Hope you all got home from the Sheffield United FA Cup game okay, I heard there was quite a bit of traffic?*
Next up, we play Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Tuesday 12th January, with kick off at 7:45.
So, What Can We Expect?
Right now it’s anyone’s guess as to what type of performance we’re going to get from United under LVG. Are we going to get another performance like the game against Sheffield United, or are we going to get a performance like the games against Swansea and Chelsea?
Quite frankly I expect the former. Newcastle are currently in an early relegation battle in 18th place with 17 points, and will therefore likely want to settle for a point as a minimum, and if the opportunity to counter arises, try and nick a goal to take all 3 points. This will likely mean that most of the game will be very similar viewing for United fans – prepare to have the majority of the possession, and have to work through 9 or 10 men to get a chance on goal.
With that said, Newcastle have been doing well against the ‘bigger’ teams, with their away performance at Arsenal catching most attention. For decent portions of that game Newcastle controlled the flow, and threatened a fair few times through Mitrovic’s aerial presence and Wijnaldum’s finesse and vision. Quite frankly, they were unlucky in that game and deserved more. We, ourselves, drew 0-0 with Newcastle at Old Trafford in the 3rd game of the Premier League, where after an explosive first 20 minutes, Newcastle grew into the game and could have easily stolen the 3 points.
Beating Newcastle United
47% of Newcastle’s Premier League goals have come from Wijnaldum this season (7G, 2A), with him operating across the flanks and number 10 roles in all his appearances. Everything goes through him. In order to limit his creativity for Newcastle our team selection simply has to include Morgan Schneiderlin. His game is nullifying players of this sort, and with so many teams relying on number 10’s to make them tick in the modern game, it’s no wonder we have only lost 1 game when he has played. Play him and you limit Wijnaldum’s shots, passes, and general influence such as feeding a hungry Mitrovic up front.
Focusing on ourselves, width could play key in Tuesday’s game. Newcastle’s full backs and wingers (in tracking back terms) are not the greatest (Jaanmat potentially excluded from that). Therefore rather than the narrow team selection against Sheffield United, a selection with Memphis, who made a real impact last Saturday aside from the penalty, and Lingard may be more appropriate. To make this work further, our fullbacks must overlap to give Newcastle’s defenders a split-second insecurity about who to go with, allowing the wingers to conjure something up. There is no secret as to why Memphis was better earlier in the season – Shaw’s overlapping runs made the full-backs question where they were going, allowing Memphis to get a shot off, cross the ball, make an incisive pass and so on. Therefore I’d like to see either Varela or Young deployed at right back (as much as I prefer him on the wing – needs must) and Borthwick-Jackson at left back after his impressive game in the FA Cup.
If we nullify the threat of Wijnaldum whilst stretching Newcastle out of position with our wingers/full-backs, then it’s more than possible that we may well see a welcome improvement on Saturday’s game!
Schweinsteiger looks set to miss the game, with Jones also unlikely to feature due to his recurring ankle problem. Valencia, Shaw and Rojo are all still out.
Young, Schneiderlin and Carrick are all likely to return to the squad after being rested in the FA Cup.
Thauvin (winger) and Mbabu (defender) are likely to miss out, along with Krul (GK), Haidara (defender), Obertan (winger) and Anita (midfielder) who are all sidelined.
Captain Coloccini (defender) will face a late fitness test before the game, while Colback (midfielder), Aarons (winger), Cisse (striker) and Riviere (striker) could all be seen to return to the squad.
My Personal Team
GK: De Gea
DEF: Young, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson
DM: Carrick, Schneiderlin
AM: Lingard, Herrera, Memphis
Let’s hope for something positive and inspiring to lift us all after Saturday’s FA Cup game and push on to better and greater things through the rest of the season!
*If you haven’t got this joke yet, please go and look at the pre-Newcastle press conference…