Betway betting sites banner

What are Newcastle United’s central midfield options?

Posted on February 5th, 2010 | 35 Comments |

Will Chris Hughton roll the dice in the middle of the park?
Will Chris Hughton roll the dice in the middle of the park?
I’m sure I will be met with many in agreement when I say that right now, our main problem is in the middle of the park. It’s a position that blights us in my opinion, filled with high earners and also very over-subscribed. As it stands right now, we have Nicky Butt, Alan Smith, Kevin Nolan, Danny Guthrie, the imminent return of Joey Barton from a long standing injury, and likewise with young Haris Vuckic.

So, what’s the problem?

Realistically, you just have to look at those players and it becomes obvious. 6 players jostling for 2 positions in the starting XI, that’s what I mean about over-subscribed. On paper, you could argue that the players we have in the middle should be bossing this league. The fact is that they are not, be it through old age, lack of form, injury or being played out of position or any other reason for that matter, it’s no excuse for the tame midfield we seem to have at the minute.

One problem seems to be creativity through the middle, and for me the jury is still out as to what is causing this. I think a certain amount can be attributed to tactics or ‘playing it safe’. Players such as Smith and Butt are defensive minded players, specialising in breaking up play. That’s all well and good, and it’s a valuable asset which has no doubt contributed to our fine defensive record so far this season, but creating chances for strikers at the other end is equally as valuable.

On the subject of that, I bring you Kevin Nolan. It’s hard to work out his best position in my opinion. On one hand, he is still our leading scorer this season yet on the other, he doesn’t really seem to do much. Some willl say his best position is to play off the striker, kind of as an advanced midfielder, picking up on loose balls and knock downs and that is where he has done his best work so far this season. Playing deeper though, as a traditional central midfielder, doesn’t seem to suit Nolan. Lack of pace (I mean real pace as he can probably run faster than most of us) seems to hinder him in getting forward to support the strikers. Of course, pace is not a neccessity. Getting forward and timing runs is one way around this, as players such as Scholes demonstrate. Being in the right place at the right time can make a hell of a difference, like Joey Barton used to do whilst at Man City.

The enigma that is Joey Barton. The source of constant problems on and off the pitch, yet could he be the answer? It’s hard to tell and I’ve yet to see him really demonstrate the form that he had at Man City, although it probably hasn’t helped with him being played out of position on the left side of midfield. Technically, he is probably our best midfielder and has the ability to pull the strings going forward whilst also digging in defensively, which is the part that worries me! Always with Joey Barton, you’re waiting for him to do something silly. I remember being at Anfield last season, watching him coming on as a substitute and I just knew he was going to to something silly. I don’t know why I knew, I just did. Sure enough, a straight red card for a silly lunge on Xabi Alonso. Is it a risk worth taking?

The safer option could be Danny Guthrie. I feel a lot of sympathy for him as he has been played on the right side of midfield, a position he can play but not where he naturally should be. Hopefully the signing of Wayne Routledge will stop this happening and he can get some game time in the middle of the park. Undoubtedly he can strike a ball, his goals and assists this season have shown us that. He also has a lot of energy, something that I feel could come in handy in the latter part of the season.

Then there’s our highly rated young starlet, Haris Vuckic. Could he be the creative force we need? To my mind, central midfield is not his best position whereas playing as a withdrawn striker/advanced midfielder is. There is no doubt this guy has ability, but to reach his potential he needs game time. Is it too much of a risk trying to bed him in during what is a very important run in for The Toon? I mean, if your good enough, your old enough, right?

So, what’s the verdict?

For a central midfield pairing I’m still not sure! I’m very much a romantisict and like my good old fashioned 4-4-2. It’s what other teams in this league seem to play so why not match them? We should certainly avoid the Leicester situation again and I’ll go as far as to say Nicky Butt should just sit back and coach for the rest of the season! For mobility and chance creation I’d plump with Guthrie/Barton. I really think they would compliment each other. It’s hard to leave Alan Smith out as I think he has done sterling work this season, but sometimes more is needed than sliding in from 10 yards away, likewise with Nolan. Without his goals who knows where we would be in the league. Both the wide positions are sorted, and both offer a creative force. If we could sort out some chances through the middle then there is no doubt we would be very potent going forward.

