The Toon faithful travel to the South Coast to face Brighton & Hove Albion for the first time since 1992 tomorrow. The Seagulls beat us on that occasion, so there is a 20 year old score to settle!
If the lads make safe passage to the 5th Round it will be the first time in six years they have managed it, so the Magpies are due a bit of luck! This result could also have some bearing on any signings we make this January, as it always helps to convince players when a team is in with a shout of earning some silverware.
Brighon & Hove Albion:
Former Magpie Kazenga LuaLua, fellow winger Craig Noone and full-back Mauricio Taricco are all pushing for returns after recent hamstring complaints. It will be touch and go for this match though. Midfielder Gary Dicker (don’t laugh) is out after having surgery for a fractured fibula, whilst defender Tommy Elphick will miss the remainder of the season with an achilles injury. New signing David Gonzalez will be available should Gus Poyet chose to put him in between the sticks.
Squad from: Brezovan, Ankergren, Gonzalez, Greer, Dunk, El-Abd, Calderon, Vincelot, Painter, Taricco, Cook, Hall, Sampayo, Navarro, Sparrow, Noone, Vicente, Harley, Bridcutt, LuaLua, Buckley, Hoskins, Barnes, Mackail-Smith, Forster-Caskey.
Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse (both Senegal) and Cheick Tiote (Cote D’Ivoire) are all away on African Cup of Nations (ACON) duty. Sylvain Marveaux (groin), Sammy Ameobi (knee) and Steven Taylor (achilles) are all long term absentees. Other than that we are OK. Cptain Fabricio Coloccini is a slight doubt and faces a late fitness test.
Squad from: Krul, Elliot, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, R Taylor, Simpson, Ferguson, Kadar, Perch, Gutierrez, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Abeid, Smith, Guthrie, Cabaye, Gosling, Vuckic, Ameobi Snr, Best, Lovenkrands.
Shamrock’s Top 10 Really Interesting Stats And Facts:
1 – Like Newcastle, The Seagulls have had a number of nicknames down the years – including: Albion, Shrimps, Lugworms, Limpets, Flounders, and Promenaders.
2 – Although the two teams have rarely met in their respective histories, they have been paired against each other in three previous FA Cup ties, with one match going to a replay in 1983. The most recent FA Cup tie was at St James’ Park in 1986 for a 3rd Round encounter. Brighton won 2-0. The Toon will have to go back to 1930 to find the last time they knocked the Seagulls out of this competition.
3 – We are not the only team affected by dodgy stadium renaming. The Falmer Stadium is ‘officially’ called The American Express Community Stadium, or AMEX Stadium these days. It is a brand new stadium with 22,374 capacity. They have just applied for planning permission to expand to 30,000.
4 – Brighton are a club on the up under Gus Poyet. They sit in 10th place in the Championship, only two points away from the playoff positions and are in good form having gone five games unbeaten. That said, they have been up and down all season and can best be described as inconsistent.
5 – Newcastle are hot favourites for this one as expected, with odds of 10/11 against Brighton’s 12/5. The draw will fetch 9/4. Looking around there are not great odds out there, but a 3-1 Toon win would fetch 14/1 with some bookies.
6 – Brighton have failed to win 70% of the games they have been drawing at half time this season. Of the seven games they have been losing at half time, they have gone on to lose five times. However, they have only lost one of the 10 games they have been winning at half time.
7 – If our forwards are going to have any success, they will need to avoid being hacked down by Seagulls’ center half Gordon Greer. He is their dirtiest player with five bookings and one straight red to his name this season.
8 – Shola Ameobi will be looking to score his 2nd ever FA Cup goal if he plays.
9 – Newcastle’s squad is worth £105m. Brighton’s is worth just £9.3m!
10 – A goal for Peter Lovenkrands would be an ideal early birthday present to himself. He turns 32 years young on the 29th.
Tactical thoughts and ponderings:
The first thing that strike me is that Brighton have one of the worst disciplinary records in the Championship. We all know it is a physical league and you wont survive unless you have a bit of steel about you, but I wonder if they will try and change things against us? We are not a Championship side and I believe that if they try to be too robust and one dimensional against us, it simply will not work.
The Toon players have shown already this season against the likes of Stoke and Blackburn that they have no problem adjusting to the physical side of the game, but they tend to keep a decent balance there. They can comfortably play the long ball game as recent games have shown, but we know from early season form that this side will also play the ball along the floor with relative ease. OK, against Fulham it went a bit wrong for a number of reasons – but we will put that down to a bad day in the office for everybody and pretend it did not happen!
I think a blend of flair players such as Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez and even Gabriel Obertan will work well alongside players such as Yohan Cabaye, Leon Best and possibly Dan Gosling or wait for it…Alan Smith. We need one or two players that will get stuck in and win the ball, who can show we are no pushovers. From there they can play the ball out to our flair players who can either expose a lack of mobility and get through on goal, or draw plenty of fouls.
I know Leon gets a bit of stick from some fans, but he is definitely capable of putting in a shift and disrupting defenders whilst others reap the rewards. That’s partly why Demba Ba has done so well this season. Players like Benny and Gutierrez just don’t exist in the Championship and that’s why Brighton’s more defensive players should have a nightmare trying to stop them if they are given licence to really attack.
