Preview: Newcastle Utd v Tottenham Hotspur
What kind of season can we expect? We need some silver ware! But can we win the League!
Spurs points return last season would have been enough to win the title in 11 other Premier League seasons, with our best ever total of 86 and our goal difference of 60, it was the highest of a non-title winning team since the Prem started. We are currently one of the most consistent sides in the Premier League and Poch is adamant that he already has the squad to work with this season and our lack of activity in the Transfer market indicates that he is hoping our fringe players in the squad live up to expectations this campaign. We were the best defensive side in the domestic league last season but we failed to compete for the title in the final month of last season, just like the season before.
If we are to go one better this season we have to make Wembley home, just 2 wins out of 9 at Wembley is not good. Last season our set piece plays (free kicks and corners) were poor, one of our biggest issues is the lack of set-piece takers. Christian Eriksen is our best dead ball taker but we failed to score a single goal from a direct dead ball last season. We all know about the high press but we saw how easily our attack could be turned into a scrambled defence when we lose the ball in the middle of the park, we need to manage the ball better and we need to make more interceptions. We made 314 interceptions last season in the league, the least for any side in the competition.
So let's look at the players for this campaign. For me the key person will be Eriksen. He normally starts a season slowly and comes on strong later. Last season he finished the second half with eight goals and 15 assists in the League. Eriksen is now in his fourth year with the club. Last season he did not score in the League until November 26 with only three assists. Eriksen himself admitted; 'I will try to be more consistent through the whole season. I want to be part of the elite in football, even though it is not my job to say whether I am there or not. My numbers for goals and assists have been pretty good every season and I want to make sure they keep going in the right direction. We have the potential to do better than last season. We all have one more year of experience, especially in the Champions League. We didn't play that badly last year but we will be more used to Wembley this time. We want to play in this competition every year.'
Then there is Harry, can he break the August curse? If he can't who will score the goals in August? The injuries are piling up already Wanyama is a doubt Trippier is crocked Rose and Son won't be back until end of August and Lamela will be out until October. Josh Onomah is at Villa so Janssen had better find some form soon!
Sissoko may play despite rumours with Trabzonspor. Sissoko could come good and we saw something of the 'old beast' in him against Juve. If Spurs can't rotate we fall into the trap of our rival clubs knowing exactly how we will set ourselves up each time we play, which could put us at a disadvantage. We can't afford to become predictable, although there is everything to be said for having a team that knows each other inside out, it only takes a couple of injuries to affect our balance as we saw when we lost Kane and Alders and then Rose last season. Whatever 11 players go out on the pitch you know what you are going to get from Spurs but that may not be to our advantage. We need options.
Nkoudou could add something to our side, he was limited to just eight Premier League appearances in 2016/17, totalling just 83 minutes. Georges never got a full league game to prove himself. We need pace down the flanks especially the right-hand side and N`Koudou could offer that this season. His cross to Janssen against Roma last month shows the potential he has. I hope MoPo gives him his chance as we could do with his ability to use the width of the pitch something we certainly need at Wembley. An attacking three of Kane, Eriksen and Alli is arguably the best in the Premier League when playing in a 3-4-2-1. It puts Eriksen and Alli as close to Kane as possible and allows them to exploit the space in central areas. Nkoudou, however, provides a very different option to any one of those three forwards, giving us a greater degree of tactical flexibility, allowing Poch to switch to a 4-2-3-1, which will use Nkoudou`s skillset to greater effect in that formation which may, in turn, help Janssen improve his conversion ratio.
We all know what happened last time we played the Toons and you can expect some reminders coming from the Toon army on Sunday, losing 5-1 to a team that was already relegated! I imagine MOPO will be reminding the players in the dressing room of how much that hurt. A three-point opener will be essential if we are to gather some momentum going into the Chelski game but who will Poch pick given our injuries especially at right back and will Poch risk Wanyama and Son?
According to reports, Newcastle United fans are worried about their forward options for the new season after Dwight Gayle was completely left out of the squad that played against Hellas Verona last weekend. The Magpies main forward choices for this season are expected to be Mitrovic and Gayle, and many feel that this will not be sufficient considering that Mitrovic was not exactly convincing in the Championship last season. Rafa mentioned earlier last week that the side that he selected to play last weekend will be near enough the side that will be selected to face Spurs which means that Gayle is likely to miss out and Mitrovic will be playing up front or Ayoze Perez. Rob Eliot will likely start in goal, while the defence will be occupied by Javier Manquillo, Florian Lejeune, Ciaran Clark and Paul Dummett.
Newcastle do have options up front with Siem De Jong, Ayoze Perez, Jonjo Shelvey, Mo Diame and Matt Ritchie but Newcastle still want to sign a striker before the transfer window closes, but they need to shift some of the deadwood. The Toons have spent £31.2m so far bringing Jacob Murphy from Norwich for £12m, while fees have been paid on Christian Atsu, centre back Florian Lejuene and one-time Reds full-back Javi Manquillo to their squad. Benitez is now looking to make winger and midfielder additions - with Adama Traore and Jesus Navas the names being mentioned.
Hope so, maybe the club will make a DVD of it!