Naturally, this is a ‘blog and it’s only my opinion! What do you guys and gals think the problem could be, and how do we get around it?

NUFCBlog Author: toonsy toonsy has written 643 articles on this blog.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts


35 Responses

  1. as you said its difficult to leave out smith and nolan simply due to the fact of where they have got us this season. however, teams seemed to have cottoned on to how we play, so maybe its time to try something different. barton is worth a shout when he comes back, even if its just to see how much he gives a crap about the team. guthrie definitely needs to be given a try in the middle. at times he’s been one of our best players this season and thats been out of position. i feel we just need to experiment with some different combinations just to see what works, as atm we seem to be relaxing into what we see as the norm. however, butt definitely just needs to be left out. i caught half an hour of the leicester game last week, and i didnt see butt make a single good pass, tackle, he’s simply useless.

  2. I’d be quite happy to leave Smith in the middle with either Barton or Guthrie. Like you say, it looks like we have pace and creativity on both wings and Smith could comfortably support a creative central midfielder.

    I also like the idea of a three mand midfield; Jonas, Smith and Routelidge and then playing Lovenkrands in the hole behind Ranger and Best/Carroll/Shola…..but that’s probably just me.

  3. I can just picture Batty noo, sleeping on a heavily stained mattress with his 8 kids and wife, six dogs, 4 cats and an aquarium thick of mildew, nee heating, nee carpets, dishes unwashed for a month, thick grease all over the chip pan on top of the gas hob, dirty clothes littered all over the house, a pony in the kitchen, a goat in the garden and a 52 inch coloured plasma tv!. A taxi everywhere paid by the government cos he has faked a disabled benefit cos he is depressed, net curtains, drinks day all day, smokes 100 tabs a day, kids get nowt, top of the range phone, jumps the NHS queue, free bus and rail passes, never worked but can tell a tale about how he got injured on a building site aged 21 and hurt his back, wife is fat, eats a daily diet of fish and chips, cakes, and out with E ingredients, kids fed on monster munch sandwiches, goes to the toilet once per month and strains so hard it produces more piles, walks around the house all day in his boxer shorts he has had on for a week, nee top on, farts in front of the kids and wife, has a competition who can do it the loudest, votes labour cos his dad did, the kids can’t see their 52 inch plasma cos batty is smoking his rollies one after the other and causing a smoke mist, never takes the dogs oot for a walk but opens the door so they can crap on next doors garden, never picks it up, never washes his hands after going to the toilet, loves the soaps and jeremy kyle and aspires to be on there one day, knocks off the next door neighbour when mrs batty is oot shopping at netto.
    Wears his silver 1980’s Chris Waddle strip for best when he ventures doon the dole office, plays on the play station til 4am each morning then lies in til midday, has a pastie for brekkie and watches jeremy kyle on sky plus.

    But saying all that, he has a good sense of humour and out of everyone on here, only stardust and batty would be interesting craic!!

    Give mrs Batty my love.

    Troy I mean Booby!

  4. Davies

    That’s exactly the setup I would go for. It’s got to be either that of 442 using two wingers. I’m sure if we are playing teams and going all out attack, what you said would look great. We proved we could do it 2 years ago, but perhaps the players were better then. But if we don’t try, we will never know. Should have done that in the last game

  5. I know CH prefers 4-4-2 with wingers and then reverting to a 4-4-1-1 away from home.

    But i would love to see us play a 4-3-1-2 formation.

    This seems, to me at least to play to our strengths.

    The back 4 as normal, with a 3 man midfield from Smith / Barton / Nolan / Guthrie. Allowing at least one of the midfielders to break forward and support the front men, leaving Smith and possibley another holding back.

    This formation also allows for Jonas to play behind the strikers causing havoc (and lets be honest crossing is not his strongest point).

    Then two strikers from the 5 we have to choose from!

    Just thinking outside the 4-4-2 box!

  6. What we really need is an attacking coach in the staff. I remember when Nolan was at bolton, on the break he was very good and with the two wingers we have now in Routledge and Jonas we should be causing Championship teams far more problems in our general attack and more specifically on the counter. Instead in the final third we seem to get lost and lack cutting edge.

