At the halfway stage of the Premier League season. I aimed to do a half-term report of sorts on how I felt it has gone for Steve Bruce’s [feature image above from Sky Sports] Newcastle United. With fans not being allowed in stadiums meaning all games have been televised, it means I’ve been able to watch most games but given what I’ve seen, I wish I hadn’t.
After 19 games played, Newcastle are 16th in the table on 19 points. If that tally was replicated over the next 19 games, then Newcastle would finish on 38 points which is not always a safe points tally. They are out of both Cup competitions after losing to Championship side Brentford in the Carabao Cup Quarter Final and at Arsenal in the Third Round of the FA Cup. It is abundantly clear at this stage of the season, Newcastle’s season is basically about surviving and staying in the top flight.read more
Since the news broke that Rafa Benitez would not be staying at Newcastle United beyond the length of his three-year deal this summer, a few people have been asking for my thoughts through a blog post. In completely unrelated and personal ways, the past couple of months have been challenging for me and that in a way has delayed this post. However, a few weeks after his departure and the announcement of Steve Bruce as the successor by which time this had been drafted, I will provide some thoughts…
The inquest is still ongoing in some areas of the press and has prompted much debate. Meanwhile, the supporters have reacted as you may well expect. The inquest I refer to relates around how Newcastle United got into the situation of being 28 days away from the start of the next Premier League season with no manager having apparently been caught unawares. As for the supports, it was another episode under the ownership of Mike Ashley that has polarised the relationship between the clans with a substantial part of its fanbase. For some, it is the final straw.read more
The final two weekends before Christmas, where has the time gone? Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run of 69 games came to a close with a 4-0 defeat to Hearts while after 364 days, Sunderland eventually won a home game at the Stadium of Light.
In the Premier League, Manchester City kept on winning with a 4-1 hammering of Spurs while local rivals Manchester United only just edged past West Brom 2-1. Chelsea defeated Southampton 1-0 while Liverpool hammered Bournemouth 4-0 on the south coast. The shock of the weekend though came at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace!read more
Another week of two games in December means another double bill dose of Match Thoughts from The Mind of Rowan.
The weekend 9th-10th December daw controversy. The title race is probably over after Manchester Cty’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, the Merseyside derby ended 1-1 while David Moyes’s West Ham side surprisingly defeated Chelsea 1-0. That was the shock of the weekend while Christian Benteke’s penalty arguably cost Crystal Palace a much-needed victory.
Another side in need of a much-needed win was Newcastle United who hosted Leicester City at St James’ Park in the Saturday evening kick-off to mark their clubs 125th birthday. Rafa Benitez made three changes to his Newcastle starting line up with DeAndre Yedlin returning to the back four at right-back while Javier Manquillo reverted to left-back with Chancel Mbemba dropping out. Mohamed Diame was not retained as in came Isaac Hayden while Joselu came in for Ayoze Perez just behind Dwight Gayle as Benitez opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation.read more
As November turned into December, the Premier League had its first set of midweek fixtures and the weekend to follow had a number of huge talking points to come as well.
Wayne Rooney stole the headlines in midweek with a hat-trick in Everton’s 4-0 win over West Ham with a sublime long-range effort for his third. Ashley Young continued his good run of form as Manchester United defeated Watford, Manchester City edged past Southampton 2-1 and Liverpool put four past Stoke while Chelsea just saw off Swansea City. Managers also took headlines too with Mr’s Pardew and Allardyce returning to management with West Brom and Everton respectively.read more
The final weekend of football in November saw more intriguing action and not just my awful Movember attempt. A new start for West Brom without Tony Pulis saw them draw 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Manchester United edged past Brighton while Manchester City survived a scare from Huddersfield. Mohamed Salah scored against his former club Chelsea, Crystal palace hit Everton for four while Crystal Palace won at home. As a Newcastle fan, I was in attendance at St James’ Park where another team had a convincing win as Rafa Benitez’s side hosted Watford at St. James’ Park.
