Oh dear. It’s taken just eight days and one defeat for the critics to take to the internet to lambast Newcastle’s supposed failings. Apparently they ‘didn’t look like they could be bothered’ against Chelsea and unless Mike Ashley ‘spends big’ Newcastle will ‘win nothing’.
Perhaps it is time for a reality check. Leeds United ‘spent big’ but they didn’t win anything. Quite the opposite in fact. Demonstrating that splashing the cash is not always the answer. Furthermore last season only three teams ‘won anything’ and if you chuck in the Champions League that is three teams sharing four trophies thanks of course to Chelsea’s cup double.
The last time Newcastle visited the Pensioners, a little under four months ago, their hosts were a very different team. The top four and Champions League qualification through the league looked beyond them although they had booked a place in two cup finals. Their tumultuous season could have ended in disappointment or, as it ultimately did, glory. Lifting the Champions League gave Chelsea renewed momentum and a new sense of purpose. It also enabled Roberto Di Matteo to spend some more of Roman Abramovich’s cash. On the pitch the team has had an £80 million overhaul and that’s the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-a-hell-of-alot-mores’. Newcastle, despite their healthy financial situation, just cannot compete with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
So, was defeat at the home of the European champions such a bad result? In the grand scheme of things no. Many other teams will go to Stamford Bridge and get turned over. Fromt hat point of view it is also a good game to get out of the way early on. The result against Spurs, one of the teams that Newcastle are likely to be fighting with for fourth spot will ultimately prove more significant.
The scheduling was tough on Newcastle. The Chelsea game kicked off less than 48 hours after the Europa League qualifying round first leg against Atromitos and the heat of Athens appeared to have taken its toll on Papiss Cisse and Vernon Anita. Some questioned Yohan Cabaye’s commitment and body language against Chelsea. Yet both he and Hatem Ben Arfa are coming into the season off the back of France’s Euro 2012 campaign in which Cabaye in particular had a key part to play. The impact a closed-season tournament can have on a player’s form in the following domestic season should never be underestimated.
By the time of their next league match against Aston Villa on Sunday, Alan Pardew will hope his side has successfully navigated their way into the Europa League group stages. The Villa game will be far more telling yardstick than the Chelsea match. There will be a reasonable gap between it and the Atromitos tie both of which will be at home. Furthermore, Toon fans will know the exact make up of their squad. Will Andy Carroll have returned? Will Chiek Tiote still be at the club? And will they have anything to genuinely complain about?
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