    CH is a very good defensive coach don’t get me wrong but is very lacking in attacking knowledge.

  7. joey barton started that game against liverpool, was one of our better players infact, that wasnt reported…

  8. I know everyone is on a downer about Barton, but on ability alone he would rip this league apart. Shame his attitude stinks. A central pairing of Barton and Nolan would be unbeatable.

  9. Smith has no place in the team at home IMO.

    Smith plays as a 3rd centre half and we just don’t need that at home.

    Guthrie has a good engine so I think he should play with Nolan and they could attack and be a shield to the back four when we don’t have the ball.

    I think we might get a 3-0 win tonight – Is that too optimistic?

  10. Hows about a 4-1-3-2 formation with Smith in a sweeper role. Pity we culdn’t find a new Beckenbaur or Bobby Moore to play in this role. Unless Vukic, McDermot or Ferguson (for example) were tried out in this role, at least they would have the legs to do it.

  11. butt would be ok in M/F,if he went back to the old fashioned way of playing,like passing to a teamate.dick

  12. Guthrie can do what Smith does, and also provide better offensive passing. Sitting Barton, Lovenkrands, Nolan if front of him would allow a better attacking look, without taking too much from the defence. Routledge and Jonas need to play and produce ‘can’t miss” crosses. Up front, I’m still not a Stoller Ameobi fan, eventhough he’s scored goals – have you seen him try to defend at corners ? Maybe we plump for the 4-2-3-1 Liverpool formation, with just two holding players and 4 attacking options ! Just a thought !

  13. What do you mean icedog? Butt does pass to a team mate! Just a pitty they are on the bench…

  14. Mick – Aye he did start, your right. He may well have been our best player on the day (I never said he wasn’t) but you still always live on a knife edge with him.

  15. Newcastle Dream Team found in Himalayas!!

    I have just heard breaking news that clones of all of the greatest ever footballers that have ever played for the Toon have been found in cyrogenic storage in a remote part of the Himalayan mountains. It would appear that they were created by Toon loving aliens to be revived when prophecies relating to a worthy Owner and Manager were bought together to lead the team into a great new era.
    Further news has gone on to say that the alien leader consequently said “bugger it, put them back to sleep again”

  16. How much would you bet that Roy Keane will sign him for Ipswich over the summer when his contract expires? Thats if Keane isn’t sacked by then…

  17. Yes it seems to be a broblem area and as you say Nolan plays best behind the striker as he has`nt the pace to be a fetch and carry old style inside forward.
    Although Smith does have pace and has shown a degree of restraint (not so many yellow cards)playing the defensive midfield role, he just does`nt have the overall capability to provide the killer pass and boss the side and we know his record as a goalscorer.
    Joey, well been so long since we saw him in action, who knows ?
    What we do know is he has the ability to provide both a defensive and attacking role, playmaker ? hmmm! remains to be seen, but he like Nolan has the ability to score.
    What we do have are wingers with Routledge (has pace and good skills) last chance to prove himself.
    Jonas, an enigma (yes he plays for Argentina) has pace and tracks back, can play either wing, but has to prove he has a finish ability, either the cross or occasional goal.
    Lovenkrands, pacey can play up front or wing, can score, has the occasional game where he dissapears, but a valuable player on any team.
    Guthrie, no thanks !
    R.Taylor, ditto.
    Pancreas, ditto.
    Not going to comment on Butt who appears to be about to retire, who imo did`nt deserve the bad press he got in these blogs.
    What we need in mid field are two inside players, someone who has pace and power, with the ability to put his foot in and boss the side, complimented by an attacking playmaker who can also put the ball in the net.

  18. I think it should be Smith and Guthrie. Smith anchors the midfield well and Guthrie can pick out the killer pass. Although someone does need to tell him to stop doing those flashy turns and pass the god dam ball when the pass is first on.

    When Barton returns it will be a big boost. When he gets a few games under his belt (and only when) he is the best centre midfielder in our squad by a long way.

    Bartorn can anchor the midfield, as well as attack, so can play with nolan or Smith, but i would like to see somebody anchor the midfield with Smith and just release him, which for some reason didnt happen against Leicster.

