Harry’s greatest compliment to the Magpies?

Posted on October 18th, 2011 | 33 Comments |

Alan Pardew and Harry Redknapp.
Was Droopy intimidated by Magpie midfield?
In the absence of one of my usual match reports this week, for what was possibly the finest and most interesting game in our season so far, I thought I would take a more abstract view, looking at just one aspect of our midfueld battle with Tottenham on Sunday.

It was certainly an important game for both sides in terms of keeping up momentum, and a good test of the Newcastle’s credentials against a strong side.

One of the first things that struck me was that from the start of the game, Newcastle United were outnumbered in midfield with Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, fielding five in the centre against Pardew’s we’re unbeaten, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it 4-4-2 same team as last time approach. With Tottenham possesing midfielders of the quality of Van der Vaart, Modric, Bale and Parker with Emanuel Adebayor alone upfront, this seemed like something of a daunting prospect to start with.

Now I don’t profess to be the greatest expert on Tottenham, but Redknapp. like Pardew, seems to have been playing a 4-4-2 formation usually this season, and with some success having four straight League victories in the run up to the game. So why the change?

When speaking after the game, it seemed that despite having a mighty midfield of his own, he was somewhat afeared of ours, especially the central pairing of Yohan Cabye and the Toon’s answer to B.A.Baracus, Cheik Tiote.

After being hailed for his “inspired” choice, and even being described as a “genius” for sending on Jermain Defoe as a super sub in the 63rd minute, reverting to his two two pronged attack (as you probably know, the mini assassin promptly scored after five minutes on the pitch), Harry responded humorously and with candour saying:

“Well, if I’d been really clever I’d have started him and we might have won the game.”

He then revealed something of his motives for the original slightly cautious approach which later caused regret for not pinking the pint sized hitman earlier. Starting with praise for Defoe’s “great finish”, he went on to praise Cabaye and Tiote in the centre, and Gutierrez on the left flank adding:

“Picking the team was a difficult one. Jermain and Rafa (Rafael van der Vaart who scored the first goal via a penalty) are both in good form and Newcastle are a good side, they’ve got two good central midfielders and the left‑winger has improved a lot.”

So did our midfield have an effect on Redknapp’s thinking before a ball was even kicked, leading Redknapp into a cautious approach which he seemed to regret later?

While Cabaye was very respectable and of course, has had an excellent season overall, it was perhaps Gutierrez and Tiote who shone most of all in this match. They proved worthy of Redknapp’s wariness. Tiote was like the aforementioned Baracus, in a tank, protecting Newcaslte;s defences and breaking down attack after attack. Also, despite Tottenham’s wide five man midfield, the ponytailed one seemed to be running free up and down the flank like Red Rum, with Newcastle still being able to use width to their advanatge, with lots of crosses coming in from both sides (with Obertan on the right) for the front pairing of Best and Ba. Ghutierrez’s assist for Ba’s goal was something of a work of art in itself, though much of the good work from our wingers was eventually nullified by a good ‘Spurs defence who were making alot of clearences from the area.

Though it was Redknapp’s switch to a more attacking formation which led to Tottenham’s second goal, it opened up the game further on both sides, making for a very exciting conclusion to a very tight contest. Of course, it was an another “inspired” striker substition, from Pardew this time which made or day in the latter stages of the game, with Shola Ameobi strolling on and scoring a gial so good that it almost made his seem worthy of his somewhat ironic nickname of the “Fenham Eusebio”.

However I digress, as the main thrrust of this post was to muse on the fact that overall, despite a few lucky breaks in games sometimes, our midfield have done an excellent job so far overall. It also seems as if they are starting to worry the managers of good teams such as Tottenham to the point of pulling them out of their usual shape. Of course, they also managed to hold their own with one of the best midfields despite being outnumbered there for most of Sunday’s game.

It’s still early days yet, but Sunday’s midfield performance was certainly provided an encouraging sign for the future against quality opposition.

