The one thing Newcastle United must do after beating Man Who(?) is beat Southampton today, as consistency alone is the hallmark of every good football team.
Anyone who watched ‘Keane-Vieira: The Best Of Enemies’ on ITV4 the other night got an insight into what it takes to win at the highest level of football. Not winning the odd few matches here and there; Premier League titles, Champions Leagues, World Cups. Not just winning the odd battles but, ultimately, winning the football war. “The DNA of a winner” is the fashionable phrase yet it’s a real thing and the reason Wor ‘Alan’ Shearer got a mention for boxing clever to get Keane sent off that time.
More revealing to me was something Gary Neville – someone left out the Keane-Vieira team for non-footballing reasons – has written about his late sprint in The Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 1999 with his team 1-0 behind to take a throw in on the opposite side of the pitch, quoted in Matthew Syed’s article in The Times this week, “Sometimes Self Belief Can Work Miracles”.
“Why did I do that? What was I doing running all that way? And it’s simple really: it’s what I’d been taught to do since I was a kid at (sic) United. You keep playing, you keep driving, you keep sprinting until the death...” Of course, Manchester United scored twice in the dying seconds, won The European Cup and the rest is football history.
Nobody is accusing Newcastle players over the years of not trying their best or of not giving 100%, yet a real winning mentality and expectancy of victory and doing what makes it happen, counts for so much and changes your actions for the better, and produces results – Newcastle United are palpably starting to believe in themselves again.
It’s something in evidence in Newcastle’s recent revival, never more so than at Old Trafford. It was a fantastic, tigerish performance in which we won every department of the game – the battle, the passing, the skill – Tiote and Cabaye’s head tennis anyone? – and ultimately, the score. From start to finish, we won the important mental battle.
Shola Ameobi guarding the ball Shearer-style in the corner in the dying seconds was the stuff winning is made of and Hatem Ben Arfa stopping David Moyes returning the ball quickly to Patrice Evra was poetry in motion and a perfect mirror of their own past actions held up to Man United to look into, though it’s a shame it wasn’t Fergie.
The renewed team spirit and belief that is almost visible in the Newcastle camp now, is pushing them all that extra mile and changing the mentality and, as importantly, actions, into a winning one & look at the results that have followed recently. When you’re confident, you take the 25 yard shots, you go the extra mile, and it comes off.
Cabaye is a man on fire this season and knows they’ll go in like at Everton and home to Liverpool and he got in the danger zone at Old Trafford expecting to score. I’m expecting a Tiote rocket to launch into a stanchion any time soon…
Yet before we get carried away, that is the other big thing Newcastle United need to avoid – overconfidence, and her twin sister, complacency.
Complacency has been Newcastle’s biggest downfall in the past, both this season – remember twice throwing away a lead at Hull at home in September – and past seasons – wasting a three goal lead against Athletic Bilbao leading to eventual UEFA Cup exit under Keegan in 1994/5 still rankles – and it must be eradicated.
In The Premier League, EVERY single minute of every single game is a battle you have to scrap for over 90+ minutes and resting on your laurels is not an option.
As we’ve seen first-hand in November, a few excellent results – and make no mistake about it, wins against Chelsea, Spurs and Man United are up there – can take you up the table, yet a losing streak takes you the other way. Look at Southampton who were flying early season in stark contrast to us, and getting all the plaudits amid talk of Champions League footbal,l but have lost four out of their last five games.
Its a tough game – they all are – yet if we’re on our mettle, we’ll beat a club who have spent close to £100M on players in recent years though are currently top of the Premier League injury table – replacing us last year thankfully – while we’re at the top of the form table. Winning, like losing, is a habit and a good one we’re getting into.
Horses For Courses
Yet we must revert to 4-4-2 SholaTime as their fast pressing game is found out by employing a target man. They’ll press us high up the pitch so we need to hit it over the top of them – especially in the absence of Cabaye whose passing destroyed them in the 4-4-2 in February – for Shola to win it and Remy and co. to clean up.
Without Wanayama they are like us without Tiote – only half as warrior-like in midfield and can be beaten – and he was the driving force that gave them that extra intensity they had early season which means we can dominate the central area.
Anita could play alongside Cheick in the middle instead of Cabaye, yet I’d be tempted to switch Sissoko to the middle and play Ben Arfa right, though Pardew’s indicated Vurnon will start. Shola’s height and presence can be the key in a 4-4-2 – if we play 5 in the middle like Saturday, we’re engaging them in the midfield battle they want.
There’s a stat going round that we haven’t scored a single goal this season without Cabaye on the pitch, yet like last weekend showed, records are there to be broken.
Remy’s due a goal by his standards and Shola also, perhaps from the penalty spot would be good as we’re due one of those, which is again more likely if Ben Arfa is in the team and running, twisting and turning in the box. Our 6th win in 7 must follow.
Records and Stats Are There To Be Smashed
We didn’t crumble when Captain Coloccini was absent – if anything we went to a higher level with Iron Mike and Yanga-Mbiwa in the middle, with clean sheets against Chelsea and Spurs, and may have shut Liverpool out if not for the red card.
We’re a team on fire and can interchange personnel – no one player is bigger than the XI – and whoever steps in for Cabaye will be a fully-fledged international footballer for either France, Holland or Dark Horses for Brazil 2014, Nigeria.
Above any tactics, formation, player injury or any other superstitious factor, as long as we’re playing on a level refereeing playing field, that self belief and winning mentality that successful teams possess as Newcastle did last Saturday.
Newcastle United were the rightful victors last week and can be again, especially with a fired up Alan Pardew still smarting from his sacking at Southampton. We never want to be tarred with the brush of ugly winners like Man U, Ferguson, Keane & co, yet we do need to able to mix it in the real football world, and win in the end, which is something the modern Newcastle United team are learning to do against the odds. FHW