Six-pointer alert! In January! Yes, things really are that dire on Tyneside as NUFC desperately seek three points against relegation rivals Watford in a (wait for it) MUST WIN GAME.
The Toon were shite last Saturday against Cambridge in the cup so a vastly improved performance will be needed to take three points as we get back to league duty. We should’ve taken a victory in the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road but missed a boatload of chances and got caught with a sucker punch late on. Even then, Jacob Murphy missed a sitter to win it for us in injury time and which sent John Anderson viral – JUST PUT IT IN THE NET MAN!
We’ve brought in Chris Wood from Burnley this week for £25 million which was badly needed following Callum Wilson’s injury. The Kiwi is a proven PL striker and should give us a focal point to build attacks around – we’ll need him to hit the ground running for us after a modest return so far for the Clarets. Expect Trippier assisting Wood to be seen one or two times before the end of the season.
Watford themselves are in freefall after a relatively positive start. They’ve already had their customary managerial change and rumours are now swirling that Claudio Ranieri is on borrowed time. That being said they retain some dangerous players, particularly on the break, so we’ll need to be tight at the back with seemingly no centre half being signed in time for this game.
It’s another sell-out at SJP (of course) so should be a rollicking atmosphere. If NUFC return to the performance levels shown against Man United, expect a comfortable victory. Anything resembling the Cambridge game and it could be goodnight Vienna for our survival hopes. A big test for Eddie Howe to ensure it’s the former.
Howay the Lads!
Danger man: Emmanuel Dennis. The forward has been controversially held back from the AFCON and has been the Hornets’ outstanding player this season with eight Premier League goals.
Prediction: An extremely nervy 1-0 win for NUFC, Wood with the winner on debut.
After Cambridge we demanded that we have a recognised striker on the pitch against Watford, ideally one who could hit the ground the running. We have that. Ignore the money.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) January 13, 2022
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Much like your mam, Newcastle were craving a big presence in the box last weekend. We pumped a frankly filthy amount of crosses into the right areas but had no one to hit the spot. Step forward, Chris Wood, against a team that hasn’t kept a clean sheet all season.
Granted, Wood hasn’t been pulling up any trees with only three goals this term, but he’s been playing in a bobbins Burnley side that has finally lost its mojo, with even “Voice of a Thousand Gargled Dicks” Sean Dyche seemingly unable to motivate them. Wood’s been a threat every time he’s faced Newcastle in recent years, perhaps most memorably in grabbing an injury time winner for Leeds. That day he’d barely had a sniff, but he was patient, saw his chance and, much like your mam, gobbled it up.
On paper, Watford represent the perfect opponents for Chris Wood. The Hornets have lost their last three PL games by a combined total of 7-2, including a 2-1 defeat to Brentford. They also got humped 4-1 in the cup by Leicester. Like your mam, their defence is incredibly leaky and will roll over at the first time of asking. Unlike your mam, they’re also weak in some key positions – can you imagine Danny Rose and Sissoko trying to cope with our wide men? If Trippier, ASM and Fraser can provide the service, Wood should get the goals that take the Toon to our second win of the season.
There are two caveats. As with all teams struggling for form, it depends on which versions of Watford and NUFC turn up. When they get it right, Watford can be unstoppable – they put four past Man Utd and notched five against Everton. Similarly, all 11 lads played out of their skins for the Toon against Man Utd in a game we were unlucky to draw, but the Leicester performance showed that they can still stink out the place, too.
Personally, I can’t wait to get into SJP and to add my voice to the raucous cheers that greet Wood as he steps onto the pitch. We are a much-improved side since the 1-1 against Watford under Bruce – a match we also should have won. Howe will have the right game plan to take all three points, the crowd will be bang up for it, and the stage is set for Wood to take his first steps towards becoming a Gallowgate cult hero.
Danger man: Sissoko. Just kidding! Josh King is their biggest threat
Dan Jenkin @PlumsGinger
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) January 14, 2022
Following our brief cup run Premier League football returns to St James’s Park on Saturday. We face fellow strugglers Watford in what is a massive game for both teams. Watford head to Barrack Road off the back of 5 straight defeats and we simply must make it their sixth as following our fixture they then play Burley and Norwich before we face Leeds a week on Saturday. It’s becoming a weekly statement, but this game is a must win for us.
We are expecting new signings Trippier and Wood to make their league debuts for us, and boy do we need them. As much as Howe has got us improving in certain areas we are still conceding daft goals and we still don’t score enough. Welcoming in two players who improve not just the team from a playing perspective, but also the leadership on the pitch should be massive. I know alot of us took a keen interest in Trippier last week and it was clear that he has added more than just his ability on the ball to the back four, and to the team as a whole and I believe Wood’s addition will do the same. However, we still have issues at left back, central defense and central midfield. I am fascinated to see whether Howe sets up with Joelinton to go head to head with Sissoko as that could be a great battle.
Watford have also been busy in January and could have some new players lining up for them too. Including at least two in their defense, with a new left back and a couple of centre backs coming in. They have also signed an 18 year old Columbian called Asprilla. Please god, no.
There is absolutely nothing to take from last Saturday so the lads will have to bring back the memories of our last league game against Man Ure at the end of December for some positives. We wait with baited breath to hear who has been struck down this week with Covid as nobody wants to see Krafth line up in a back four to play against Denis. We really need everyone to step up their performances on Saturday, we are running out of opportunities and Watford is certainly one of those.
Prediction: Nervy 2-1 win
Danger Man; Denis.
Tim Wood @Geordie2Step
“What this deal does do for us is buy a proven Premier League player with a history of carrying a team away from relegation. It also allows us the opportunity to threaten teams in different ways.”
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) January 14, 2022
I’ve got a funny feeling we’ve been here before. If Brentford at home was a big game and Burnley (our new feeder club) was a huge game, then this is a colossal, thesaurus-busting whopper of a game. A win and we leapfrog Watford, quite possibly out of the bottom three altogether. Just as important is the symbolic value of the game: win and we make a psychological break with the first half of the season; lose and we remain bogged down in the demoralised morass that is sucking us towards the drop.
Team selection remains an impossible puzzle given our myriad deficiencies. With Manquillo suspended, Ritchie looks like the only option at left-back, which is always a worry. Schär and Krafth were profoundly unconvincing last week (understatement), and the midfield continues to look pedestrian, short of creativity, and unable to retain possession. Apart from that, it’s a top-notch unit. I don’t have any answers, but I’m tempted to play Willock behind Wood in a 4-4-1-1 and hope he rediscovers his predatory instincts feeding on second balls. Because, why not? I just hope we don’t resort to hopeful crosses and long balls (are you reading, Jonjo?) now we’ve got our new toy to play with up front.
As for Watford, they’ve lost seven in a row since beating Man Utd 4-1 at home and have acted quickly in January to bring in defensive reinforcements. Next up after us they’ve got Burnley and Norwich. Things could look very different by the time we travel to Leeds. God, I feel sick.
Dangerman: Jacob Murphy faced with a one-on-one
Prediction: 2-2 (don’t worry, I’m always wrong)
Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731