It would’ve been easy to forget we had a game this week after takeover talk took over, but ‘The Opposition Opinion’ is back again this weekend ahead of our daunting trip to Man City tonight – and we’ve got some thoughts from Manchester ahead of what promises to be a tough old afternoon for NUFC.
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 City fan Tom (@tomritchiemcfc), whose had the following to say ahead of our trip to the Etihad later on today:
Q1) Perhaps a stupid question in the circumstances, but what have you made of your season so far? What sort of shape do you feel you’ll be heading into today’s game in on the back of the 4-3 Liverpool defeat?
“I have to admit I’ve been shocked at our level of performance this season. I feared that playing like Barca, while entertaining, could not be successful in English football. Premier League winners are invariably big lads, physical, aggressive, direct and dogged. Yet I’ve watched the greatest football I’ve ever seen, where we’ve taken on all-comers, never once changing our philosophy. Now that is brave!”
“For tonight’s game? Nothing will change. We’ll still play on the front foot, we’ll still have 70% possession and we’ll still play out from the back, no matter how much it makes me crap my pants watching it! Liverpool was hugely entertaining. But they played out of their skin and we played as badly as we have all season, and we still nearly punched a draw.”
2) What do you make of Newcastle’s season so far & our current side? Who do you see as the threats in our team & is there any particular weak links that you feel you can exploit?
“I’m surprised at how much you’ve struggled, particularly in home games. It’s a great place to play, so I’m not sure why so many of your players seemingly freeze. Maybe Rafa’s irritation with the owner is leading him to a more negative style of play?
“I’m sure you won’t be be relegated (but it might be close!) and I’m not so sure you’d sail back again like last time.
“Threats? Sorry, but none really. Gayle’s a decent striker but it may be he hardly gets a touch of the ball tonight, so I’d go for Ritchie as the biggest threat seeing as he has a decent shot from the edge of the box.
“I don’t really know them well enough to criticise as being weak. You’ve got a nippy talented forward line that lacks a goal scorer unfortunately! Shelvey is a good player. I can’t make my mind up about Clark. When he first started out at Villa I thought he was going to be a star. But he’s extremely inconsistent.
“If I was forced to pick a weakness? Probably the full backs. And our wingers are our strength going forward! That’s why you shouldn’t sit back and hope to hold on. Because Sterling and Sane attack constantly and are productive while doing it.
“I’m hoping that you don’t try to repeat your showing at the home game when you were rightly slated for such a limp performance. Believe it or not, but to beat City you have to be brave. Take chances. Be prepared to get battered. But just sit back and we’ll wear you down eventually, so it’s a free hit and you might as well go for it!”
3) Likewise, who do you feel are the strengths & weaknesses in your Man City team right now – any players for us to watch out for tonight aside from the obvious?
“Our weaknesses are hard to put your finger on. I think we look slightly leggy and tired last few games, probably from playing so many games with the same players as well as the pressure from the ‘unbeaten’ tag.
“The most obvious problem at the moment is probably John Stones. Imperious for the first half of the season, he then had a lengthy injury and has come back a shadow of that player. I’m sure he’ll be back to his best soon. Hopefully tonight.
“The strength is in the team structure but special mention to David Silva who should return today. He pulls everything together for us, makes great players play even better as his influence on our style of play is irreplaceable.
“Aguero usually does well against Newcastle as well, and he’s in need of a good performance after a couple of quiet games recently.
“Our biggest strength though is that we are unrelenting. We play at a pace and intent that few teams can live with.”
4) What sort of game do you think it will be and how do you see it panning out? Score prediction?
“It all depends on how Newcastle want to play it.
“If they opt for 8 at the back then we’ll just pin you back and eventually overpower you. If you take the game to us, you could shock us…or we could take you to the cleaners!
“It’s hard to tell. But I think there’s a lot of expectation among City fans that we need to get get on track as quickly as possible and we need a thumping victory to settle the nerves. And Newcastle are possibly the best opposition we could face in those circumstances.