Rafa Benitez has enforced one decision to make with his starting eleven with Isaac Hayden serving a one-game suspension after he picked up his 5th yellow card of the season at Old Trafford. Mikel Merino was back to match fitness following his back injury but it was Mohamed Diame who got the start in central midfield alongside Jonjo Shelvey with Merino being judged fir enough for the bench. Benitez retained the 4-4-2 formation with an otherwise unchanged side from the one that was defeated 4-1 by Manchester United.read more
The Premier League returned after the final international break of 2017 this weekend. Arsenal defeated local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, Chelsea hit West Brom for 4 at the Hawthorns while Manchester City continued their storming start after winning 2-0 away to Leicester City. Liverpool also had a convincing win (3-0 over Southampton) while the battle of the strugglers: Crystal Palace and Everton ended in a 2-2 draw. David Moyes also returned to the Premier League but nothing changed really as he tasted defeat to Watford in his first game as West Ham manager.
Another team that eventually had a convincing win (at least on paper) was Manchester United as Rafa Benitez took his Newcastle United side to Old Trafford in the Saturday evening kick-off. With both club captain Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu unavailable due to injuries they picked up against Bournemouth, there were starts for Ciaran Clark in central defence alongside Florian Lejeune while Jacob Murphy got his first league start since Swansea on the right wing of midfield with Matt Ritchie moving to the left wing. Benitez retained the 4-4-2 formation he started with against Bournemouth with Joselu and Gayle starting up front. There were places on the bench for Rolando Aarons and Chancel Mbemba as a result of the injuries.read more
The last set of league games before the November International break is always a sombre occasion in British football as fans and players across the country mark Remembrance Sunday. A minutes silence was held at all games across the country. In a thrilling weekend of football on the pitch, there was the first round proper of the FA Cup. In the Premier League, Burnley continued surprising teams away from home; this time Southampton tasted defeat. Jose Mourinho’s poor record away against the Premier League top 6 continued as Alvaro Morata secured a 1-0 win for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Similarly, Arsene Wenger lost to Manchester City again and criticised poor refereeing as part of Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat. Everton showed great resilience to come from two goals down to win a league game, defeating Watford 3-2 and Mohamed Salah inspired Liverpool to a 4-1 win at West Ham in a game which saw the end of Slaven Bilic’s spell in charge.
At St James’ Park, Newcastle United hosted AFC Bournemouth in a Saturday 3 o’clock kick off. Rafa Benitez brought the changes as altered his sides starting formation for the first time this season. It was 4-4-2 for the home side as Dwight Gayle started alongside Joselu up front as Ayoze Perez dropped to the bench. The change also saw Aleksandar Mitrovic elevated to the substitutes bench. Mohamed Diame did not retain his starting spot as Isaac Hayden returned alongside Jonjo Shelvey in central midfield. Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu remained on the wings while the back four was unchanged (DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo) and Rob Elliott remained in goal.read more
Halloween weekend saw few nightmare performances in truth in the Premier League with the exception of Everton. Having sacked Ronald Koeman with only two wins this season, they lost 2-0 at the King Power Stadium to Leicester City who had just appointed Claude Puel as manager on a three-year deal. The nightmare continued in the Championship for Sunderland though who lost 2-1 at home to Bristol City before a 3-3 draw with bottom side Bolton Wanderers saw the end of Simon Grayson.
Back to the Premier League though. Manchester United edged out Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 thanks to, Arsenal survived a scare to beat Swansea City 2-1 at the Emirates in Arsene Wenger’s 800th league game in charge of the Gunners. Liverpool exercised their Wembley demons by defeating Huddersfield Town 3-0 at Anfield despite Mohamed Salah missing a penalty while Manchester City similarly avoided a scare as they beat West Brom 3-2 at the Hawthorns.read more
With the transfer window firmly closed, football got underway in earnest with players settled at their new or current clubs; knowing where they’ll be playing their football until January. The first international break of the season with teams resuming their world cup qualification campaigns and the Champions League group stages started up again. PSG may not yet know the repercussions of their summer spending in relation to financial fair play but on the pitch, they have been in scorching form.
