Wigan Away

Kone v Cisse

Kone v Cisse

Wigan away, every visit is treated like a cup game. Probably 5,000 black and white optimists heading down to the wee club in the North west.

Away fans can be afforded such numbers as Wigan still remains a footballing outpost and most definitely the poor relation to Rugby League. In fact it is probably way down the list behind Northern Soul, the famous Wigan Pier and Meat Pies.

The average home attendances are just only 19,000. Only the mighty QPR draw a smaller gate.

In spite of Wigan’s poor relation status, small budget and regular stints in the bottom three – their manager Roberto Martinez continues to slowly but surely build a team that can compete. That may sound daft as we speak they are in the bottom three, but with two games in hand you can be sure that home wins will be targeted to drag themselves out. However Wigan are not good at home, their system seems to suit playing away from the JJB Stadium.

When I see them play, I am always impressed by the way the move the ball around, but they always look like conceding and definitely have a very soft centre. On the flip side they are more than capable of turning anybody over, as we know very well. I definitely like the look of their African hitman Kone, he works his socks off and is a nuisance customer that gives defenders no peace. A poor mans Tevez possibly?

In our few jaunts to Athletic, we have played 7 (including League Cup) Lost 6, Won 1. Scoring 2 and conceding 10 – not great considering the huge away support backing the lads as mentioned. The last visit brought about a right royal tanning by the Latics, this whilst we dreamed of finishing in a top four berth. Williamson and Coloccini had a shocker that day, with Victor Moses (now with Chelsea) and former Celtic favourite Maloney taking the eye in a first half that saw Newcastle stunned and beaten 0-4.

Pardew tried to match their system in that game, to disastrous effect. Tactics soon were altered as the game sprinted away from us

My memories of Wigan were being left in the car park after our bus failed to return for us in 2007 after a miserable 0-1 defeat and somebody throwing a cheeseburger from 30 yards like Crocodile Dundees tin of beans off an aggressive Stewards head. Naughty I know, but an away day giggle!

When we played them this time last season, they were on a great run and had beaten all in their path in an unlikely streak to stay in the League. They really are a conundrum, which Wigan will we face today? The soft centred mistake laden bottom three fodder, or the gung-ho all-out positive attacking football and dangerous Wigan?

I hope we stick to our system today and show the same resolute spirit that we have shown in our last two European ties that has seen us keep four consecutive clean sheets.

Deep down I have the feeling this may be one of those back down to earth games after all the pomp and ceremony surrounding our advance in the Europa League. I hope I am totally wrong and that we scoop a League double sending us into the top ten. That would be a magnificent result after Thursday exploits.

Can we cope with the system? Can we win only our second away game of the season in the Premier League? I do fancy Cisse to bag a couple today mind, if we can keep a clean sheet we should win this game.

Prediction? Toss a coin! See you on the other side. COME ON UNITED! HTL

Ben Arfa out – But NUFC look forwards

NUFC's very own Magical numer 10 is out for the season

NUFC’s very own Magical numer 10 is out for the season

Is anybody else devastated by the news that Hatem Ben Arfa may not kick a ball again this season?

Gutted isn’t the word. Admittedly we have had to cope without him for almost three months with his injury keeping him hamstrung, but there have been games recently that have been screaming out for HBA. No more so than the last two games against Stoke and Anji.

His spark of genius, turn of pace, supreme dribbling, threaded passes and goals out of nothing – have left a gaping hole in NUFC’s creative force.

Prior to his injury, albeit in a struggling team Ben Arfa was our stand out player by a country mile. Had it not been for the French maestro, we would surely have had further woes pre the January transfer window. Remember the goal against Villa at home whilst 0-1 down and struggling? Pure HBA Magic.

The disappointment lingers that his talents have not been available to call on alongside our formidable new recruits – especially that of Moussa Sissoko.

In games that have been tight, that momentary piece of brilliance can be the difference in a game of small margins. To win any game, never mind any Cup competition you need that in your armoury.

Without doubt Newcastle’s chances in the Europa League would be greatly enhanced had Hatem been fit and firing.

But the show must go on and we must rely on the players available to achieve what has previously been the unattainable.

Out steps HBA, in steps Marveaux. Like Ben Arfa he floats in and out of games and has gotten a lot of stick for seemingly lacking heart (myself included). At times he seems to be playing the game as though it’s a friendly and is never breaking his neck to get anywhere. But with the ball at his feet he offers something different to the rest of our strong and at times workman-like central midfield stars.

The ability to turn on the after burner and go past players taking people out of the game forces defenders out of position and make mistakes.

