Newcastle will look to get back to winning ways this evening when West Brom visit St James’ Park in a rare midweek Premier League fixture.
The importance of this fixture for NUFC cannot be underestimated. Win and we can start to look up again, maybe, and look towards a potential push towards Europe. Lose or draw and we slip further away from that Euro-chasing pack after what was a promising start.
Now I tend not to read much into previous encounters, but West Brom have a horrid record at St James’ Park. Their last league win at Newcastle came in 1977 although the memory of the last day of last season still haunts me and even though we drew, the fact that we gave away a three goal lead makes it feel like a defeat. Remember, a win would have given us 9th place and a league finish above Sunderland, which would have been excellent for our first season back in the Premier League. It wasn’t to be however…
Newcastle will be without Yohan Cabaye who sits out the game after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign in the 0-0 draw against Swansea at the weekend. He’ll join Dan Gosling in the sin bin as he misses his second game of a three game ban following his dismissal against Norwich.
Ryan Taylor is doubtful with an ankle complaint and Danny Guthrie misses out courtesy of his groin injury and joins Sylvain Marveaux in the treatment room for that particular ailment. The good news is that Cheik Tiote is fit, Hatem Ben Arfa is apparently “fully charged” and Mike Williamson is edging closer to a return tobolster our patched up backline.
West Brom will be without James Morrison who has been ruled out with a hamstring problem. Youssouf Mulumbu and Paul Scharner face late fitness tests. George Thorne, Gonzalo Jara and Marc-Antoine Fortune have all been recalled from loan spells by Roy Hodgson as he looks to boost squad numbers for what is a bust festive schedule.
Match facts and stats
West Brom’s last victory at St James’ Park came in 1993 when they knocked us out of the League Cup. Their last league win, as mentioned earlier, was way back in 1977 with Regis, Cunningham and Robson scoring the goals for the Baggies.
The Baggies have the third worst attack in the league. Only Wigan and QPR have scored fewer goals.
West Brom have dropped 11 points from winning positions this season which is only beaten by Blackburn who have lost 12 points after taking the lead. In contracts Newcastle have won all seven games in which they have scored in first which is the best record in the league.
Pardew’s men are unbeaten against any side in the bottom half of the table. They’ve won six and drawn two giving them the best return against the bottom of the league clubs outside of the top three.
Tactical thoughts ahead of the match
I’ve pinched this bit from Shamrock as he is making quite the name for himself with his most excellent match previews so hopefully it will provide some continuity as I step into the shoes of the preview master. Anyway, here goes…
The bit that interest me in the build up to the match was Alan Pardew stating why he left Ben Arfa out of the Swansea game and how he reckons the playmaker is “fully charged” ahead of the visit of Roy Hodgson’s men. Is that a hint that we could see the talented 24-year-old starting?
The problem that we face, well Pardew faces, is how to integrate him into the team effectively. He’s pretty insistent that he won’t be played on the wing so I guess we can rule that one out, which just leaves the number 10 role. Is a home game against West Brom the right time to drop a striker?
You see I fully believe that Leon Best and Demba Ba give us a threat up front. A genuine threat. Leon Best may not have scored for a while (remember he has been out injured aswell!) but he does link up well with Ba and creates space for the Senegal international. When Ben Arfa has played he kind of looks lost in the hole, not really helping midfield and leaving Ba isolated up front.
However there has to be a way of fitting him into the team. The boy has talent and while he’s still looking a bit rusty the only way to blow the cobwebs off is by giving him game time. I’ve thought of two ways of trying to incorporate Ben Arfa whilst retaining some semblance of an attacking threat.
– Play Ben Arfa behind Ba AND Best.
– Play Ba up to as the focal striker along with Ben Arfa and another attack-minded midfielder like Haris Vuckic, or even Gabriel Obertan, behind the in-form striker.
I’d quite like to hear any other suggestions on this one to be honest. Not that it makes any difference as I don’t think Alan Pardew will be watching looking to us for ideas, but it does make a good talking point all the same.
In terms of defence the team kind of picks itself at the moment. It will be Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini, James Perch and Davide Santon again with Tim Krul in goal.
The midfield is another interesting area given that Yohan Cabaye misses out. To me it seems as though young Haris Vuckic is in line to deputise as he came on against Swansea but there is also Mehdi Abeid and, heaven forbid, Alan Smith to consider, even though considering the latter of the trio is like considering which testicle you would prefer to keep, or lose.
West Brom won’t settle for doing what Swansea did. They won’t camp in their own box with nine men behind the ball and will give it a bit of a go which will hopefully open the game up a bit and allow our quality to shine through.
It wont be an easy game, but I’ve no doubt that the players will want to send the home fans away for Christmas with a win under their belt. I’ve seen parts of all the last five games to suggest that we’ll get back to winning ways at some point and I sincerely hope that is tonight.
A win would give us 30 points by Christmas which is better than most had hoped for I bet if people answer honestly. It’s then setup for a European charge in 2012 and with a bit of strengthening we could acquire a top six position. Will we strengthen? That is the question….
Howay the lads!
Date: Wednesday, 21st December, 2011
Venue: St James’ Park