Howay the Lads!

NUFCBlog Author: workyticket workyticket has written 1093 articles on this blog.

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33 Responses

  1. ___________Ba


    Guti Cabaye Tiote Marveax

    Santon Colo Saylor Raylor


  2. Was it me or was HBA a bit of a ball hog on Sunday? I thought he had too much time on the ball trying to beat players when passing to moving players would have been better options. Still, at times, it provided the respite for our defence as the ball stayed in their half a bit longer.

  3. Good article worky. On reflection, if (as some said) this was a test then we passed it when Redknap picked his team – he looked at us, was impressed and chose players & formation not to attack & win but to deal with our midfield. And he was right.

    After a first half where the chosen teams were matched, it was the opposing plan Bs that shaped the game, with both sets of subs changing & improving the play. The difference was that they didn’t want to get beat – but we wanted to win, and people have taken note of this!

    Despite having what looks like a small squad I actually think we are going to get stronger as the season progreses. I’m still not clear what our strongest lineup or formation is, considering there’s 3-4 still to make their mark and probably 2-3 to be bought.
    I doubt any of us could predict the first choice team that with finish the season.


  4. Roscoe says:



    Guti Cabaye Tiote Marveax

    Santon Colo Saylor Raylor


    It aint rocket science Roscoe, well at least not for most of us !!!! Still prefer 4-2-3-1 though :)

    Susan Boyle says:

    “Was it me or was HBA a bit of a ball hog on Sunday? I thought he had too much time on the ball trying to beat players when passing to moving players would have been better options”

    Thats the problem with bringing him on for the last part of the game. Tried too hard to impress but still gave Spuds too much to think about at times. Looking on the bright side at least Pardwho gave him 30 minutes next time he’s got to start !

  5. Susan Boyle (I doubt) @ 4

    Yes, I think Ben Arfa got caught with the ball a few times but I think he is just a bit rusty. When he came on he was taking the ball in our half, usually in the middle of the park, and ran at their defence, something which no one else did. He made space for our other players by drawing in at least two Spurs players to stop him.

    I think he should start on Saturday but who to drop, Ba, Best or Shola. I would also start Marveaux instead of Obertan. I would also start Santon instead of Simpson.

    Nice problems for the manager.

  6. As for you WT starting to look like Leazes Terrace around here :)

    I agree that Arry changed his formation, having previously played either 4-4-1-1 or with two upfront, to match us in central mid. Although he claimed it was down to picking someone to play out on the right it smacked of bulking up the central pairing to take on Tiote and Cabaye (who I thought had one of his quieter games).

    Bale was out of sorts and VDV got in the huff last week for playing out wide so eventually he pushed Modric out there, having tried Bale for 25 minutes, which probably helped us overall.

    As for us Jonas is a different player nowadays, I wonder if the contract has helped him ?. If we replace Obertan with Marveaux and perm any one from three strikers we’ll start to look a lot better going forward.

  7. Wigan at home (IMO) is the ‘ideal game’ to try out new personnel, but then we all know that Pardew does not like to change a successful team, or at least the 4-4-2 structure.

  8. Daily telegraph today is confident that we will sign Modibo Maiga and that Llambias has continued to talk to Sochaux who are willing to let him go for around £7m. He is expected to sign a four-and-a-half year deal and could become a Newcastle player as soon as the paperwork can be filed with the governing bodies on January 2nd.

    Fine – but not overwhelmed, but nor am I(from what I’ve seen)gutted that Gervinho went to Arsenal – gunners weblog rated him against 5under1and – “Gervinho 6.5 Although he started well, he faded quite quickly”.

    £7m will get us a great player except for CF, if we don’t go for a £10m+ rated striker then we are taking a risk – might get lucky might not, that’s how I feel about maiga

  9. think also marveaux should start ahead of obertan but i think pardew is a bit stubborn with that choice. SHOLA FOR ENGLAND!!

