Following an embarrassing 6-0 hammering by Liverpool, and after a week where newspapers were warned against revealing the extent of Newcastle’s dressing room tensions, this weekend’s trip to West Ham feels like a particularly important game for Alan Pardew.
Newcastle are now in 17th, just one point away from the drop-zone. They could do without further selection issues, but the suspension of Mathieu Debuchy following his unnecessary dismissal against Liverpool last Saturday gives Pardew with another selection headache at right-back. Luckily, he has a variety of options in that position, Danny Simpson is apparently fit after a couple of injury lay-offs, but James Perch and Vurnon Anita appear more likely to be selected in defence.
Perch has been fielded in the centre of midfield recently, but it probably makes sense for him to be shifted to his natural position at right-back. He’ll be up against West Ham’s left-winger Matt Jarvis, and while Perch can struggle against intelligent movement, he’s decent when battling against tricky but predictable players like Jarvis.
This would allow Anita to come into the side in the centre of midfield, although Pardew might name both players on the team-sheet, and we’ll still be unaware of precisely where they’ll play, as the duo are capable of playing in either position.
But Pardew will also be aware of Andy Carroll’s presence upfront against his former side; he’ll primarily be battling against the centre-backs, but he might also draw wide to meet diagonal balls, and while Perch isn’t the tallest, he’s got five inches on 5’6 Anita.
This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.
In much of the world, we’ve become quite used to the commonly employed calendar system. We know that this is 2013 AD, and at some point in time there was a year 1AD.
Before that, we had the BC era, which goes back to, well, whenever somebody first named the years in decreasing numbers until you got to 1BC, skipping 0, clearly, because that would have meant having 0BD/AD as a year, which would have sounded like a blood group.
Fans of the England football team, however, follow a similar system to the Jewish calendar, ignoring conventional chronology. Orthodox followers of English football believe the modern era began in 1966. And it’s been downhill ever since.
1966 should have heralded a glorious new dawn, but it darkened pretty quickly. By 1972, in fact, when West Germany wrought revenge for the Wembley brouhaha involving a Russian linesman, and ejected England – not for the first time, either – from the European Championships that year. Worse was to come with failure to qualify at all for the 1974 World Cup, and again in 1978 when we all became honorary Scots, And so on, and so on, and so on.
Argentina and all that…
So excuse the miracle-starved among us for thinking there was a new Messiah abroad when, in 1998, a young boy danced through the Argentinian defence at the French-hosted World Cup match to score a wonder goal.
The boy was Michael Owen: born in Chester on December 14, 1979, and who this week announced his intention to retire at the end of this season. At the age of 11, he joined Liverpool as a schoolboy player, turning professional on his 17th birthday. By this stage there was already plenty of buzz about him. Was he The One? On his first-team debut for Liverpool, Owen scored against Wimbledon, setting the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a nation alive with his arrival.
And then came 30 June 1998. In Saint-Étienne (the French town, not the Sarah Cracknell-fronted indy electro darlings). Aged just 18, he pulled off the goal that had us all convinced he was The One. Collecting a pass from David Beckham, Owen set off on a winding run through the Argentina defence, snaking through it like a raging, coursing river, before letting fly just outside the penalty box, with the ball whistling past goalkeeper Carlos Roa.
While Beckham would get sent off just after half-time for his petulant kickout at the odious Gabriel Batistuta, and the game would end ingloriously on penalties (with Argentina progressing to the quarter-finals), that one goal would be burned in our memories as the start of something new.
The following season’s home Chelsea league fixture against Liverpool was a must-attend. We all wanted to see the wunderkind who’d lifted our hopes that summer.
For Liverpool, Owen would deliver 158 goals in 297 appearances (take note, F Torres). However, by the time the-then 26-year-old made a Mr. Big Pants move to Real Madrid, his star – even with such a prodigious goal record at Anfield – had already started to wain. Some say it had faded by the time he turned 21.
The injury years
Today, Michael Owen may be preparing for retirement with a multitude of records to his name, but the one least likely to appear in his private trophy cabinet is the title of “Most Likely To Be Found On A Treatment Table”. Like a footballing meteor lighting up the night sky, Owen’s early promise did, let’s be honest, fizzle somewhat, thanks to injuries which surely couldn’t have been helped by being thrust onto the world stage so young.
Owen’s switch to Madrid produced a solitary season of just 40 appearances with Galacticos like Zidane, Figo, Carlos and Raul, and a return of just 14 goals. But as inevitable as injuries were, part of the problem was the fit: he just missed the Premier League. Who can blame him?
