The FourFourTwo Preview: Newcastle vs Man City
The little Toon that tries vs the big City that wins.
- Newcastle 1-0 Real Sociedad (F)
- Huddersfield 2-2 Newcastle (F)
- Schalke 1-3 Newcastle (F)
- Malaga 3-1 Newcastle (F)
- Sheff Wed 0-1 Newcastle (F)
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 0-3 Arsenal (C. Shield)
- Olympiakos p2-2 Man City (F)
- Liverpool p2-2 Man City (F)
- Milan 1-5 Man City (F)
- Sporting Kansas 1-4 Man City (F)
At many a point in the last 40 years, this fixture would have been a clash between two of the north's great comedy clubs. Not Bernard Manning's Embassy and Brian Potter's Phoenix, but two well-supported under-achievers, battling to break long trophy droughts and reward their beleaguered fans.
Not anymore. In the last four years Manchester City have won every domestic trophy, including two league titles in the last three years. In not unconnected news, they are among the richest clubs on the planet, able to outbid anyone while offering pots of gold and the genuine probability of silverware.
Then there's Newcastle. Always likely to oscillate between promising greatness and threatening their own fans' sanity, the manic Magpies have spent 2014 in a slump: selling Yohan Cabaye reminded the Toon Army how much they hated their owner and distrusted the management (headbutts and all), while the 19 games from New Year's Day onwards returned just 16 points.
New seasons bring new hope, and Newcastle belatedly set about spending some of the Cabaye cash over summer with nine signings. In no way simply moving down an alphabetical list of French creative midfielders who might make them a resale profit, Pardew replaced Cabaye with Cabella, 24-year-old Montpellier creative Remy joining on a fee-recoupingly long six-year contract.
At around £12 million – a fee similar to the one received from Arsenal for Mathieu Debuchy – Cabella is the key investment, but Pardew has also added forwards aplenty on his supermarket-sweep dash around Europe.
Ajax captain Siem de Jong will hope to outwhelm his brother Luuk, believed to have spent a six-month loan in the Newcastle area earlier this year, while other new options up top include Shakhtar Donetsk refugee Facundo Ferreyra, former France Under-21 forward Emmanuel Riviere and Spanish striker Ayoze Perez, while freebies Jack Colback and Daryl Janmaat can't help but strengthen the midfield and defence.
Whether the side will be strong enough to stop City is another thing altogether. Understandably relatively content with the attacking unit that scored 102 goals in 38 league games last term, Manuel Pellegrini has also bolstered the back-line, but at a somewhat steeper cost: at £32m, 23-year-old France centre-back Eliaquim Mangala cost almost as much as Newcastle's entire summer spree. £12m Brazilian Fernando will patrol the space in front of the defence, as might a certain Frank Lampard.
However, City's squad depth will be more burden than boon if Pellegrini isn't able to rotate his roster with intelligence. Before the Community Shield kick-off, much was made of the apparent second-string line-up; by full-time, they were well beaten.
The Chilean will be under pressure to prolong City's Champions League hopes while retaining the top-flight title, an achievement which has been beyond all bar Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho for the last 30 years. Meanwhile, Pardew has set a 48-point target – usually enough for about 10th. For all their previous similarities, these clubs have very different ambitions nowadays.
New season, same old busy physio room. Newcastle are waiting patiently upon niggle-hit Yoann Gouffran (knee), Siem de Jong (calf/shin) and Cheick Tiote (hamstring/Arsenal rumour). Certainly out are Davide Santon, Ryan Taylor and Papiss Cisse, while Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Guttierez are personae non gratae.
As if illustrating a hard-luck story of (relative) haves and have-nots, City have just the one confirmed absence – Alvaro Negredo – although Mangala isn't expected to go straight into the team. Who Pellegrini picks from his souped-up squad will be of great interest to everyone, from fantasy football managers to sidelined stars.
Key battle: Jack Colback vs Samir Nasri
Both these men have points to prove. Having defected from Sunderland, Colback will want to impress the SJP faithful on his home debut proper; it'll help if he is as busily effective as he was in the Mackems' home win over City last November. Nasri piled up 98 passes that day; two months later at Newcastle, he was stretchered off with knee ligament damage and has since quit the France team after being left out for the World Cup.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Newcastle 0-2 City (PL, Jan 14)
- Newcastle 0-2e City (LC, Oct 13)
- City 4-0 Newcastle (PL, Aug 13)
- City 4-0 Newcastle (PL, Mar 13)
- Newcastle 1-3 City (PL, Dec 12)
Although tempering expectations with that 48-point target, Pardew has at least promised home fans some fun. "I think we’re going to play a brand of football that Newcastle United fans expect, because towards the back end of last year we just didn’t have enough offensive players to put on the kind of performances that we’re used to.''
The new offensive players have an occasionally offensive manager: last time Pellegrini came to Toon, Pardew told him to "shut your noise, you f**king old c**t", initially dismissing it as "normal managerial banter" before becoming remorseful after being told off by his daughters.
Pellegrini (now 60) didn't take the abuse from Pardew (53) to heart, perhaps because he rarely gets involved in managerial tête-à-têtes, perhaps because City won 2-0.
Facts and figures
- Man City full-backs Aleksandar Kolarov (7) and Pablo Zabaleta (6) assisted more goals than any other defenders in the 2013/14 Premier League.
- Frank Lampard is the top scoring midfielder in Premier League history with 171 goals, as many as Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Vincent Kompany combined.
- Newcastle lost 11 of their last 15 games last season yet still finished in the top half of the table.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
With Vinny Kompany back and signed up till 2019, City should have too much for the Toon's new front-line. 1-2.