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Can Newcastle United Keep Up Their Recent Good Form?

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Newcastle United’s current points total of 33 is the best they have accrued at this stage of the season since the 2001/2 campaign. On that occasion they finished in 4th place. They certainly have a chance of finishing that high again considering that the league is unpredictable this season with 8 teams still having a genuine possibility of getting into the Champions League. Southampton have fallen behind of late, but Newcastle have the stature to maintain a challenge. It will still be a massive shock if Alan Pardew led Newcastle to a top four finish, and the majority of supporters won’t even be considering it, but if they continue their good form, they could sneak into the top four.

Can Pardew take them to top four again?

Last season was a huge disappointment, but Pardew appears to have changed his managerial style as a result which has led to this season’s impressive form. He seemed unable to produce a side that could score frequently, and he couldn’t come up from a tactic to make the most of set pieces. This season, his side have started to score more, a lot of that is down to the signing of Loic Remy who has 10 goals to his name. Newcastle have also become more effective from set pieces, scoring twice directly from corners. Moreover they have scored several goals from deep free kicks which shows that work has been done on the training ground. He was also accused of having his favourites in the side and not dropping big personalities from the side when in bad form. This season, Steven Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez have played very few games, while Hatem Ben Arfa has been on the bench for long periods. This has led to the Frenchman working hard to get back in the team, which he has now done, Pardew has to take a lot of credit for that as an in form Ben Arfa is one of the best attacking players in the league. His main problem is consistency, Newcastle will be hoping that he will find that in the second half of the season.

The North East side have also developed two styles of playing, which is a huge benefit as they can adapt to their opposition. They achieved their famous wins over Chelsea and Tottenham playing a 4-4-2 formation with Shola Ameobi and Remy leading the line. It worked as Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye are a very good partnership who can function effectively against teams who are packing the midfield. This formation also contains two hard working wingers in Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko who can impose themselves at both ends of the pitch. The 4-4-2 needs every player to be working hard to be effective and Newcastle have that.

Their alternative tactic is a 4-3-3 which turns to 4-5-1 when they don’t have the ball. They have used this in their wins away at Manchester United and Crystal Palace. Pardew opts for this when he wants to control possession and dictate the play. Vurnon Anita is a crucial element of this formation as he recycles possession and gets the ball from back to front. Moreover this style of play gives Cabaye freedom to assert himself in the opposition half as shown by the Frenchman scoring in both of the matches I have mentioned.

If a team is to be successful, they need a settled back five, which Newcastle have. Tim Krul, Mathieu Debuchy, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini and Davide Santon have nailed down places in the side and they are starting to build a real base to push on. The re-emergence of Williamson has been a surprise as he was nearly sold in the summer, but he is now one of the best centre backs in the division on form. His no nonsense style of defending complements the classy style of the captain Coloccini.  The two full backs are very attacking which gives the side an extra weapon going forward. Debuchy in particular is very dangerous going forward and threatens the goal very frequently. I expect him to add to his one goal as the season progresses. Santon is perhaps the weak link in the defence, but he is still young and will develop playing every week in the Premier League. Pardew has strength in depth in defence as Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara are very close to getting a place in the defence. If any of the current defence suffer a drop in form, the manager won’t hesitate in dropping them as he has shown by dropping Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse.

If Newcastle are to keep up their good form, they will need their squad players to step up. Cisse and Ameobi will have to start scoring goals to assist Remy, while Jonas Gutierrez will be relied upon at some stage of the season. Competition is vital as if a starting eleven gets too comfortable, performance levels will drop. Newcastle can’t afford this as they are competing with sides with real quality who won’t suffer huge dips in form. They should also look at the upcoming January transfer window to add one or two quality players to their squad. They need a new striker to share the goal burden with Remy and they should also be looking at adding a pacy winger. They need to avoid selling any players, but Mike Ashley has shown in the past, he will only sell at his price, so if they do sell, they will have the funds to replace that player.

We will learn a lot about Newcastle in their next two matches. They face Arsenal at home, then they travel to West Brom on New Years Day. Both are difficult fixtures, but they need to pick up points if they are to challenge the top four. Arsenal’s form has dropped lately, so they won’t relish going to St James’ Park. The home side could certainly win, which would be a huge boost to their hopes for a high finish. While West Brom are going through a managerial change, and Newcastle have had trouble against the Baggies in recent seasons. If they pick up 4 points or more from these two matches, they should be looked at as serious contenders.