No rest for the wicket this week, with ‘The Opposition Opinion’ back once again ahead of Brighton’s visit to St James’ tomorrow, with us bringing you some thoughts from the South-Coast ahead of this one.
Here we’re looking to bring you a view from the other side before each and every game this season, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own club and their thoughts on of our upcoming match.
This week we’ve been speaking to Brighton fans Oli and Anthony, who had the following to say ahead of Hughton’s return to Tyneside tomorrow:
Q1) What have you made of your season so far & what sort of shape do you feel you’re coming into Saturday’s game in?
“If at the start of the season you’d offered us 12th place and 4 points above the relegation zone after 20 games we would’ve been more than happy with that.
“This being our first season in the Premier League it’s all a bit of a learning curve but we’ve adapted fairly well.
“Chris, as you would expect, has us well organised and aside from a rampant Liverpool side nobody has really turned us over.
“Our recent form hasn’t been great (1 win in 9!) so points from the next 2 games against yourselves and Bournemouth are a must.
“Really unsure how we will set up against you as all players are available at the moment and I’m not sure Chris hughton is sure of his best team and how to accommodate them right now”.
Q2) What have you made of our start to the season & Newcastle’s current side? Who do you see as our threats & is there any players/areas that you see as weak links in our team that you feel you can exploitQ3) Likewise, where do the strengths & weaknesses lie in your Brighton side? any players for us to watch out for on Saturday for any particular reason?
“I think until the ownership situation is resolved it’s always going to be tough for you. As Brighton fans we know only too well the impact poor ownership can have!
“Despite there not being a great deal of difference between the top of the Championship and bottom half of the Premier League, it’s always going to be tough without investment in the squad. Luckily for both us and yourselves, there should be 3 worse teams this season so I expect you to stay up.
“Jamaal Lascelles has always looked excellent whenever I’ve seen him, and Gayle and Ritchie tend to have good games against us so I expect them to be a big threat on Saturday.
“I really like the look of Atsu. He’s quick and a brave player.
“If we attack you down the two flanks we could exploit your weaknesses at full-back, with Yedlin and Manquillo both seeming quite attack minded and capable of being caught out”
“These will probably both come back to haunt me but never seen Joselu have a good game and thought it was a strange signing at the time. Shelvey is also a liability. Clearly a wonderfully gifted footballer but his temperament means he can be easily targeted.”
3) Likewise, where do the strengths & weaknesses lie in your Brighton side? any players for us to watch out for on Saturday for any particular reason?
“Our centre backs have been absolutely key so far this season. Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk forged a great understanding in the Championship and they’ve carried that on this season. Shane Duffy is fantastic in the air and Dunk’s performances so far have seen him linked to a potential England call up.
“Pascal Gross has been the star man so fa and is arguably the bargain of the season in the entire division (£3m). Nearly all of our goals go through him, with him scoring 4 and assisting 5 so far. He has real quality on the ball. Watch out for his crutch turn to get the ball out his feet, followed by a wicked delivery from the wide area! He’s been an absolute steal for us!
“Out wide Izquierdo has genuine pace, but inconsistent end product. Knockaert was rested at Chelsea on Boxing Day but came on for the final 10 and showed glimpses of him being at his best so they could be very dangerous out wide if both play – but Solly March (who looks shy of confidence) will probably get the nod due to his defensive work.
“The weakness is clear for everyone to see. There is a major lack of goals in this team. We failed to get a striker in the window and Hemed and Murray are Championship level strikers.”
Q4) What sort of game do you think it’ll be & how do you see the match panning out? Score prediction?
“Away from home we try and keep games very tight, restrict chances and just hope to nick one from somewhere. Recently we’ve rarely attacked away from home and it really depends on which way Hughton goes.
“If he sees as a must not lose then I can’t see anything but a home win, however, if we have a bit of a go we’ve proved we can pick up points on the road with comfortable wins at Swansea and West Ham earlier in the season.
“I hope to be proven wrong, but with the shot shy nature of our away performances recently and a lack of clinical edge, I’m going for a 1-0 home win.”
