What do we think of the Newcastle engine room? – Part deux.

Posted on January 7th, 2010 | 66 Comments |

Looking and feeling a little rusty in the middle?
Looking and feeling a little rusty in the middle?
The previous review of the current squad, took a look at the Newcastle defence, an area that this season we’ve been surprisingly strong in, given our poor reputation in recent years.

Today’s review looks at arguably the fulcrum of a successful team, the midfield, the place that could and should control a game and dictate the style of play. Our midfield this season has been very much part of a strong defensive ethos, and while we have grafters in there, we’re also lacking some natural creativity and pace.

Looking at the current crop, it really makes you pine for some of our former midfielders who have graced the hallowed St James’ turf in the last couple of decades. Reminisce about the grace of French wingers David Ginola and Laurent Robert. Recall the guts, determination and drive of Robert Lee and Gary Speed. Consider the guile we had in Emre, albeit fleetingly, and the sheer brilliance of Nobby Solano. Even having pure pace a la James Milner, Keith Gillespie to worry the opposition. You can even look at some of the less popular characters. We would kill for the pace of Kieron Dyer and dare I say, I could forgive Jermaine Jenas. Possibly even Damien Duff is a big miss? Maybe that’s stretching it…

Anyway, that was the past, what about the present? As with my review on the keepers and the defence, I’ve only included the lads who have played at least a couple of games so far and I’ve just added to my initial review from back in October.

Kevin Nolan – It’s difficult to be anything other than impressed with elements of Kevin Nolan in a Toon shirt this year. He looks committed, he’s saying the right things and appears to be a great influence on the youngsters and the rest of the squad. His goal return speaks for itself and he has won games almost on his own. Just imagine what he could be like if he got more than half-fit (Update) Nolan has just carried on regardless, and even appears to have a lost some weight, which is encouraging. Great attitude on and off the pitch, fully committed and capable. More of the same please Kev…….. rating so far – 9/10

Joey Barton – Ahhh the badly-behaved engima…….what to say about the one man who still divides fans to this day between those who want him long gone and those willing to let him repent and reform. And yet his ability, the one thing we always thought both sides could agree on, though not about whether it was enough to warrant him staying, is sorely lacking. Yes, he’s potentially a very good player but when will that finally be realised? At the moment he looks a shadow of what we were hoping for. His injury just yet another reason to be sidelined, along with other well-documented problems. So far not so good for me (Update) No return yet for Barton, but he’s been doing plenty of talking off the pitch in ridiculing his fellow professionals for their poor attitudes (ahem). We await the opportunity for him to walk the walk…….. rating so far – 5/10

Nicky Butt – The majority of Newcastle fans appear to have given up on Nicky Butt but personally I still wanted to give him time. I believed, and probably still do, that he has experience and quality left to offer at this level. However, he hasn’t been great this season, although pre-season injury probably upset his preparations and he looks sluggish. His lack of pace times can leave him exposed with nippier opposition (Update) I think arguably in more recent games, Nicky Butt has come in and done a decent job. Still wish he’d cut out the ‘cup final’ balls and concentrate on winning it and giving it easy, but think he deserves some applause for a couple of decent performances when called upon…….. rating so far – 7/10

Danny Guthrie – When he first came, he looked the slick, accomplished midfielder you might expect to come out of Liverpool’s academy. Despite a lack of pace, his touch and passing was extremely tidy and his set plays effective. He did go off the boil last season, as did many, but I don’t often see him hide and he’s started to influence games more this term. Had his best game on Saturday against Doncaster (Update) Might feel a bit like he’s doing ‘the Ameobi’, as he’s been in and out of the team since the Coventry game. And when he’s playing, he’s arguably not playing in his best position, so we’re probably not seeing the best of him. Hasn’t got the natural pace of a winger, and tends to tuck in and come inside quite a bit. But unfortunately, we don’t have strikers running into the channels, otherwise I think he’d take advantage. For me, he’s often left looking for options that aren’t available but still uses the ball well. And simply for his two back-to-back sublime deliveries, I’m giving him a decent mark……… rating so far – 8/10

Kazenga Lua Lua – Fringe player who looked like breaking into the first eleven, amid clamour from the stands, to inject a little pace into the side. Does like to get at the opposition but hasn’t proved that he knows when to run with it and when to drop it off. Hopefully still one for the future (Nothing to update on)……… rating so far – 5/10