Without that we play in straight lines in front of the back lines and don’t really look like scoring many, especially seeing that our set pieces offer nothing and have been nothing short of disastrous this campaign. So we are reliant on scoring with craft from open play, Marveaux can provide that given game time.

But does Pardew see Sylvain as an impact player or a regular first team starter? It seems that for the Premier League he chooses Jonas’ work-rate ahead of the “X” Factor of Marveaux every time.

 All Marveaux can do is grab what he can, when he can. My personal preference would to have Marveaux ahead of Gutierrez every day of the week, but I can also see where Pardew comes from when thinking about the physicality of every domestic League game and whether Marveaux will go AWOL in the face of battle.

The proof they say is in the pudding, and Marveaux has won us two vital games in the last minute with quite outstanding vision and skill – to supply two last minute assists to our previously slumbering Senegalese star Papiss Demba Cisse.

Nobody is benefitting more from the presence of Marveaux than our Number 9. Long may it continue, the more attacking partnerships we have the better.

With a really exciting end to the season in prospect I hope that all our big guns remain available. With a top ten finish on the horizon and the possibility of the first trophy in generations, let us hope that in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen that Thirteen is lucky omen for Newcastle United.

How about our very own number 13, Mapou to score the winner in Amsterdam?

HTL.

 

NUFC v BENFICA – what can we expect?

Benfica - a tricky task?

Benfica – a tricky task?

So we have landed Benfica, what can we expect from our Quarter Final opponents?

Looking at Benfica’s results this season both in the League and Europe, this is going to be a hefty task  to overcome the Portuguese.

But like eating a hotdog, holding a pie and slurping a pint at the same time whilst walking – NOT IMPOSSIBLE!

Topping the Portuguese Primeira Liga – they are unbeaten in all 22 domestic fixtures to date. Results thus far – W18, D4, L0. Scoring 56 and only shipping in 14!

In fact the Reds have only been beaten twice in European competition this season – both of those came in the Champions League and one of those being a narrow 1-2 home reverse v Barcelona.

Since they dropped into the EL from the CL they have won all four legs home and away. Including a 3-2 victory at Bordeaux where we fluffed our lines with a weakened team earlier in qualification.

So if we are going to do it, it looks like keeping them out will be just as tricky as scoring.

Oscar Cardozo is their top scorer and along with Lima, looks quality.

To win any competition you have to face class at some point. We have already dispatched the third favourites Anji – why not Benfica?

The Portuguese League is not massively strong, but they will be skilful and crafty. We will meet them with Black and White brute force and hopefully a little bit of luck.

Ball retention will be absolutely vital, lose it and we will not get it back for 5 minutes.

Our recent performances don’t fill me with hope that we will batter anyone into submission, but our doggedness and strength suggest we will not be easily rolled over by anybody. Benfica included.