  10. nufc337 – england what? In any case has he not said he still wants to play in the african cup?

  11. oh yes to right thanks for the correction one to many brown ales ;)…was just thinking when ashley moves on his sports direct signage would be gone but would the newcastle signage which is currently up now still be there or look for a replacement

  12. All the Spurs websites and most papers said Spurs “dropped” 2 points.

    What, they have some sort of right to expect 3 points at Newcastle? Their record up here doesn’t suggest that.

    Their websites even say they had the better of the match, which is not true. At best it was even for them and we had much the better of the final 15 minutes.

    I just think Spurs are given too much repect and at the moment we are the Rodney Dangerfield of the Premier League.

  13. Match Stats seem to back that up GS ?
    13 Shots 13
    6 Shots on goal 6
    11 Fouls 15
    5 Corner Kicks 2
    4 Offsides 3
    55 Time % 45
    25.4 Age Avg 27.1

  14. “better of the match” nonsense, just look at the stats,we had something like 57% possession,more shots,more shots on target,more corners. I’ve read plenty of reports on this game and only a few got it right.The rest was lazy journalism.I’ve never played the game only at school-level and for fun but some of these pundits talk absolute tosh.

    As for next weekend i have a sneaking feeling Ben Arfa will start.Pardew hinted at it saying “he’s now ready to start”.Best, although he played well, not scoring gives him the excuse to start Benny.

  15. I did notice that Spurs “double teamed” Jonas all the time and he still hardly ever lost the ball.

    Do you think Raylor could make a decent fullback? He seems to be settling in now and I never really rated him that highly as a midfielder. The substition of Santon for Simpson seems to suggest that Pardew is giving Raylor a chance.

  16. Yes, Raylor has been solid & reliable and his free kicks can win a game.
    No one can argue with the performance of the defence as a whole and it would be unfair to single out one (Simpson or Raylor) as a weak link – but has anyone out there got any views or stats on what they do constructively to move forward when they win possession and how they link up with the wingers.
    Jose & Jonas were a good combination down the left but I can’t see a good partnership now (yet?) either on the left or right.

  17. I think you’re reading a bit too much into the spurs formation. 4-4-1-1 with VDV in the hole is how spurs set up for the whole of last season (when he was fit) and is effectively a lot closer to 442 then 451.

    @GS – Most of the spurs websites (or respectable ones anyway) I’ve been on say “we were under par and on the balance of play a point was fair”. The 2 points dropped is becasue we were twice ahead with 3 minutes to go and threw it away with school boy defending. Not a dig at Newcastles performance (which is widely praised) just a dig at our own headless chicken defending after Ledley King went off

    Good look for the rest of the season. If you keep everyone fit you look a certainty for top 6/8 this year

  18. Seb:

    I understand what you are saying, but the headlines all said two points dropped or something similar.

    It wasn’t school boy defending though. Shola scores one like that a year and you were unlucky to be on the receiving end. Usually he scuffs it or falls over.

    Everyone said that Spurs would be the real test. I think it will be Stoke because they man-handled us last year (apart from 1st half at SJP). If we can adjust our tactics to play well there we might be for real.

  19. Spurs fan here (saw this on newsnow) – don’t want to burst your bubble regarding Harry’s tactics but I suspect it was more that he feels unable to drop VDV and VDV doesn’t want to play RM so he didn’t have any other option. However, regardless of that I was impressed with Newcastle and although I suspect you’ll start dropping off a bit soon the way you played on Sunday, in every respect, plus the immense support made me want you to do well this season, and I hope you do (as long as it’s not at our expense!).

  20. @4

    It looks to me like Ben Arfa is trying too hard to make a huge impact every time he gets the ball. It’s maybe not suprising after such a long time out waiting to show what he can do and I expect him to have calmed down and got back to his normal rythm after a few more games.