Geremi – Technically still very good, but unfortunately, his legs seemed to have gone before he got here. Playing cameo roles when required this season and even looked like staking a claim for a permanent place after a decent spell but illness put paid to that. Picking up obscene wages all the while. What more to say? (Update) Barely featured since the last review, and is the subject of a confusing proposed transfer to Turkey. Fairly sure most fans are universal in their desire to see that transfer concluded successsfully……… rating so far – 5/10

Fabrice Pancrate – Signed on a free after playing for PSG. Impressed enough in his trial game against Hartlepool, to get a contract. Subsequently got the blood pumping with some Forrest Gumpesque enthusiasm in his first couple of runouts. Then set his stall with an impressive piece of skill and thundering strike against Watford. Has unfortunately singularly failed to live up to expectations after that. May take time to settle, but seems reluctant to use the pace and drive in wide positions when he starts, and seems much more effective as an impact sub. Something to ponder for Hughton……… rating so far – 6/10

Alan Smith – Along with Enrique and Nile Ranger, my pick of the bunch in black and white this season. Many wrote him off and I’m happy to admit, though I supported him all along, I genuinely thought the only happy ending would be if we parted ways, and since proved horribly wrong. He has been the indomitable captain marvel in the middle of the park all season. Snapping, swearing, supporting, putting himself where it hurts in every game he’s played, and breaking up play and using the ball well. Nobody can be anything but happy with what Smudge offers us right now? (Update) Captain Marvel – Smudger still offers an almost impenetrable wall of defence, in front of the defence, and has played his part magnificently. However, he had a few slightly off games for me, where he wasn’t strongest in the tackle and looked a bit off the pace. Robbie Savage arguably had the better of him in the Derby game, much to our distaste in Level 7. Still hoping he recovers fully from the knock at Plymouth because he’s got a bit part to play in the promotion bid still……… rating so far – 8/10

Jonas Gutierrez – From best to worst, certainly in terms of expectations. I believe we’re still unclear on what ‘Spiderman’ cost us but despite his international status, whatever it is was, it’s sure to have been too much. He had one great game at Man Utd last season, a handful of decent games followed and otherwise hugely disappointing. Overplaying, play-acting, flattering to deceive, no delivery and about as likely to score as this sale saga finishing anytime soon (Update) Arguably gone some way to answering his critics with some decent deliveries in recent games, though still few and far between. Offers an outlet to the defence when he doesn’t fanny around with the ball and just drives at his opponents instead. Still want more from someone who clearly has a lot of ability………. rating so far – 7/10

The January transfer window has seen all of the focus on a striker and a defender, the two positions Hughton has stated he wanted to strengthen in. I don’t think many fans would argue with those plans, but some would insist that along with these requirements, we’re also crying out for some creativity in midfield. We don’t have anyone who runs with the ball through the middle, nor someone who can drop little bombs in behind the defence. But the speculation suggests, that’s the least of our worries, so perhaps Hughton is happy with the current methods?

So once again, I’ve rambled, enough of my nonsense.

What do you lot think?

NUFCBlog Author: bowburnmag bowburnmag has written 234 articles on this blog.

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66 Responses

  1. Decent review of the players,don’t really remember Kazenga doing anything interesting and would probably give Butt 2/10 for poor vision and passing,lack of pace and badly miss timed tackles.

    Jonas was summed up well by Steve Stone “He flatters to deceive”,plenty of energy,looks busy but very expensive for a winger that really struggles to nail killer balls on a regular basis.

  2. Jonas is one of the reasons we havent conceded many goals imo – he relieves pressure from the whole back line with his workrate.

  3. And he is the reason we make few opportunities cos he can’t cross a ball to save his fkin life.

  4. The engine room in the photo resembles the one featured in das Boot and we know what happened to that boat after much heroics by the skipper and the crew!

  5. Jonas for right back! works for argies but would mean us needing to buy a left and right winger….so a no go really! he ain’t a winger, he can run and that’s it, bit like bull on left really! We wouldn’t need a striker or a defender then…2 good scoring wingers who can make chances and I’m sure strolla,Carroll, ranger etc would thrive from them!

  6. stardust,agree with you about jonas and his defensive capabilities.
    i would still like to see more from him in attack,and not be as wasteful as he sometimes is.
    that photo sums up our engine room,clapped out!,i think the likes of nolan and butt need spraying with wd 40 to get them moving.
    i still think we need a man with pace through the middle,to make us a different animal.
    we have to many similar players in our midfield atm.

