31.10.2010 – Sunday 1.30pm
Barclays Premier League
Nolan 26, 34, 75, Ameobi 45 (pen), 70
On the back of last weekend’s Premier League win away to West Ham, Newcastle continued their winning ways with a dominant 5-1 victory over the 10 men of local rivals Sunderland, ending a run of 3 home games without a win and moving up to 7th in the table.
Here at Leazes Terrace we take a look at the 5 key points from a Newcastle point of view:
1. Hughton keeps faith in winning 11
After making 9 changes to the starting line up for the midweek Carling Cup fixture against Arsenal, Chris Hughton restored the same 11 that were victorious at West Ham. There was a slight change to the formation with it being more of a 4-4-2 featuring a midfield diamond then the 4-1-3-2 that faced West Ham. Cheick Tiote acted as the midfield anchor behind a more advanced Kevin Nolan with Jonas Gutierrez and Joey Barton providing the width.
The tactics were spot on and nullified the little threat that was offered by Sunderland who played with a 4-5-1 formation, so much so that after 40 minutes and 2 goals behind, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce changed to a 4-4-2 formation in an apparent admission that he had got his tactics wrong. The Newcastle defence were solid again, making a combined 9 tackles and 17 clearances and largely keeping Darren Bent quiet with the full backs also getting forward well to support the midfield. Considering Newcastle’s midfield 4 were outnumbered against Sunderland’s midfield 5, their movement, quality and endeavour was magnificent and they dominated the midfield area, completing 148 passes compared to the 96 completed passes by the Sunderland midfield. The front 2 of Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi were excellent again, proving to be a handful and a constant threat to the Sunderland defence.
2. Nolan leads by example
Captain Nolan was an inspiration in the heart of the midfield and played the link role between the midfield and attack to perfection. With Tiote excellently marshalling the midfield, Nolan had the freedom to roam making forward runs and joining the attack, demonstrating a knack of being in the right place at the right time and fox-in-the-box like instincts with his well taken 3 goals. If you were to put your money on anyone to hit the back of the net when the ball drops to them in the box, there aren’t many safer bets in the League than Nolan.
As well as his 3 goals, Nolan was also key in breaking up Sunderland moves with 4 tackles and 2 interceptions and as well as making driving runs forward he also completed 29 passes in a crowded midfield area. With his 5th, 6th and 7th goals of the season he became joint top scorer in the Premier League alongside Florent Malouda and Carlos Tevez. 7 goals in 9 games is an excellent return for someone who is primarily a midfielder.
3. Barton continues his impressive run of form
“If I can sustain fitness for a long period of time, I’m very confident of finding the form that got me in the England squad”.
These were the words of Barton in July 2010 before the season began. At the time Barton had only made 47 appearances in his first 3 injury-plagued seasons at Newcastle and his comments about playing for England looked fanciful at best. However, Barton is clearly someone who believes in his own ability and on recent showings he is certainly turning his words into actions.
He was superb against Sunderland. Playing on the right side of midfield and cutting in when required, he was the main protagonist in many of Newcastle’s attacks, completing 39 passes including some mouth-watering
Quarterback-like Beckham-like inch perfect long range diagonal efforts. With Fabio Capello’s right hand man Franco Baldini sitting in the stands, Barton was a stand out performer, justifying his England credentials and claims. Focusing on on-field ability and current form, he is worthy of inclusion in the next England squad.
4. Defending from the front
Newcastle’s front 2 of Carroll and Ameobi were simply unplayable and gave the Sunderland defenders a torrid time all afternoon with their work rate, power and movement. They hustled and harried the Sunderland defenders in possession, making a combined 14 tackles and 4 clearances and generally forcing the Sunderland defenders into making misplaced passes. They were disciplined and committed to their task, defending from the front and setting the tone for the other Newcastle players.