  21. DA says:

    “Spurs fan here (saw this on newsnow) – don’t want to burst your bubble regarding Harry’s tactics but I suspect it was more that he feels unable to drop VDV and VDV doesn’t want to play RM so he didn’t have any other option”

    I disagree if Arry wanted a full on 4-4-1-1 he could easily have done so with Bale out left and Modric right and Defoe just behind Adebayor ?

    Truth is he wanted some “steel” in the midfield to aid Parker which is why he opted to start with 4-2-3-1 and the combative (according to your web site) Livermore.

    There’s no disgrace in trying to combat our midfield. Better teams than Spuds will try to do that this season :)

  22. Since Alan Pardew always comes to this site to help pick his team, I’m with Roscoe @ 3 and Andymac @ 6. Thanks Alan. Oh, and another three points please!

  23. Obertan is starting to look more and more like the player i remember…a bit crappy, he’s got lightning speed but rarely seems to plan what he’s going to do next, and crossing is weak….he gave the ball/momentum away A LOT.

    Defo give Marv a few starts now, so he’d be potentially ready for Manu Ut/ManC/Chelse games.

    Santon looked good, do we think he’s prefered as RB just to show Simpson everybody has to fight for a place – and under a background of recent contract renewals…?

  24. my team for wigan:





    Sub- HBa, Ober, Sammy, Gosling, Simmo etc

  25. @AndyMac

    That’s the exact same line-up spurs used away at Wigan (apart from Livermore in for the injured Sandro). It’s just the way Harry likes to lines up with Lennon injured…unless Harry thought we needed the extra steel to combat Victor Moses ;-)

  26. Seb says: @AndyMac

    “That’s the exact same line-up spurs used away at Wigan (apart from Livermore in for the injured Sandro). It’s just the way Harry likes to lines up with Lennon injured…unless Harry thought we needed the extra steel to combat Victor Moses”.

    Point conceded Seb even Football Lineups


    (useful site btw) has changed their original formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-1-1 for you lot as indeed has Leazes Terrace.

    At least we’re made of sterner stuff than Wigan :)

  27. “At least we’re made of sterner stuff than Wigan”

    Much sterner stuff! Harry said the first 45 minutes against Wigan is some of the best football we’ve played under him, so it’s a line-up that can play well but we just never got our passing game going, Newcastle were amongst the toughest we’ve faced defensively (even if Harry intentionally playing Modric and Bale out of position is criminal, that’s more a moan for a spurs site :) ).

    My only concern for you is that there looked to be a large gap between the midfield and the strikers which which means you might struggle to create chances with the formation you played on Sunday. You looked a lot more menacing after Ben Arfa came on and was drifting between the lines (although he was understandibly a bit rusty from the injury). For my tuppence I’d say 4-4-1-1 with Ben Arfa and Ba is the way to go, with Best as your super sub

  28. One has to laugh at the praise being showered on the Newcastle defense and though both Saylor & Colo. are playing well to-gether (dont hear much from the Williamson fans these days)
    The real key to our defending lies with Chiek Tiote, whom i cant praise enough, the man is simply outstanding, breaking up attack after attack, yet finding time to make the telling pass and even getting the occasional shot on goal.
    I’m sure the vultures will soon be circling for him, but hopefully we can hold onto him, as he is the keystone to this side.
    Unfortunately his style of play ends up with an eventual ban from card’s, though he has improved in that respect.
    Point is who do we have to cover for him, Gosling it appeared was the designated one, but with recent rumors of him going on loan, which raises the question if not him, then who ?

  29. chuck says:
    October 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    “The real key to our defending lies with Chiek Tiote, whom i cant praise enough, the man is simply outstanding,”

    He’s certainly is a big factor and he is outstanding Chuck.

    I was a little surprised that most other Geordies were surprised at how good he was though. This is because after he’d been signed, he played in the World Cup finals with Ivory Coast. He played alongside Yaya Toure and didn’t look out of place at all, and I am a very big fan of Yaya Toure.