  7. Like I said Jonas has bags of energy,likeable fella,not a winger though because wingers beat players and whip decent balls in for the strikers.

    Yes he has set up a few goals this season but that is down to law of averages rather than accuracy,skill,intention and precision.

  8. Trojan – I think he would provide many more assist if our MF were fitter and faster – he gets to the last third well in advance of them leaving no options, and our forward lines movement is non existent – often hiding behind the CHs.

    I think youd truly see the best of him in a better team unfortunately.

  9. We definately need new wingers for our engine room. Jonas is very good with the ball and his work to help the back is also good, but we need our wingers to be able to deliver killer passes to our strikers. If only Guthrie had some speed, because his delivery is very very good. I think Hughton should work on Pancrate to play winger, because hes speed only might help unsettle the opposition.

  10. Stardust – that would be relevant if he was left-footed, got by the full back and was constantly left cutting back because of a lack of options.

    However, more often than not he’s either spending his time turning and trying to get it back on his right, or trying to get a foul in tighter areas.

    Which means the rest of the them generally have time to amble up as they do. Or at least that’s my take on it.

  11. lads,i was watching panathinaikos in the champions league at the back end of last year,i was wanting to know who the young greek guy was playing wide left.
    i thought he looked the business,does anyone know the lads name?

  12. Although i don’t want to knock the lads as i think they’ve done a decent job this season, i do worry about next season if we get promoted as i feel the only players who can cut it in the prem are, s taylor, enrique, harps and maybe colo. That isn’t enough to keep us up and do you think cashley will finance new signings?

  13. Pretty good appraisal bowburn, very fair generally.
    Although i would give Guthrie a point less like someone said earlier.
    But well done mate for bucking the trend & giving Butt a fair score.
    Very magnanimous, top stuff.

  14. TROJAN 69 – Sotiris Ninis plays them. Think he is 17ish plays on the wing, touted as the next big thing from Greece.

    We should buy hi….. Oh, i nearly said buy him then but realised we aint buying no-one.

  15. 19 the lad is, wide left isn’t even his natural position, he’s even better on the right or through the middle!

  16. is nicolas frutos still injury prone,or is he worth a punt as we have two argentine lads?,if we cannot find any other strikers.

  17. jay jay is about to start work, then it’s to the pub for a few then back home for a load more. I don’t know much but i do know that toonsy!

  18. Id have to say wait until the world cup has finished, bad thing is if any of our players mainly colo and jonas have a cup world cup i could see fat ash cashing in on them!

    has anyone ever seen Simon Vuckcevic play? didnt he fall out with bento last season, may be worth a punt for a skillful att-mid

  19. BBM “However, more often than not he’s either spending his time turning and trying to get it back on his right, or trying to get a foul in tighter areas.”

    So its Jonas fault he is willing to play and die for the cause on the LW? For the benefit of the team?

    Its common knowledge he is a right footer.

    You used to play BBM – surely you can see he is a man who you would want to line up with every game?

  20. @ Stardust,

    with everyone crying out for pace in the team why not put jonas on the right and loverman on the left for a few games and see if anything comes of that?

  21. What about Tyan Taylor? He’s been one of our better players this season when played in midfield.

    Nolan has chipped in with plenty goals but I think he would struggle again if we get promoted as he doesn’t really contribute much else, and is far too slow.

    Guthrie for me has went backwards since we got relegated, and doesn’t look as good as when he first came here. He lacks pace and just hasn’t really got enough to his game to be top quality.

    As for Gutierrez, I was a critic last season but he has put in some great performances of late, and seems to be getting the hang of getting the ball in the box at head height, which I never thought would happen!

  22. Give Jonas a more free role, he’s potentially our ‘creative’ mid fielder.

    Bit like how milner is playing better, or at least, more consistently at villa, in a freer role.

  23. Nolan is a proven prem player.
    Though i do agree about R Taylor, good player in MF, despite what some say.

  24. Think Jonas is a cracking player ( tho his final ball does let him down )

    Remeber readin that Jose and Jonas like playing down the same flank as they think they work well together ( which they do ) and that is why Jonas plays out left instead of out right

  25. Eyeball – yes or the two of them could swap regularly in games.

    Clints point re Milner being a case in point.

