Continuity is the foundation for so much success in football, especially when you do not have a billionaire’s bank balance to help you bludgeon your way to success. OK, Newcastle do have a billionaire but he is one that wants to run the club without splashing the cash.
It was continuity and the team spirit that has engendered which helped the Magpies open their season with a win against Tottenham at the weekend. They started their first game of this Premier League campaign without any new faces in their starting line-up and while Tottenham fielded just one close-season signing – Gylfi Siguardsson – they also had new manager Andre Villas-Boas at the helm.
It was one of those games where the result mattered more than the performance for Newcastle. The Magpies were not at their dominant best. Nervy to begin with they were fortunate not to concede a couple which hit the woodwork before Demba Ba grabbed the opener – only his second goal in 1094 minutes on the pitch with Papiss Cisse. It was however their character which shone through, allowing them to run out winners thanks to Hatem Ben Arfa’s penalty just a minute after they had been pegged back by Jermaine Defoe’s equaliser.
The familiar line-up helped Newcastle to already make a subtle but potentially very important improvement on last season, when they failed to get more than a point off all but one of the three teams that finished above them. Against Spurs, Newcastle drew at home and were thumped 5-0 at White Hart Lane. In a relative sense then, they are already two points better off than last season and looked more likely than Spurs to mount a sustained challenge for the top four.
The extent of that challenge will depend on potential for disruption caused by two things. Firstly, there is the Europa League. On the pitch the next item on the agenda is the small matter of a trip to the tiny Peristeri Stadium in Athens and the first leg of a Europa League qualification tie against Atromitos. Because of its proximity to their trip to Chelsea, Alan Pardew looks set to involve some fringe players and leave more well-known faces behind in Tyneside so the game will be a barometer of how well Newcastle’s squad, not just the first team, are likely to fare over the course of the season. It is a move that Toon fans will be hoping does not backfire, leaving the team with an up-hill struggle the following week back at the Sports Direct Arena.
Secondly there is the interest in key squad members from the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. Those two teams are, reportedly, already casting lustrous eyes at Chieck Tiote and Yohan Cabaye. Pardew has suggested that a successful summer’s transfer activity will see only the players they want to leave, leave. Continuity, you see, is the key.
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