I don’t see the point in playing the guarded, patient possession game. Being away at a Championship side, we can expect to be harassed, harried and pressed all of the time. Granted, patience may lead to a great opening at some point, but we might also be forced into an error at the wrong end of the pitch by trying to be too clever.
That’s why I would not be too concerned about what formation Brighton set out with. We need to set a game plan involving a high tempo and plenty of football in the opposing half. Ball to feet of particular players and make sure they are given options for 1-2’s. Based on Ameobi’s lack of movement in the last 2 games, that rules him out of this one.
Against Fulham we kind of played like this, with Benny and Guti going central a lot. I’d be inclined to try and stretch them a bit with a 4-4-1-1 formation, but with central play our preferred means of penetrating the opposition defence. Guti and Obertan both have a tendency to drift narrow as opposed to staying out wide and crossing. Seeing as we don’t really have and aerial forces up front or in midfield at the minute, I don’t see the point in sticking to wide play.
With Benny behind Best, Obertan and Guti can both link up with him and they all have scope for swapping position occasionally and keeping Brighton on their toes. All Best has to do is chase and harass, the other three can find a way in from there. Then, Best can sweep up any loose balls in the area. With Cabaye and one other keeping things ticking over from the middle, simply making the challenges and laying the ball off we should have the protection we need whilst the others get on with it.
I would not start Smith, but he could come in handy later once the legs start to tire, just to break up play a bit and get physical. I’d be reasonably confident that he could come in for Leon Best, who goes flat towards the end of games more so than a lot of other players. He has actually been substituted off the field of play 12 times in 16 starts. That said, maybe the extra bite in midfield will be required and Vuckic could slot in up front?
There is an argument for maybe holding one of our pacey players on the bench to open up the opposition later on, but the above plan does not work unless all three are on the pitch in my opinion.
This is an opportunity for players such as Obertan and Santon to build up a bit of confidence. Obertan has come in for a battering recently after a succession of dodgy performances. This game could be his breakthrough on goal if he wants it bad enough. Santon had been beginning to draw the plaudits until the recent Fulham match, when he imploded. Alan Pardew will have to decide whether to punish him and bring in Ryan Taylor or even give experience to Shane Ferguson, or let him continue to build up experience of the English game.
Otherwise it will be the same back line as usual for continuity. We will need Simpson in the side if Obertan is playing, as he is a better defender than Ryan Taylor. He just needs to be told to stay back in his own half, as when he gets forward his crossing might be good, but he loses possession too much and leaves us exposed.
I realise we have not talked too much about Brighton’s strengths so far, but in all honesty they are an average Championship side, with average players who are up and down on form. Lewis Dunk is a strong defender, but I can’t see him containing our forwards if they play to their full ability. Their striker Craig Mackail-Smith is probably their star player, but with just 7 goals in 32 games (30 starts and only 4 times taken off early), he is not exactly setting the world alight. Our defence should be more than able to cope. Their golakeepers have been prone to dodgy decision making and poor handling this season too, so plenty of shots at them should hopefully bring rewards.
The key to this game is simply not to let the occasion cloud judgement, stay focused and there is no reason the boys cannot win this. I’m not writing Brighton off, they are more than capable of putting us to the sword if we let them. That’s the key though, staying concentrated, consistent and disciplined in our approach. We are usually good at doing those things and the only way I can see the Seagulls beating the Toon is if we throw it away. Simply because we are a good Premier League side and they are far from it.
My team in a 4-4-1-1: Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Ferguson, Obertan, Cabaye, Guthrie, Gutierrez, Ben Arfa, Best.
Subs: Elliot, Santon, R Taylor, Gosling, Smith, Vuckic, Lovenkrands.
39-year-old southerner Lee Probert takes this one. Don’t worry though, he hails from Bristol originally and now lives in Wiltshire so nowhere near Brighton. He has been a professional referee since 2003 and joined the Select Group in 2007. No International games for him so far, but this season he has been officiating Europa League matches. He’s had a bit of stick from some managers from the ‘Top 4’ sides, but to me that means he’s remaining impartial. You may remember him for booking Javier Hernandez for diving during an encounter against us in 2010. Sir Alex did not like that!
So far this season he has taken us for the 2-2 draw with Spurs and the 3-1 loss to Liverpool, so a win is obviously the next result for us in order to return to our equilibrium! He has taken Brighton once for their 3-3 home tie with Leeds United.
A word from Danny Guthrie:
“I watched the third round replay game when Brighton won on pens, and looking at the pitch I thought ‘do we want to go to Wrexham?’. Brighton’s a good draw. They’re a good footballing side. I’ve seen them play a couple of times on telly, and it’ll be a good tie. We’re really looking forward to it.”
“The manager’s already said he likes the FA Cup, and I think it’ll be a strong team.”
Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle United
F.A Cup 4th Round Tie
Saturday 28th January 2012 Kick Off: 17:15
Venue: Falmer Stadium, Brighton
Howay the lads!