    Why cant we play Smith just of the striker? He doesnt tackle or read the game well, hes good at DM because of his commitment and aggression. He made his name as a striker and earned a contract at Man Utd with playing in that position so he should shine there in the championship. Previous times hes been up front for us he was either the lone striker or used as the “big man” which isnt his game.

  19. A man escapes from prison where he has been for 15 years. He breaks into a house to look for money and guns and finds a young couple in bed.

    He orders the guy out of bed and ties him to a chair, while tying the girl to the bed he gets on top of her, kisses her neck, then gets up and goes into the bathroom. While he’s in there, the husband tells his wife:

    “Listen, this guy’s an escaped convict, look at his clothes! He probably spent lots of time in jail and hasn’t seen a woman in years. I saw how he kissed your neck.” If he wants sex, don’t resist, don’t complain, do whatever he tells you. Satisfy him no matter how much he nauseates you. This guy is probably very dangerous. If he gets angry, he’ll kill us. Be strong, honey. I love you.”

    To which his wife responds: “He wasn’t kissing my neck. He wwas whispering in my ear. He told me he was gay, thought you were cute, and asked me if we had any vaseline. I told him it was in the bathroom. Be strong honey. I love you too!!”

  20. Toonsy, got to say, great article which asks the biggest unanswered question about our team but if Hughton read it, would he take any notice? no chance.
    Saw a quote from him today where he says he would like to play better but not at the expense of giving the midfield up, all well and good but the same defensive set up was run off their feet against ten men last week, this is his mind set and it wont change.
    We can all see that there needs to be more energy and creativity in the middle of the park but he cant and wont see it, he has his senior men, he will stick with them and the team will suffer because of it.

  21. BBB – I don’t think it would even take a new signing to change our approach, we have the right players but it’s just a matter of finding a balance between going forward and staying safe at the back.

  22. See the gutter press have had their pound of flesh and Terry has lost the armband, buoyed by that im sure they will carry on with a passion until the whole squad is purged of sinners, problem is, will there be anyone left to go to the World Cup?
    Ferdinand new captain, FFS, what a laugh.

  23. DANNY GUTHRIE IS WACK!

    HE HOLDS ON TO THE BALL TOO LONG

    HE TRIES TO LOOK GOOD FLAILING HIS ARMS AND DOING UNNECESSARY TURNS WITH THE BALL WHEN A PASS IS ON RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.

    OUR ATTACKS/COUTER ATTACKS GRIND TO A SCREECHING HALT WHEN GUTHRIE GETS THE BALL, HE HAS TO DO SOMETHING WITH IT SO HE LOOKS GOOD(he loves those pointless turns).

    HE IS SO FRUSTRATING, A SIMPLE FORWARD PASS IS ON RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM, THE PLAYER IS OPEN, AND HE DOES A STUPID TURN BACKWARDS TO FACE OUR GOAL, AND THEN HE TURNS AGAIN WITH THE BALL TO FACE THE PLAYER WHO WAS OPEN AND COULD HAVE PASSED TO, ONLY TO FIND THEM BEING CLOSED DOWN AND THE PASSING OPTION GONE. HE DOES THIS EVERY FREAKING GAME!!!

    DID I MENTION HE KEEPS ON GIVING AWAY POSSESSION OF THE FOOTBALL LIKE IT’S HIS JOB RECENTLY. VERY UNLIKE LADS SCHOOLED AT LIVERPOOL FC, AS KEEGAN WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE.

    HE THINKS HE’S BETTER THAN HE IS

    EVERYONE PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION TO DANNY GUTHRIE’S GAME NEXT TIME YOU’RE AT SJP OR NUFC ARE ON THE TV. HE REALLY IS NOT AS GOOD AS MANY PEOPLE OR HE HIMSELF THINKS HE IS.

  24. All I can say to those who think either Guthrie or R. Taylor deserve to play in the PL or that Hughton only knows about the defensive side of football and is clueless about the attacking side or that Nicky Butt is a bad player (may have lost a step)
    Perhaps you would be better off watching lawn bowling, it`s much simpler and easier to understand.

Leave a reply