11 Football Developments: September
PSG started their Champions League campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Celtic at Celtic Park in their first group game before humbling Bayern Munich 3-0 I Paris resulting in the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti. Celtic responded by defeating RSC Anderlecht 3-0 in Belgium.
2. That opening round of fixtures also saw Barcelona defeat Juventus 3-0 in a repeat of last seasons semi-final
3. Manchester United marked their return to Europe’s top competition with a 3-0 win over FC Basel at Old Trafford and a 4-1 victory over CSKA Moscow in Russia to sit top of Group A. Liverpool meanwhile could only muster a 2-2 draw at home against Sevilla in their group opener and 1-1 away to Spartak Moscow.
4. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City started in a style by defeating Feyenoord 4-0 in Holland before defeating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 at the Etihad in their first two games while Antonio Conte’s Chelsea defeated minnows Qarabag FK 6-0 at Stamford Bridge and edging past Atletico Madrid 2-1 in Spain to top their group.Tottenham Hotspur eventually got their first win of the season at their temporary home of Wembley as they overcame Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League Group stage and then defeated APOEL Nicosia to start their European season with a 100% record and face Real Madrid next.
5.Tottenham Hotspur eventually got their first win of the season at their temporary home of Wembley as they overcame Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League Group stage and then defeated APOEL Nicosia to start their European season with a 100% record and face Real Madrid next.
6. Domestically, they have not yet won at Wembley after a goalless draw with Swansea City as it is their away form that has kept them in the top four. They sit third, just above Chelsea in 4th. The two Manchester clubs are separated by goal difference at the top as Manchester United lost their 100% start away to Stoke City and Manchester City scored 17 goals without reply in September (5-0 vs Liverpool, 6-0 vs Watford, 5-0 vs Crystal Palace and 1-0 away to Chelsea) to lead on goal difference.
7. Arsenal acclimatised to life away from the Champions League by beating FC Koln 3-1 in their first Europa League at the Emirates in a game that needed delaying due to crowd issues before defeating BATE Borisov 4-2 in Belarus. In group E, Ronald Koeman’s Everton struggled, losing their group opener 3-0 to Atalanta in Italy before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw at home by Apollon Limassol.
8. In the World Cup Qualifiers, Gareth Southgate’s England (I still can’t believe I’m saying that) struggled to see off minnows Malta 2-0 after a 0-0 draw with Slovakia
9. Frank De Boer became the Premier League’s first managerial casualty of the season after being relieved of duties by Crystal Palace only four games into the season. In terms of matches, his four-game spell is the shortest reign in Premier League history but is the third shortest in terms of days at 77 days. Former England manager Roy Hodgson was appointed as his successor with Palace bottom of the table.
10. In the Football League, there were five managerial casualties. The first was Harry Redknapp who was relieved of duties at Birmingham City following six straight defeats. Gary Caldwell was also sacked the same day by league Two Chesterfield after three wins in 29 games, a slump that had seen them relegated from League One and Michael Brown was also sacked by Port Vale the with the club sitting bottom of League Two. Nine days later Adrian Pennock left Gillingham by mutual consent following a 3-0 defeat to Rochdale as well as John Sheridan who left Oldham Athletic following his fifth spell at the club as either player or manager.
11. The Premier League voted to close the summer transfer window before the start of the season starting from the 2018/19 season. Top-flight clubs will be unable to buy players after 5 pm on Thursday 9th August 2017 while other European leagues will see their transfer window remain open until the end of August. 14 clubs voted in favour while both Manchester clubs, Watford, Swansea City and Crystal Palace opposed.
NUFC Related News
• Tim Krul’s 10-year association with Newcastle United came to an end as his loan deal to Brighton & Hove Albion was made permanent. Having been signed by Glenn Roeder in 2006 from Ado Den Haag, Krul had a mixed spell on Tyneside. After making his debut in the 1-0 win at Parma in the UEFA Cup at the age of 16, it was not until 2010 when he got a consistent shot in the first team and became number 1 for the 2011/12 season. He had some highs and lows setting the record for most saves in a single Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur but injuries were never too far away and having missed the majority of the 2015/16 season never found a way into Rafa Benitez’s plans.read more