Q5) How do you think both sides will fare over the remainder of the season? Predictions for rough league position & the three teams you think will go down?
“As mentioned earlier, I don’t think the gap in the quality between a lot of Premier League sides near the bottom is that different from the top end of the Championship, so I think we should both just about keep our heads above water.
“We both have excellent managers with plenty of experience and I expect that to be a factor towards the back end of the season.
“I’ll settle for anything above 18th, but think we will finish slightly above you if we get a top striker in like rumoured in Moussa Dembele from Celtic. I can see us finishing roughly where we are between 12th and 15th as that really is the only missing piece in the jigsaw from us being a decent mid table side in my opinion.
“As for you guys I think you’ll stay up, but around the 14-16th mark.
“For the relegated sides I’ll go with Swansea, West Brom and Bournemouth. Swansea look down already – terrible side. West Brom seem too one dimensional and have shown no real spark since Pardew came in and Bournemouth also look in real danger after conceding goals all over the place.”
Q6) Chris Hughton – he got us promoted almost 10 years ago now and has a special place in most Geordies hearts for what he did for us. What are your thoughts on him?
“Chris has done wonders for us, picking us up in the relegation zone of the championship looking hopeless, to stabilising the club, making shrewd acquisitions and turning us into a delightful free flowing footballing side.
“This year has been the first sticky spell he’s had to encounter. He’s done a brilliant job to get us up to mid table, but I can’t help but think we’ve not accumulated as many points as we possibly could, continually conceding from crosses and not being clinical in front of goal. Makes you wonder what gets worked on during training.
“My one criticism of him this year would be not having a go away from home enough. I’ve been to all away games this year and we’ve only scored 5 goals, scoring in just 3 of the our 10 games on the road – and I could only really make a case of being unlucky not to score in 1 or 2 of those we fired blanks in. This is partially down to tactics and formation, but also due to lack of positive subs with enough time to make an attacking impact.”
Q7) Last season we almost built up a rivalry after being neck & neck for promotion / the title over most of the season. Is that water under the bridge or do you think there’s some dislike between both sets of supporters now? (Especially after the way it all ended on the final day in May!)
“No I think that’s water under the bridge. After getting dumped out of the playoffs 3 times in the previous 4 seasons just getting in the top 2 was goal last year.
“I think after the Wigan home game (where we sealed promotion) the foot went off the gas. I’m fairly certain we didn’t have a single sober player playing at Norwich away in the next game!
“Whilst Jack Grealish won’t have got any Christmas cards from the BN area, it didn’t dampen an incredible season.
“There’s no doubt that the 3 best sides in the Championship last season won promotion and we all look like making a good fist of staying up this year.”
Q8) Tim Krul – He was a great servant at NUFC but joined you boys over the summer to rejuvenate his dwindling career. He’s barely played, but what sort of impression has he made so far?
“He’s a good acquisition and has at times has been unlucky not to get a call up. I was actually at the one match that Krul did take part in this season (at Bournemouth) and he played very well, so it’s been a bit of a shame not seeing him since.
“Maty Ryan is a really good shot stopper but I would imagine he’s the shortest keeper in the league and has become exposed from crosses and set pieces in particular.
“The squad doesn’t have that much Premier League experience so I imagine he’s a good person to have around.
“Looking forward to hopefully see a bit more of him between the sticks in the cup.”
Q9) Finally, if you could make the best possible combined XI out of our two squads, what would yours be?
‘Ryan – Yedlin, Dunk, Lascelles, Bong (afraid so!) – Knockaert, Merino, Propper, Atsu – Gross – Gayle.’
Some interesting responses as ever here – including some intriguing insights into how Chris Hughton may set up for tomorrow’s game.
It seems they’ve been quite critical of his defensive tactics away from home, so it will be interesting to see they sit deep and look to soak up any pressure or have them ready to give us as good as they get going forward.
We’ll be back soon with the thoughts of a Stoke fan ahead of yet another six pointer in the Potteries next Monday.
Big game this – HWTL!