So far this season Newcastle United have enjoyed an unbeaten run that lasted for eleven games before we finally lost to Manchester City.
However we bounced back with a mighty display against their City neighbours, Manchester United, at the weekend to gain a point on our 130th anniversary.
There was a true demonstration of our defence when we faced an onslaught of pressure after Jonas Gutierrez was sent off. What is becoming a reliable defence stepped up to the task once again and defended superbly and that is what I think has been key to our success so far in this season.
As a defensive unit we seem a lot better than we have ever done before and this must be partly down to the work that Alan Pardew has done with them. I want to look at how our defence has developed into the mighty machine that it is today.
Goalkeeper: Tim Krul – The Dutch international found his way into the team when Steve Harper became injured last year. He out in some good displays although there was clear room for improvement. However earlier this year he was awarded his Holland debut against Brazil. He put in tremendous display and that seems to have given him more and more confidence. I have nothing against Steve Harper but at times last year I felt he could of done better in some situations.
This season I have noticed that Tim Krul has fantastic reactions. These were on show at the weekend and those sort of vital saves kept us in the game. Having reactions like that have helped us a lot so far this season and is testament to how the Dutchman plays. Along with this he is not afraid to come out and claim the ball which was evident in the away game against Stoke. He was confident and decisive when making the decision to claim the ball. Having a goalie that is not afraid to put himself about in those situations will make the defence feel much more settled as they know that they have a goalie who is playing very well.
Certainly in this particular position we have improved by a huge amount as Tim Krul has been part of the defence that has hardly conceded any goals this season. He has been a key player for us and I’m sure he will continue to make the saves that he has been doing this season.
Right-Back: Danny Simpson – At times I have been a harsh critic of Danny Simpson but he is beginning to win me over. I’m not completely convinced that he is a great right-back but he does the job for us. So far this season he has had, in my opinion, games where he has played well and games where he hasn’t.
One of those games where he played well was against his former club, Manchester United. His goal-line clearance was one of brilliance that stopped them from taking the lead. He had a good display against them and hopefully he can go on from that and begin to play consistently week in week out.
I think Simpson has improved during his time at Newcastle but for me he needs to put the same kind of performance in each game so that he is not left exposed by the opposition.
Centre-Back: Steven Taylor – I have been very impressed with how Steven Taylor has played this season. His role in the defence is to be the one who marks the opposition allowing Fabricio Coloccini to deal with any threats that come over the top of the defence. He has been strong at the back and has continued playing for the club even with a broken nose.
He looks very settled alongside our Captain and there seems to be a strong partnership growing between the pair. You always know with Steven Taylor that he will always give his all for the team and being a Geordie he understands what it means to play in a black and white shirt. He has lost weight over the last year and I think that is down to the way in which Alan Pardew has his players conditioned, they seem to be fitter and stronger allowing them to truly boss the opposition when they are on the attack.
For me, there is something about Steven Taylor this year that seems to be right. He is playing very good football and he seems to be rejuvenated under the leadership of Alan Pardew which is bringing out the best in him.
Centre-Back: Fabricio Coloccini – Our Captain has come on leaps and bounds since his arrival at the Toon. This year he has looked very accomplished leading the defence and the whole team in their Premier League campaign. Coloccini’s role in the defence is essentially to mark but also to mop up any mistakes that may happen during a game. Like a sweeper essentially.
Coloccini has been able to lead from the back and seems to have his defence very well marshalled. That has been key for us and it certainly seems to be working a treat. With Coloccini he is not afraid to bring the ball out of defence in order to rally the troops if we have been under a period of pressure from the opposition.
Our Captain has looked very solid at the heart of the defence and there has been a big improvement in the way that he has developed over the last few years at our club.
Left-Back: Ryan Taylor – When Jose Enrique left the club in the summer, Taylor’s name was not on many peoples lips as the man to take over the left-back position. He has produced assured displays in this position even though he is a right-midfielder. I have been impressed with his work rate in that position and although he may not be the best at the position I feel he has grown into it more and more because of the settled back five that is currently being played in every game.
Ryan Taylor has produced some wonder goals this season and he has begun to attack further up the pitch with the help of Jonas Gutierrez. Although he is not the strongest in that position he is part of a backline that has played together for many matches and I don’t see Pardew disrupting that any time soon. Ryan Taylor has been one of the players this season who has stepped up to the task and he has certainly shown that he is capable of putting a shift in for us.
Certainly our defence is one that has improved over the last year and that is evident in the displays that we have seen so far this season. The fact that there is a settled backline is also a determining factor in our success as the players know how each other play and are able to combine as one unit in order to stop the opposition.
The defence having been key to our success so far this season. No doubt.