Key players or squad weaknesses?

Two key men?
From reading a lot of comments over the last few days, it seems Hatem Ben Arfa is lauded as our best (and arguably key) player.

One or two challenged the latter notion and it led to an interesting article from Moreno, who questioned why a player that has managed six or seven games in over a year should automatically claim that title. This is not another Benny piece by the way, I’m going to take a little look at our team and leave it for you readers to debate who our key players are.

Now some teams do have one special player that just stands out from the rest of the squad. A player that can produce a bit of awe inspiring magic in an instant when completely unexpected and leave us fans drooling. For Manchester United that would be Wayne Rooney – the derby day overhead kick for instance. For West Ham once upon a time it was Paolo Di Canio, emphasised by that legendary wonder strike against Wimbledon which you can see here. For us despite the horrific injury and lack of games, there is no doubt that player is Hatem Ben Arfa, underlined by his performance against Everton last season.

However, some teams are not blessed in that department and instead rely on having two or three players that are simply ‘key’ to their side. Players in certain positions that they simply cannot function without. I guess it’s all about having strength in depth and the means to provide it. For the very top sides this is not too much of a problem. Manchester United lose Ferdinand – no problem as Phil Jones or Chris Smalling can step in and do a more than adequate job. You could argue that if any side loses a key player, they will be affected. However the more strength in depth a side has, the more equipped they are to deal with it.

Ferdinand is an exceptional defender, one of the very best in world football. But because his team has such an abundance of quality waiting in the wings, his loss is not the end of the world. Therefore, is he a key player for them?



Back to Newcastle United now. Benny was our ‘star’ player last season and provided this injury has not taken half a yard off his pace or destroyed his confidence, then he probably will be again in the future. At the moment, and for a long time now, he has not been in our team. We have learnt to live without him and have been quite successful doing so, so even if he is still our ‘star’ player, can he be considered a ‘key’ player?

This leads me to looking at the depth amongst Newcastle United’s ranks. Where are we covered really, really well? Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are all covered all over the pitch. Not to the same standard maybe, but very close to it.

We on the other hand are not. Possibly in goal yes. Steve Harper has now been overshadowed by his young apprentice Tim Krul, but is safe hands if we need to call on him. But defence? We have Davide Santon now, who is an Italian international and can cover both sides thankfully. However we have not seen him in this league yet and like Colo did, he may need a bedding in period. That said I think his return to fitness along with young Ferguson will give us plenty of good options at full back.

In the heart of defence we begin to struggle. If Steven Taylor or Fabricio Coloccini get a long lay off (please no) then we are in trouble. Our alternatives are Mike Williamson, Tamas Kadar and James Perch. Williamson being first in line, he established a decent partnership last season with Colo but our defence let us down countless times and cost a lot of points – the West Brom game being a typical example.

Only five sides scored more than us last season, we even outscored Spurs. Now Williamson would do OK, but in the long term our defence would suffer without ‘Saylor’ or ‘Colo’ who offer 100% commitment, aerial prowess (Saylor) and a calm influence with top notch passing ability (Colo) to play us out of trouble. ‘Willo’ has a bit of everything, but is not particularly strong on anything. So his weaknesses get exposed, whereas ‘Saylor and Colo’ just about cover every aspect of central defence between them. Kadar is seemingly not rated by the management and Perch was written off long ago by the fans. Our team would suffer with the loss of these two, so to me they are ‘key’.

On the wings we have Jonas Gutierrez, Sylain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, possibly Hatem Ben Arfa as well as a couple of the young lads like Shane Ferguson and Sammy Ameobi so although we would rather not lose the likes of Guti, the other lads could step in and do a very decent job.

Back to the middle again and we might struggle. Cheik Tiote is a master of protecting the back four. What do we do in the long term if we lose him? Smith, bless him, is past it at this level, probably due to his very own nasty leg break. I’m not sure the club knows what Dan Gosling’s best position is yet and as discussed the other day Danny Guthrie does not seem to have the ‘fight’ in him to nail a holding role. Lucky then that we have Yohan Cabaye who is better served moving forward, but has already displayed a willingness to get stuck in. I’m sure he could drop back and cover Tiote well enough if need be. He is more than capable of putting the tackles in and spraying out the balls from a deeper position.

