Two games into the 2017/18 season and things could not have started anymore on the negative side for Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United. Two defeats left the manager in need of a major boost going into the final week of football in August. In a week where Jamie Carragher was critical of Newcastle, dismissing the side as a Championship one, Newcastle hosted Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup (League Cup) followed by the visit of fellow early strugglers West Ham in the league. This was a big week for Newcastle.
It has been four weeks since we last saw some F1 racing with the incident filled race at the Hungaroring. The drivers have had their summer holidays, a number of them spending a significant amount of time on the water, others did Charity work and spent time with their dogs (Lewis Hamilton did some work in Cuba with UNICEF). Valtteri Bottas amongst others just enjoyed some home comforts, Fernando Alonso did some training in Mikenos while some of the younger drivers had time partying with friends (Lance Stroll spent time in Ibiza). The Red Bull drivers took time out for some adverting with Ricciardo biking in his native Australia and Max Verstappen having a go at Quad biking while Jolyon Palmer found time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!
Four weeks ago…
Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for Ferrari four weeks ago in Hungary and went on to claim his fourth race victory of the season. It was not all plain sailing for the four-time world champion as a steering issue made it a difficult race for him. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen was quicker at times in the race but could not get close enough to pass. Whether or not Ferrari told him not to is up for debate and he could well be cemented in now as a number two driver. They managed to hold off an aggressive looking Lewis Hamilton in the second half of the race to secure their first 1-2 race result since another team-order controlled race in Germany; 2010. Mercedes had allowed Hamilton to pass Bottas on the understanding if he could not get past the Ferrari he would give the place back to Bottas. Hamilton and Mercedes kept to their word with the English driver letting the Finn through at the final turn of the race for 3rd. Three points dropped for Hamilton in the Championship which could prove crucial to all three drivers involved in the battle. Behind them, Max Verstappen finished 5th though it could easily have been much more. Red Bull had been the surprise pace setters in Friday practice and although they qualified on the third row, they still had a chance of a surprise. However, Verstappen understeered into his teammate at turn 2 which earned him a 10 second time penalty which cost him a realistic chance of competing for the win. Fernando Alonso rolled back the years with a race long duel with compatriot Carlos Sainz for 6th and Stoffel Vandoorne scored his first points of the season as McLaren scored their first double points finish of the season. It was no fluke and thoroughly deserved as even with the weaker Honda engine in their car, the McLaren looked strong all weekend and afterwards, Alonso took a well earned pre-holiday rest in a deck chair. Force India also maintained their consistency in 2017 with a 9th double point finish. The race was also notable for the deputy appearance of Williams reserve driver Paul Di Resta. The Scottish driver had not expected to take part in the Grand Prix weekend but Felipe Massa’s illness gave him a way in. Despite not having driven the car in vain, he did not qualify last and gave a solid account of himself in the car before eventually having to retire due to mechanical issues.
The second weekend of the Premier League season saw Rafa Benitez take his Newcastle United side to the John Smiths Stadium to face Huddersfield Town. Whilst this weekend as a whole did not have as many shocks as the opening weekend, Huddersfield Town fans were in dreamland. This was their first home game in the top flight for 45 years and their first ever in the Premier League. Spirits were high for a home win.
David Wagner largely kept faithful to the same starting 11 that went to Selhurst Park and defeated Crystal Palace 3-0 in the opening weekend, making only one change. Rijav Van la Parra came into the starting 11 on the left-wing in place of on-loan Chelsea player Kasey Palmer with £10 million Summer signing Tom Ince playing a more central attacking midfield role. In goal was Danish stopper Jonas Lossl and in front of him was a back four consisting of Tommy Smith, Mathias Jorgensen, Schindler and Lowe. The other three in the midfield were Aaron Mooy and Patrick Billing with Elias Bachunga on the right-wing. Record singing Steve Mounie scored a brace at Selhurst Park and was retained up front.
This type of post is something new I am currently trialling with the blog. For each Newcastle first team this season I will provide a review of the game in terms of the negatives and what positives can be taken from the game alongside my monthly overview posts which I did for the most part of last season. If anyone does not like these posts or think I could do it in a different way then, by all means, leave me your opinion and I will consider them… The same remains if you do not agree with anything I write, it is entirely open to debate and I would like to hear your views too. Right, now that the formalities or housework out of the way, let’s begin.
Newcastle United marked their return to the Premier League by hosting Tottenham Hotspur in their opening game of the 2017/18 season. Mauricio Pochettino’s men finished 2nd in the Premier League last season behind champions Chelsea so minus the fact Newcastle won 5-1 the last time these two sides met and the 50,077 crowd, this was never going to be an easy task.
Tottenham are still yet to sign a player this window so the starting 11 was one much familiar to last season with a couple of exceptions. Huge Lloris in goal with the back four in front of him consisting of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweild and Ben Davies who was playing in the absence of Danny Rose. Injury to Kierran trippier and the sale of Kyle Walker meant that Kyle Walker-Peters made his Premier League debut at right back. In the two lines of midfield; Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier were in the defensive layer with the attacking three being playmaker Christian Erikson, Delle Alli and on the right was quite surprisingly ex-Newcastle midfielder Mousa Sissoko who generated the chants ‘no-body wants Sissoko’ all afternoon. Talismanic striker Harry Kane started up front.
It has been a while since I commented on football; February in fact. Well, a long time later and we are now in August. The traditional season curtain raiser has been played which saw Arsenal defeat Chelsea in the Community Shield in penalties. Looking forward, we still have Jim White Day (Transfer Deadline Day) to look forward to and the best thing to come out of Hartlepool; Jeff Stelling will be back with the boys on Gillette Soccer Saturday bringing all the score updates from the Saturday 3 o’clock kick offs. Between now and May, we have a full season of football to look forward to and as a Newcastle United fan, I see my club embark on Premier League campaign, after a year out in the Championship.
The 2016/17 Championship season was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Newcastle in the closing stages of the season. After a slow start with defeats to Fulham and Huddersfield Town in the opening two games, Newcastle eventually found their stride and went 10 games unbeaten in the league to match the record of 10 unbeaten league games which goes back to Kevin Keegan’s first spell as manager.