling to think of many better central midfield pairings outside of the top four.
The game at Leeds was what impressed me the most about Cabaye, although that is probably because I was actually there. It wasn’t just me who was impressed though and many people in the crowd shared the same view as he ran up and down the pitch, mopped up anything that he could, and even grabbed himself an assist via a corner.
Dan Gosling is another player who has impressed me in the pre-season. The big question mark was how would he look after so long on the sidelines. The answer is that he has looked very good and will give Alan Pardew an extra headache when it comes to the midfield area.
He has shown energy and drive with a trick or two thrown in for good measure. He’s been on the end of some rough tackles and has got up from them which will be good for his confidence. Gosling could be very important for us this season if he is willing to use his versatility to his advantage as there will nearly always be a position that he can play that needs covering.
Tim Krul has just about nailed the spot as No1 in my opinion after a string of decent performances. He’s come of age over the summer and is now a full international. Yes he still has rough edges to his game but he will improve. To me he is the best keeper we have on our books at the moment.
Onto the youngsters now…. We’ve finally started to see why people raved so hard about Haris Vuckic. The Slovenian bagged two goals and has looked very tidy when he has been called upon. The lad even earned himself a start against Fiorentina such is the level that he has found in the run up to the season.
Sammy Ameobi is another one who has impressed. He’s already a cult hero amongst the Toon faithful thanks to his brother, but it’s his performances on the pitch that have caught my eye more than anything. The term “young and fearless” springs to mind when I think about Sammy. He’ll run at players and can beat them with tricks and pace. In short he is just like his brother can be but on a more consistent basis.
Mehdi Abeid is another one of our young lads who has impressed me. I’m still not sure what his best position is but from what I have seen he can play on the left, right, or through the middle and is comfortable on the ball. Another impressive Newcastle youngster? It seems as though he has the potential for it at least.
Now I’m not suddenly turning around and saying that everything is well and we have no concerns. Far from it in fact. What I am saying though is that amongst all the turmoil, the Twitter, the in-fighting, there have been some reasons to be cheerful (1, 2, 3).
Who has impressed you this pre-season?