That leaves a hole in front though. Again – easily filled. Guthrie could do a job there. Ben Arfa definitely can. Marveaux too as well as young Haris Vuckic. Between such a talented mixture of midfielders I’m sure that we could cope without one of the ‘better’ players over a long period of time if needs be.

Moving up front and we have Demba Ba, Leon Best, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands. Whilst wearing our colours they all have pretty good figures – yes even Ameobi has always produced regular goals – 272 appearaces (115 of those as a substitute), 61 goals. On a minute for minute basis that would be 1 goal in about every 3.5 matches. Whilst Ba was fasting his performances were sluggish, but Best stepped up. If Ameobi or Lovenkrands got a run then they too would produce. Their overall contribution would not be as high as Ba or Best, but they would score goals which is their principle job.

I think Ba is the only striker realistically capable of reaching anywhere near that 20 mark that we would love to see in one of our strikers though. Therefore, losing him for a long period of time would probably cost us a few points. He just has natural finishing prowess – the type of player you can be confident in putting chances away if they are a rarity in certain games.

In conclusion I feel that Newcastle United currently has three ‘key’ players – players that if we had to do without for a long period of time, we would suffer. They are Steven Taylor, our Captain Fabricio Coloccini and Senegalese striker Demba Ba. My reasoning? A) They are very good players and B) Our club simply does not have the quality in depth to cover their loss.

What do you guys and gals think?

About Shamrock

Like everyone here, support Newcastle United. Not the easiest side to feel good about at times, but it's our side!

42 thoughts on “Key players or squad weaknesses?

  1. Tim Krul is Key to our team i would say. I love steve harper and he is a good keeper but Krul is alot better imo. You just have to look at the wolves game do you think harper would have kept us in that game? Not a chance.

    Krul has been our best player this season by far imo and he will, like Shay Given before him win this club points one his own. Can you say that about any of our other players?

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  2. Personally I think that without one of Colo, Saylor or Ba we would lose a lot of points quickly. Krul is progressing very well and could well be the enxt Given, but imo is not quite there yet. His distribution is improving, but is still not great and fortunately Colo & Saylor are organising the defence well. I dont think that is down to Krul’s communication. Both communication & distribution were faults in Harper and Given’s games too, so it’s understandable that this area is where Krul needs to work on.

    However Harper is still a very good shot stopper himself and would also save us a few points if he got a run. I agree that Krul is better, but I would not say we would be screwed without him. It’s all about the individual’s opinion though and I see where you are coming from N.IRISH 😛

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  3. Dont get me wrong i agree Taylor, Colo and Ba are key players but i would add Krul to the list aswell and as you said this is just my opinion.

    I also cant wait to see what impact HBA will have on our first team. We havnt had him in a string of games yet to really see what he brings to the team.

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  4. Not sure I agree with concept that if any one player misses a game we go into freefall. Ba wasn’t performing for the 1st few games, Best was scoring. Tiote similarly affected by Ramadan. HBA has not played for a year, Infact every player has had bad games this season, sometimes most of them yet we still have the best defence in the league, were still 4th. We may be worried about some of the cover, but I think that we would only begin to suffer if we developed a series of injuries. So if the definition of a key player is one we can’t do without then we don’t appear to have any.

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  5. I did stress that it would be a long time out out, not ‘a game’. Prem do you think losing Colo or Saylor over a period of time would not badly affect the results then? I think it would make a huge difference…

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  6. I dont think we would go into free for all either without theses players but we wouldn’t win as many game thats what makes them key to our season.

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  7. Interesting article, but I do not consider Ba as a ‘Key player’. There is always the alternative 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 when Ba gets injured/suspended. Say Best/lovenkrands or Ameobi being the focal point, supported by 3 fast paced attackers, preferably Ben arfa, Marveaux and Obertan. Agree on Colo and Saylor, there are the only ones we really got in defence.

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  8. I think that if a player is out for a long time it gives other players the oppotunity to up their game and step up. An example of this is that people were worried about losing williamson last season because taylor wasn’t good enough. this season it’s the other way round. Collo would appear to be “key” but until he’s gone we won’t know. I think this attitude is merely demonstrating a lack of faith in players who wear the black & white. I’d prefer to trust them until they demonstarte otherwise.

