Saturday sees us head to Manchester to face a City side going through a mini crisis. In the meantime it appears as though our own turbulent form has been temporarily averted after last weeks credible performance against the champions, had it not been for Ramires’ strike and Willian’s undefendable free kick we’d have come away with all 3 points. The difference in performance level was seismic, cynics will point at the game being on a Saturday night and shown to a global TV audience as the reason the intensity increased; but for me it was all to do with playing two strikers who both showed a willingness to run themselves into the ground, if you have that at the forefront of your team it encourages everybody else to hunt in packs and for the first half we had Chelsea considerably rattled.
The important thing from now is that we use that performance as a platform to build from and begin to shape our identity from it. Showing we have an attacking intent by playing two strikers and making up for that lost man in midfield by showing intensity and commitment helps to get the supporters onside and most importantly fits into the history and culture of Newcastle United. I can’t remember any of the successful periods in our history being built around an isolated and frustrated centre forward, Mitrovic in particular needs widemen supplying bullets and another player buzzing around him. In reference to Ayoze, I think last Saturday is the only game I can recall him being played in his most suited role of second striker and it showed; here was a player who’s always shown great promise and proven his worth to the fans yet has always looked uncomfortable either as lone striker or out wide. Perez and Mitrovic compliment each other well and it shows in the body language of the two players. Kevin Mbabu needs to retain his place, long term it’s clear to see that his future lies either as a right sided full back or centre half but he already looks a more comfortable defender than Haidara is and seems to have the confidence in his own ability necessary to succeed at this level. We have to go into this match with the same line up and shape as last week, we’ll probably lose either way but taking a step back and making a conservative move such as dropping one of the front men or moving Perez outwide will frustrate all involved at the club.
Man City come into this one having won a hard fought game in Germany midweek, playing teams in the Premier League a few days after European jaunts has been something they haven’t quite gotten used to despite them playing Champions League football for four years now. For this reason it’s imperative we harass and make it hard work for them, if we can do that then we might just get something from this one.