Dare we dream? We DARE! COME ON UNITED. HTL

Portuguese Liga 2012-2013

No

Date

Opponent

Venue

Result

Pos

Pts

1

18.08.2012

Sporting Braga

home

D2-2

3

1

2

26.08.2012

Vitoria Setubal

away

W5-0

2

4

3

02.09.2012

Nacional Madeira

home

W3-0

2

7

4

23.09.2012

Academica Coimbra

away

D2-2

2

8

5

28.09.2012

Pacos Ferreira

away

W2-1

1

11

6

06.10.2012

Beira Mar

home

W2-1

1

14

7

27.10.2012

Gil Vicente

away

W3-0

1

17

8

03.11.2012

Vitoria Guimaraes

home

W3-0

2

20

9

11.11.2012

Rio Ave

away

W1-0

2

23

10

24.11.2012

Olhanense

home

W2-0

1

26

11

10.12.2012

Sporting Lisbon

away

W3-1

2

29

12

15.12.2012

Maritimo

home

W4-1

1

32

13

06.01.2013

Estoril

away

W3-1

1

35

14

13.01.2013

FC Porto

home

D2-2

1

36

15

21.01.2013

Moreirense

away

W2-0

1

39

16

26.01.2013

Sporting Braga

away

W2-1

1

42

17

03.02.2013

Vitoria Setubal

home

W3-0

2

45

18

10.02.2013

Nacional Madeira

away

D2-2

2

46

19

17.02.2013

Academica Coimbra

home

W1-0

2

49

20

24.02.2013

Pacos Ferreira

home

W3-0

2

52

21

03.03.2013

Beira Mar

away

W1-0

1

55

22

10.03.2013

Gil Vicente

home

W5-0

1

58

23

17.03.2013

Vitoria Guimaraes

away

24

30.03.2013

Rio Ave

home

25

07.04.2013

Olhanense

away

26

21.04.2013

Sporting Lisbon

home

27

28.04.2013

Maritimo

away

28

05.05.2013

Estoril

home

29

12.05.2013

FC Porto

away

30

19.05.2013

Moreirense

home

Cup Results

UEFA Champions League 2012-2013

Date

Round

Opponent

Venue

Result

Info

19.09.2012

r1gg

Celtic

away

D0-0

02.10.2012

r1gg

Barcelona

home

L0-2

23.10.2012

r1gg

Spartak Moscow

away

L1-2

07.11.2012

r1gg

Spartak Moscow

home

W2-0

20.11.2012

r1gg

Celtic

home

W2-1

05.12.2012

r1gg

Barcelona

away

D0-0

UEFA Europa League 2012-2013

Date

Round

Opponent

Venue

Result

Info

14.02.2013

r2-1

Bayer Leverkusen

away

W1-0

21.02.2013

r2-2

Bayer Leverkusen

home

W2-1

(3-1)

07.03.2013

r3-1

Bordeaux

home

W1-0

14.03.2013

r3-2

Bordeaux

away

W3-2

NUFC v STOKE – Hells bells

Tony Pulis Red and White Army in action at SJP

Tony Pulis Red and White Army in action at SJP

Not often do I feel sorry for fans of opposing football teams. Like most, I have an irrational dislike of all things non black and white. Especially if the team these devotee’s support are donning the red and white striped garb. I am not in reference to the great and deluded rabble enduring the never ending thrill a minute “Party with Marty”, good Lord no. In fact, I can’t quite believe I am going to say this, but I feel sorry for the Stoke fans.

I have not had much time for the Stokites down the years either. I guess what I am trying to say in a rather convoluted way is that should our beloved black and whites line up and play football in a Stoke stylee I would hate my life. We have been there with our very own brand of Grid Iron under Fat Sam, but Tony Pulis and his tactics make our former hump and lump’a seem like the ultimate football purist. The Pardew haters will point to his long ball antics at times, but surely there is no comparison?

Am I over the top in describing Stoke manager Pulis as a footballing Anti-Christ? Never mind “Delilah” ringing around the Britannia , the theme from “The Omen” should ring around. Look under his cap and undoubtedly you will find the mark of the beast. Come to think of it, how often have you ever seen him with his cap off?

The Stoke team is packed with Giants, to be fair to them some are good players. If there was to be a fire sale, players like Shawcross, Begovic, N’zonzi, Walters, Shotton and Crouch would find homes (Probably QPR!). But when your tactics have been gleaned from the Centurions handbook of 1st Century battle formations, the results are bloody awful.

The tactic of firing diagonal balls to giant strikers pushed into wide roles, to nod on whilst the rest of the team stay ensconsed in the safety of their own half preventing quick counter attacks. Invariably they will win the first header against the dwarfed full backs, from a standing position in Crouchy’s case, but the amount of times this creates danger from open play is minimal. One dimensional and as a spectacle ghastly. The worst thing is, Pulis’s Stoke are held up as a blueprint for clubs coming up from the Championship. God help us all!

The defenders seemingly are under instructions not to come over the half way line, unless there is a set piece – at which point they over load the box. Yeah great, they don’t concede many goals. But nor do they score many. The strangulation and stifling that they put the game under is painful to watch.

Sunday was no different. I lost count of the amount of times I heard people say that Stoke were a “Horrible team”. Worse still that this mob have been floating above us in the league, bobbing gently in the Mid-Table mediocrity pool. Shows how poor we have been first half of the season really.

The crowd were becoming exasperated that we were drawing a blank against these Neanderthals, made worse by conceding a bloody stupid penalty. The last thing we wanted to give them was a sniff of a lead to hang onto.

The new never say die attitude came through, and United forced their way to victory. Cabayes free kick and celebration will live long in the memory. Not to mention Stevie Taylors antics with Begovic! Great credit must go to the lads, coming from a goal behind for the third game in a row at SJP. Another last minute winner to savour (though I spent my time glaring at the linesman waiting for his flag! Well it was Papiss!) Hopefully the feel-good factor can give us the boost we need for Thursday against Macka-packa-chocca-blocka.

Pulis is now coming under pressure, could he get the axe? I for one would shed no tears if we were never to face a Pulis XI again. Would anybody else miss that fixture? Answers on a Post card.

Top ten finish and Amsterdam here we come. COME ON UNITED – HTL.