  26. nufc doest need attacking football because we cant defend.i see no use of getting a winger when it was tried and failed.we just need a finisher and good wingbacks

  27. Stardust – “You used to play BBM…” Cheeky basket :)

    I’ll get this cruciate fixed and be playing til I’m 40 8O

    But someone else might have to do the home match reports…

    It wasn’t really a criticism of him per se, it was just an answer to your suggestion. I don’t think he lacks options because he doesn’t get in those sorts of positions often enough at the byline. I’d argue what eyeball said, that he might be more effective on the right, but he’s clearly comfortable with the style he has now so may be reluctant to adapt.

    I said a while ago, I thought he’d make a good right back, but at the time wasn’t sure if he had enough strength. I think he perhaps lacks the ability to win stuff in the air, otherwise his pace and strength could make a great full back for us. He might get exposed, particularly at this level, with the long balls into the corner. We’d also lose any creativity he has got.

    I think his attitude is great, I’m just frustrated we don’t get enough out of him.

  28. nufc doest need attacking football because we cant defend.

    That has got to be the most incorrect Newcastle statement on a blog I have ever read.


  29. I have not heard 1 sensible NUFC comment from Ganiyu ever…maybe he thinks we are Notts County??


  30. BBM – i have watched and whole heartedly got behind some attrocious players over the years at the Toon but i cannot and never will warm to Nicky Butt, i cannot see anything at all special in his game and what on earth did anyone see to convince them to sign him in the first place.
    Cant pass, shoot, run, tackles are getting worse and he is a liability and whenever he plays the team looks minging.
    Hughtons best team selections have been when Guthrie is centre midfield with Nolan playing as a second deep lying striker, his dabbling with different permutations of Ameobi, Ranger, Carrol, Harewood and Lovenkrands have not worked.
    If Hughton gets the midfield right, we will win the league, if he continues to fanny on with the tinkering, we wont.

  31. bigbadbob – aye, I know some people are perplexed by Nicky Butt. To be honest, I wasn’t a massive fan, particularly with the thing in the semi-finals. And we talked about it all the way home, that he’d never play for the town again.

    I liked the fact that he said nowt more than he needed to do to defend his actions, and then came back and got stuck in for us.

    I just think he’s effective as a spoiler and eliminates a lot of attacking potential, but that it often goes unseen (maybe I’m seeing things…).
    You know like the cliched unsung hero bit?

    But I accept that in spells he has been trying far too hard to do things he’s not capable of, and that detracts from what he is good at. Generally like his attitude and demeanour, no frills, just a decent pro who gets on with the job.

  32. Agree with bigbadbob! Play Nolan behind Shola with Guthrie in centre mid. That’s definitely our best formation – home and away. That leaves right wing. I’m not convinced by either Pancrate or Taylor. Any ideas anyone?

  33. I’ve made me mind up & i’m never gonna change-ever.
    & i don’t care what happens, ever.
    & i’m definitely never gonna let facts get in the way of opinions.


  34. batty,
    i’ve longer than a couple of weeks before now mate. :)

    I just get sick of people forming ‘opinions’ about players, sometimes, before they even kick a ball for us.

  35. We can’t have anyone slipping on the way to a game, can we?

    “Oh! i slipped there, quick, call the game off!
    I nearly fell over”.

    Wasn’t it the smogs that started this pap?

  36. BBM
    Would say you are being generous with your ratings.
    I would venture to say we have at present two PL quality players in the midfield, Joey and Nolan, the rest I dont rate.
    On the subject of Nicky Butt, the only reason he is not included is his lack of pace (bit long in the tooth)
    Guthrie is a second tier player, at home in this division.
    Jonas lacks any final product.
    Thought Smith had found his role as sweeper, but we could do a lot better.
    Lovenkrands, nah !
    Pancreas, same.
    Lua Lua, ?
    We need a cople of wingers and a central midfielder to run the side, someone who can put his foot in plus lay on a pass.
    A Sissoko type, plus a winger who can do it all McGeady ?
    But here we are cant even sign a third tier striker or a second tier CD.
    Why do we go through this shit as we know it`s not gonna happen anyhow.

  37. Chuck I really think we need a right winger what do you think of pennant or bently? Bently prob cost a few quid and pennant had some problems in the past but think either one could do a very good job for us

  38. Just read a headline reading “Magpies will not overspend”
    Perhaps it should read “Magpies will not SPEND”.

  39. Sorry Johnno wouldnt want bentley or pennant, bentley is over rated and pennant would be locked up in the same cell as barton within weeks….tool!!

  40. Not sure if this will work but I found a picture of Stuart79

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