View from the Opposition: ‘Newcastle’s squad is probably stronger than Norwich’s’
- Credit: PA
EDP managing editor and careworn Newcastle fan Tim Williams answers our questions ahead of Norwich City's match against the Magpies on Sunday afternoon.
Q) What has gone wrong at Newcastle so far this season?
A) Put bluntly: Three points from eight games and bottom of the table.
However, that probably doesn't tell the whole story.
Well-earned draws against Man Utd and Chelsea, a 1-0 loss to Arsenal and 1-0 up against Man City until the 43rd minute (we won't mention the second-half collapse), hint at a team with more about it than last season. The inconsistency is huge, baffling and, for me, the main issue right now.
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Q) Will Steve McClaren get the time to put it right?
A) I can't see the decision makers having any quick appetite to get shot of our man with the funny hair.
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And, despite the 'wally with the brolly' history, surely you don't get to be England manager without being a decent coach? Surely?
I'm an optimist. And, in all honesty, with our recent chequered (at best) past, who'd want to come to St James' anyway?
Q) Can the squad cope with the loss of Tim Krul for the rest of the season?
A) It's a huge blow. Last season was not his best for our Dutch keeper – probably largely down to injury disruptions. But this season he's looked back to somewhere near peak form, making some great saves in our early games and looking commanding. Worse, our probable number two 'keeper Karl Darlow, who we bought from Forest along with defender Jamaal Lascelles, is still crocked with a foot injury.
If that's the case, presumably Rob Elliot will start with young Freddie Woodman (recalled from loan from Crawley Town) on the bench tomorrow. Last season's nightmare 10-game spell with Krul out does not bode well.
Q) What areas of weakness in the Newcastle team could Norwich exploit?
A) If Norwich go a goal up, I guess you will see the confidence drain from some of the Newcastle players. It could make for a long afternoon. Jack Colback has been passed fit, but our midfield seems in transition, particularly with Moussa Sissoko hardly firing on all cylinders at the moment. At full-back, Janmaat aside, we're inexperienced, if willing.
And, how can I put this, Colo and Mbemba can be erratic in central defence.
Q) Which Newcastle players must Norwich be wary of?
A) Ayoze Perez has been great – when he's been given a chance this season.
If he doesn't start, I'll be more than a little cheesed off. Our resident Serbian lunatic puppy Aleksandar Mitrovic looks powerful; good in the air and a handful for defences. If he can stay on the pitch, of course. Vurnon Anita is finally looking the part and if he plays well it'll be a help. Gini Wijnaldum is a really fine player (heaven only knows what he makes of it all). It's a pity Aarons is injured. I'd have liked to see his pace against Norwich.
Q) Where will Newcastle finish this season and will they finish above Norwich?
A) I still think the Premier League is all over the place. We may be more consistently awful than anyone else at the moment, but I am a naively optimistic fool.
In a triumph for hope over expectation, why can't we finish in the top half? We spent a lot of money on some good players in the summer and I think our squad is stronger for it and probably stronger than Norwich's. Newcastle ninth and Norwich 10th would do me just fine.
Q) No one has scored fewer goals in the Premier League this season – who can fire Newcastle to safety?
A) Mitrovic – with help from the wingers. Perez and, if we're super lucky, Cisse (but that, I am not banking on). It'll probably be Janmaat at this rate, though.
Q) Are fans still anti Mike Ashley despite the outlay this summer?
A) Come on? It's hard to love owners who view football clubs as simply a business. But that's just how it is in 2015. Newcastle are hardly unique in that. Ashley, inset, has just become the poster boy for all that's grim in modern football.
Would I prefer a Geordie with bottomless pockets who ploughed billions into building the club for the glory of the Geordie nation? Of course. But it ain't about to happen, is it?
Q) Which player do you wish was in Newcastle's squad?
A) Lewandowski would be a start. But knowing our luck he wouldn't score again all season. I have a soft spot for Thomas Muller. But, hey, we've got Ivan Toney. From the Norwich squad, Redmond looks like he's applying himself. But the manager is doing a fantastic job for the Canaries, I think. Long may it continue.
Q) What's your prediction?
A) Two nil to the Toon. Both goals going in off Colo's lovely locks. Maybe.