Following a rollicking run of ten points from the last twelve on offer, we return to Tyneside this Saturday for the visit of East London’s West Ham United.
The Hammers have made a generally unspectacular start to this campaign, their most recent outing a 0-4 home reverse to the Middle Eastern all stars. When will these teams realise that Rafa’s right? Try to stay tight. Banks of four. Stay in the game. Do not go toe to toe with them. You’ll get fucking howked. Only bums like hirsute has been, Richard Keys would argue differently.
If we ignore this one, I watched them recently v Burnley at home and was rather impressed. They battered the North Western Clarets with Brazilian, Felipe Anderson looking particularly fine. The Irons have a manager of some pedigree in Pardioala’s old pal, Pellegrini and some real talent to call on.
I particularly like the look of young Damien Rice. A thoroughbred of a player who the West Ham board will probably end up losing with their dithering approach (Sound familiar?!?). Arnautovic (though possibly missing this weekend) was an excellent signing and in the aforementioned Anderson, they have an attacking midfielder who’d probably not look out of place at the top end of the League.
Had this fixture been a month ago I’d have been fearing the worst. These are however, headier days on Tyneside. I can’t be the only one who suffered a nosebleed and slight nausea when glancing at the Premiership table on Tuesday morning. When you’ve been rooted in the bottom three with escape looking increasingly remote, the dizzying heights of 13th position is like some kind of football nirvana.
Rafa got it cock on again in Lancashire on Monday. United were their usual regimented selves in the first half and then superb in the second. That we didn’t go on to win the game at a canter was due largely to Sir Matthew’s inexplicable 2 yard miss and the Jos’s misfortune at hitting the post after an excellent move, late on.
The spine of our side is looking strong. Despite a slightly shaky showing on Monday, Dúbravka is a fine custodian. The centre backs are doing sterling work and the Ki/Diame axis has helped us dominate recent foes in the centre of the park. I’d still love to see more up top, but at least in Rondón we have someone to aim at who will give defenders a tough time and hold the ball up. Zero pace, but some goal threat.
With calls for Rafa being ‘Manager of the month’ and our more excitable element no doubt predicting 3 or 4-0 this Saturday, I noticed our manager calling for calm today. He knows the score. Don’t get ahead of yourselves. You’re playing well, but Barcelona you ain’t.
Prediction time…..
It won’t be easy. It rarely / never is. I don’t think West Ham will be a pushover. However, this Newcastle team are stubborn, organised and suddenly a great deal more confident. I think it’ll be tight but I’m plumping for 2-1 to Rafa’s Mags and the peeve to flow.
HTL..
NICK CLARK – FOLLOW NICK ON @Clark5Nick