They were also strong in possession with Carroll in particular showing some decent ball control and a willingness and directness to run at the Sunderland defence. Carroll was unlucky not to get on the score sheet but did get an assist and played a big part in Ameobi’s 2nd goal. Ameobi scored 2 goals and grabbed an assist for Nolan’s 3rd, taking his tally to 6 goals in the last 4 games against Sunderland. He really seems to enjoy playing against those lot from Wearside.
5. Bramble – signing of the season?
“At this stage, you’d have to say he is the signing of the season in terms of value for money“.
These were the words of Alan Shearer talking about ex-teammate Titus Bramble in the run up to the derby game, words which were promptly thrown back in his face by the buffoonery of Bramble. Ignoring the claims of Tiote and Rafael Van Der Vaart for signing of the season, there is a reason why Wigan were happy to let Bramble go for only £1 million and that is because he is still prone to monumental lapses of judgement.
Newcastle fans know better than most about Titus Bramble’s ability to put his foot in the brown stuff with his lapses of concentration and moments of madness and in the derby he was at it again. On 53 minutes with Carroll bearing down on goal Bramble had one of those moments, lunging into a tackle with Carroll taking none of the ball and bringing down Carroll in the process, with a straight red card then shown to him by referee Phil Dowd. If Sunderland had any hope of getting back into the game at this point then a difficult task became on impossible one, 3-0 down with 10 men away from home was effectively game over.
At the end of the day…
Newcastle 5 Sunderland 1. It’s a result that will never tire for Newcastle fans, an absolute master class in footballing domination handed out to local rivals. From front to back, start to finish, each player in black and white played their part in this victory. There was a collective determination and togetherness shown in the Newcastle team which money can’t buy, as we are seeing at Manchester City, which was highlighted in the 8 man pile on after Nolan’s 1st goal. It was a day when everything clicked for Newcastle and it was a joy to watch.
All the talk pre-match from the red and white contingent was about being the superior side and the North East’s top dog, claims that were frankly laughable and they were promptly put in their place as their side was blown away in the most 1 sided Tyne-Wear derby in recent years, with Newcastle coming out top in all areas. 66% possession to Sunderland’s 34%, 12 shots on target to Sunderland’s 5 and 302 completed passes to Sunderland’s 211.
They say that the league table starts to take shape after 10 games and with Newcastle sitting comfortably in 7th having scored 19 goals it makes for happy reading and demonstrates the fantastic job that Hughton is doing. It’s hard to think that only 2 years ago the club was an absolute shambles and whimpered out of the Premier League, Hughton has rebuilt the side with some shrewd signings and deserves all the praise for Newcastle’s current standing. Talk this week about him being axed is nothing short of a disgrace and the Southern based journalists leading the charge should be embarrassed.
The majority of Newcastle fans are delighted with the job that Hughton is doing which was demonstrated by the ‘there’s only one Chris Hughton’ and ‘walking in a Hughton wonderland chants’ that echoed around St James’ Park. Hughton has been a success in his trial period as Newcastle manager and rightly deserves to be rewarded with a long-term permanent contract, which would also put an end to the uncertainty over his position allowing him to focus solely on footballing matters.
In the aftermath of the game both Steve Bruce and Darren Bent apologised to the Sunderland fans for their poor performance. Honest gestures maybe and painting a picture that the let the Sunderland fans down, but the Sunderland fans in the ground put on just as limp a performance, noticeably gave up on their side after going a goal down and flocking for the exits in their droves from the hour mark.
Next up for Newcastle is a trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal next Sunday in another televised 1.30pm Premier League fixture. It will be interesting to see how Hughton lines his players up to face the Gunners. It could be argued that the starting 11 that started in the wins against West Ham and Sunderland deserve to keep their place, but the game may see Hughton reverting to his favoured 4-5-1 away formation in an attempt to match Arsenal and prevent them from having time and space in midfield where they can do the most damage.
What a week. What a day.
ps – top marks to whoever’s idea it was to play Cheer Up Sleepy Jean straight after the final whistle. All together now, Cheer Up Stevie Bruce…