“I’ll go for a resounding 4-0. I really hope that prediction doesn’t come back to haunt me!”
5) How do you think both sides will fare over the remainder of the season? Predictions for league positions for both? (including the three you see going down this season!)
“Unsurprisingly City to win the league. Probably by about 12 points. City to win Carabao Cup…and I think we might even make the FA Cup Final as well! Or am I just being greedy? Champions League? Hmmm…tough call. Depending on the draws we get if expect at least semi-finals. But wouldn’t it be nice to get to the final?
“Newcastle? If the chequebook comes out in January, Rafa has enough know-how to buy well and drag you up to maybe 12th. But if nothing spent then it might be 17th place and an arse-clenching last month to the season!
“The bottom three… Swansea City, WBA, Huddersfield Town. I hope the Geordies stay up as it’s one of my favourite away days. I think the city has a real vibe about it and the more Northern teams in the Premier League the better, as far as I’m concerned.”
6) Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher slated out approach to your 1-0 win at St James’ last month. It was branded the ‘most negative first half’ they’d seen and a ‘joke’ of a performance. What was your take on our approach to the game that night and what do you feel may be the key behind us potentially getting a result at your place tonight?
“I agreed with them. It was a cowardly performance and not one I’d expected from a Newcastle team at home. I’ve seen it many times this season, and I don’t get it. Why play like wimps hanging on for a point? Be bold! You might lose. But you’re only losing a point anyway!
“Palace showed the way. Took us on. I get the argument that you shut up shop and pinch a draw. But it’s never worked, not even once, this season against us. If Newcastle come and try to hold out for 90 minutes they’re deluding themselves. Rafa is a clever tactician so I’ll be interested to see what his plan is.
“In the last 15 minutes you came out and almost pinched a draw. Exactly! Why not try that for 90 minutes? You might get battered, but you might not! You asked me where our weakness is. Well it’s not facing 10 mean defences. We always overcome them. But teams that have a go..?
“As for worrying about goal difference? You need to pick up points as the priority mate. Surely you’re not targeting survival based on goal difference!
“Anyway, all will be revealed tonight. Personally I hope you line up with 10 across the 18 yard line. Then I know it’ll only be a matter of time.”
7) Takeovers- Obviously you guys have benefited hugely from a big-money buyout in recent history, turning what was a big club with potential into a massive one that’s capable of winning the Champions League. Mike Ashley has the club up for sale at NUFC, but our hopes of a sale took a huge hit on Tuesday night as he pulled the plug on talks with Amanda Staveley. What do you make of Mike Ashley and the potential of NUFC if new owners did buy the club?
“I’ve got mixed views on this one. As an outsider I look at what Ashley has done and I don’t think he’s the worst owner I’ve ever known. Trust me, we’ve had far worse owners than him. You may be too young to remember Peter Swales? Aaarrgghh!!! But I understand when supporters lose faith in the owner and demand change. But I doubt it’ll be easy for you.
“Ashley will want his price and it appears the bidders want it cheap. Be careful what you wish for. But should you get a decent new owner whose prepared to invest, then Newcastle may be the last genuine sleeping giant ready to be awoken from its slumbers! But with all the FFP restrictions nowadays it may be a long slog even with new owners. You need only look at how Everton haven’t really progressed with their new billionaire owner.
“But in the end, football is all about hopes and dreams. And a new owner gives you that. We won the lottery ten years ago but I’m not sure anyone will ever get that sort of break again.”
This one was thought provoking. Tom was opinionated and spoke his mind, but he made some fair points in doing so (even if I still don’t agree with his view on our approach in the reverse fixture with City last month!).
His take on the potential takeover and the comparisons between Newcastle and Man City in that respect were also quite interesting. Could financial fair play rules stop us from transforming into a Premier League heavyweight even if big-spending new owners arrived? He makes a valid point.
We’ll be back soon with the thoughts of a Burnley fan ahead of next Wednesday’s crucial clash with of Sean Dyche’s side.
Buckle up folks, this one’s going to be a tough old afternoon at the Etihad – HWTL!