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  9. Nice points. However I think if we were to lose Tiote then we are half the team. Nobody can step in and replace him. He is without doubt “key”

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  10. Interesting Premandup…. I think that the smoother the team is working as a whole, the better it can withstand the loss of one player and the more smoothly a replacement slots into the whole. It’s when things are chaotic to begin with or several players drop out that it becomes more of a problem, the whole structure becomes shaky. I guess if losing one player had that effect then they could be defined as a key player…. Colo for me, let’s hope we don’t have to find out!

    Just by the way, didn’t we get a point off Man U last year with Tiote out (wasn’t Guthrie playing)? It scared the hell out of me every time we didn’t have him, but we did better than I expected for the reasons above.

    Good article Shamrock 🙂

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  11. My point above was meant to be that hopefully because of our smooth start and the apparent understanding among our players, we will be better equipped to absorb the odd injury, as long as they don’t all come at once!

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  12. Good point Susan, perhaps I am being deluded by our stability. I am however impressed by the quality of the youngsters that are pressing for places. Good read BTW Shamrock.

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  13. saw that Ice…doesn’t sound too good.. 🙁

    Someone else needs to step up now though. Pity if that lad will be missing for a while, but we can cope, someone else will come good… Big chance for Marveaux and Hatem….

    Howay the lads !

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  14. Ice: Don’t believe what SKY say, they aren’t the best for reporting news and they may have used a quote that may have been mistranslated. If he is injured then we have other players who will be able to step up for us

    You can probs gather I’m back from my uni visit, lot earlier than I thought I would be

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  15. as previous thread said, hopefully the fact that everybody thought he might be able to run it off is a good sign. Hate changing an unbeaten side.

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  16. Yeah I loved the course, but the campus felt a bit like school as your based on the campus too

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  17. I won’t have you visited any? visited another one earlier in the week too. Got two more to go too

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  18. No, im in sixth still, just I recently moved house and hate it, even though I moved to Newcastle 😆 🙂

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  19. Just not settling mate, missing all my mates in Sheffield, the area i lived in, in Sheffield was just a small little village im missing that to, im missing the nights outs, the party’s, just everything really.

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  20. STT @29 i see where you are comeing from,i was born and bred in the west end and moved away at 17/18 and missed a lot of good mates (and girls) and lived in many countrys through work i now live in a small village,one thing i learnt never live in the past it will make you very un-happy you must move on young fellow,try you wll get there 😉

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  21. spencer….it aint much fun being split up from your mates, lads and lasses, at a young age, and can be quite disruptive. Hang on in there man, things will get better with time, and don’t forget Sheffield is only a couple of hours down the road, you can get there nee bother for the weekend with your mates if things become too difficult…

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  22. Thats what everyone is telling me ice, but there is a group of about 10-15 people who I have known since I was 4, three of them i was laid next to them in my hospital bed when I was born and have been friends with them since, they feel like family. And knowing that the rest of them are all still together kills me, especially when they put pictures on fb of nights out and stuff, I realise what I am missing out on 🙁

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  23. Ice thats good advice you can never live in the past, its always better to look forward, as there can be a lot of pain in the past.
    Ice funny enough I have seen a few different stories about Cabaye

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  24. Remember if caybe is injured abied or gosling I would personally choose, But you can put Raylor as a CM an Santon as a left back…. However I think we really need cover in the centre back position. what ever happened that CB remy that had a trail in the summer? For me people wont agree but I think we should sign either eren Derkyoik (swiss striker) or Erdnic(PSG) the later isnt starting any games and would be class for nufc and cheaper option.

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  25. Well not sure this article was worth writing, did not seem to create much debate but as always I appreciate the feedback it did receive 🙂 Hey ho, dont know until you try! 😯

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  26. Zoe:

    You don’t know me at all, but can I give you some advice? Go down South where the weather is nicer and there is a lot more money. You can always visit Newcastle.

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  27. totally agree they are our key players colo most of all i think he would be very difficuult to replace then ba he looks like a player who can do the lot up top as well as getting 15 to 20 goals and staylor is a solid prem centre half and i think we will get a surprising amount of goals from our defenders and you cant say that about many teams ! very good read .

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  28. [email protected]……Erdnic isn’t getting a game at PSG, and cannot even make the squad in a below average Turkish national team. Why should the toon go out and sign him ?

    A “cheaper option”…are you for real..?…the bloke thinks he’s the dogs bollocks, like the majority of footballers and aint gonna leave a great deal he’s wangled at the moment at PSG… 🙄

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