Returning to England, Owen could have gone back to Liverpool: he wanted to, but the record shows that one Rafa Benitez wasn’t interested. I’ll say no more than that. Instead. Newcastle took him on, until a broken metatarsal playing for England at the end of 2005 led to a year out, and Owen was never the same player again, though 30 goals in 79 games for Newcastle is still not that bad.
After Owen parted company with Newcastle in 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson took a punt and brought the striker to Manchester United. A 30-year-old striker is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at Didier Drogba. But at 30 Owen was, in Premier League years, and old man. Still, he gave Manchester United 17 strikes in 52 games, and another couple of seasons at a top club, before moving this season to Stoke for just seven appearances so far and a single goal.
No one, however, is that surprised Owen has chosen to retire at the and of this season. Injuries not withstanding, the fire that tore apart the Argentinian defence in 1998 has long since been reduced to a flickering flame.
You could argue that the 15 years since Saint-Étienne have seen diminishing returns. But let’s not quibble too much. Some things aren’t meant to last long: Jimi Hendrix only made three proper albums; The Beatles broke up less than 10 years into their recording career; and it is true that a Big Mac is over with too soon. If only for that one goal in France in 1998, we can be thankful that Michael Owen blazed. It was just a bit early, and didn’t last long.
In the last couple of days an old rumour has re-surfaced – the one that sees Celtic’s Victor Wanyama joining the club as a holding midfielder. Wanyama has been impressive for Celtic in both the Scottish Premiership and The Champions League and would be a straight replacement for Alex Song who left for Barcelona in the summer.
Having closely monitored the progress of Wanyama in Celtic’s successful progress through the Champions League group stages, Arsenal have made the Kenya international aware that he is a strong option for the position. Though Wanyama’s performances have seen his asking price rise above £10m, the 21-year-old’s wages are comparatively low and he has refused to extend a contract with Celtic that expires in 2015.
Wanyama has another string to his bow in that he can also play in central defence and Arsenal could add depth in this area to cover for Johann Djorou who left on loan earlier in the window.
Wanyama has also scored seven times in 32 appearances this season.
Meanwhile the ongoing saga of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has taken an interesting turn with the player apparently not making it to Newcastle to complete a medical which would seal the move of the defender from Montpelier to the north east.
According to The Telegraph Newcastle still expect Yanga-Mbiwa to arrive on Tyneside, with the club blaming the weather for the delay.
Arsenal have been in contact with Montpellier after news of Newcastle’s bid was leaked in France to ask about the size of their offer, but they have not made a formal bid.
Whether Yanga-Mbiwa has decided to wait to see if an offer comes from the north London club remains to be seen, although that might explain the delay in his travel to the north east.
Zaha had been assumed in the last few days to definitely be United bound, and Wenger himself poured a bit of cold water on the rumours a few weeks ago. Now it appears that the chase is back on.
The Indie says
Arsenal have certainly been active observers of the winger, about whom United have opened discussions with Palace, with the north London club’s chief scout, Steve Rowley, present at several of his games.
Admittedly no other papers are saying that Arsenal have a chance to land the 20 year old – the rest are going with him signing for United and being loaned back to Palace for the rest of the season.
The Indie, and a lot of other papers, also have the story that Arsene Wenger is making a late move to sign Marseilles striker Loic Remy. The 26 year old, who has been chased by QPR and Newcastle is apparently an Arsenal fan and would cost the Gunners in the region of £10 milion.
The paper says
In his first two seasons Rémy scored 37 goals in all competitions, but this campaign has been a struggle.
Inter had been keen on a move for the forward, but they preferred to offer a player as part-exchange in the deal and that has not appealed to Marseilles. Wenger is also keen on Anderlecht holding midfielder Lucas Biglia.
Lastly David Villa showed some form last night in scoring two excellent goals in Barcelona’s 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Cordoba. According to the gossip Villa wants to go, Barca want keep him and Wenger is in two minds. I don’t think we have heard the last of this yet.
With Arsenal seemingly out of the race it seemed a dead cert that Newcastle striker Demba Ba would be on his way to Chelsea. BBC Five Live however are reporting that it is still far from a done deal. Apparently Newcastle are saying that they haven’t received an offer large enough to trigger Ba’s get out clause – which is reported to be £7 million
At the same time the player’s representatives aren’t happy with the offer either. It would appear that the issue of Ba’s dodgy knee means that Chelsea don’t want to to risk too much money on the player.
This one still feels like it is going to happen, but it does provide an opportunity for someone else to start courting the striker.