Going into the two week international break manager Chris Hughton will be pleased with the start his side have made to life in the Premier League. On the back of the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Wolves they sit 8th in the embryonic league table with four points from three games. That is a respectable total given the tough start the fixture computer gave the Magpies before the season began. The undoubted highlight was the 6-0 victory over Aston Villa and there will be further satisfaction gained from a battling point at Molineux. In a blood and thunder encounter Newcastle’s spirit was not found wanting as they took a deserved share of the spoils.
With 12 bookings in total it was not a game for the faint hearted but Newcastle can take heart that they were not bullied out of a game like they may have been in previous seasons. One of the major talking points from the game was the treatment handed out to Joey Barton who was on the receiving end of half a dozen strong challenges. It appeared that it was part of Mick McCarthy’s game plan to target the Magpies’ midfielder’s short fuse and get him sent-off. But Barton showed what could be his new mature side that has been evident so far this season by refusing to rise to the bait. After a disappointing showing against Manchester United, Barton has really impressed in the following two games. He again showed his skill from a deadball situation by teeing up Andy Carroll for a deserved equaliser. Hughton is pleased that his controversial player is showing more constraint on the pitch. “I think discipline has to be something that goes with where Joey is at the moment,” said Hughton. “Even though he had to take fouls and yellow cards on him, I think Joey is aware that we want to see more of him on the football pitch. He’s missed a fair chunk through injury in the last couple of years and I think he’s really pleased and grateful to be fit and playing.”
Striker Andy Carroll also impressed again despite playing with an injury. It was with a trademark towering header that Carroll scored and he gave the Wolves’ centre halves a tough 90 minutes. Despite being linked with a call-up to the senior England squad in the media he will have to make do with a place in the Under-21 squad over international fortnight.
With the transfer window set to shut down on Tuesday it could potentially be a busy last day for Hughton. So far five new faces have been welcomed into the club with Marseille midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa becoming the latest player to join over the weekend. After a drawn out transfer saga the Frenchman has finally joined on a season long loan deal with the option of a permanent transfer at the end of the season. Speaking about finally joining Newcastle the 23 year old said: “It was always my first choice to come here and I’m delighted to be here. I’ve paid real attention to the history of the club and the great players to have played for it, and particularly the supporters and I want to showcase my skills in Newcastle.” Ivory Coast midfielder Cheik Tiote has also completed his move after a successful work permit application.
There could still be one or two more faces coming in with a striker and a left back perhaps Hughton’s biggest priorities Tottenham’s Robbie Keane has been strongly linked with the Magpies in a loan deal although a lot will depend on Spurs’ bringing in another striker. Another left back is also important with Spaniard Jose Enrique the only natural left back in the first team squad. Hughton may again have to go into the loan market to find cover in that position. The most likely outgoing could be defender Steven Taylor who is available for transfer. Even if Taylor is still with the club after the transfer window closes there is some debate over whether he will be included in Hughton’s 25 man squad for the rest of the season. However it appears the player is keen to stay on Tyneside if a compromise can be reached over his wage demands.