Not so long ago Newcastle United were in danger of the dreaded drop for the second time in the space of 5 years. As the Newcastle ship is steered clear of safety and up into the upper reaches of the Premier League maybe its fair to ask, what has changed?
Firstly of course, the new signings. Sissoko, Debuchy, Gouffran and Haidara all adding much needed depth and quality to the side, which had previously seen a number of youngsters making the step up perhaps a tad early. The impact of the French recruits could not have been more evident in the 3-2 victory over Chelsea last Saturday. Midfielder Moussa Sissoko grabbing a brace to steal the 3 points from the European Champions with valuable performances coming from Gouffran and Debuchy also.
Perhaps a reason which may have been overlooked is the change of system Alan Pardew seems to have adopted over the past few games. A 4-2-3-1 formation makes best use of the assets available to him, maintaining possession and using it effectively. This was not the case earlier in the season with a 4-4-2 formation becoming a regular feature in the side, thus meaning a very flat and predictable team which struggled for creativity. The introduction of the new formation frees up players like Sissoko, Cabaye and Gouffran, meaning a more fluent style of play most suited to the players at the club. Players like Vurnon Anita were not brought to the club to play direct, route one football and this has finally been realised (half way through the season however.) The much needed solidarity of the formation in defence has also been clear to see with only two Chelsea wonder goals managing to find a way past Tim Krul on Saturday.
The return of injured players such as; Cabaye and Taylor has also helped Newcastle regain form. Not many teams can lose such players and not feel severely weakened. Injuries have not been kind for Newcastle but with the return of key players, form will find itself.
A break from the added pressure of the Europa League has also aided the sides recovery. Having a full week to prepare for matches and that added rest is clearly doing Newcastle the world of good. Newcastle restart their campaign soon and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to this challenge.
Lastly the feel good factor is finally back at St James’ Park! The ground was buzzing at the weekend and the players finally seem to be enjoying their football once again. Long may it continue.
Only time will tell whether Newcastle can maintain this form and how far it can take them.
Written by Iain Nicholson (162)