Have Newcastle’s squad players improved?

Posted on January 27th, 2011 | 16 Comments |

Danny Guthrie, Newcastle United
Squad players take the strain
Over the last few games Newcastle have had to operate without a few of their regular first team players. Namely: Andy Carroll, Cheick Tiote and Steven Taylor – either because of injury or suspension – and there have also been scares about losing Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi.

In the meantime, the squad players that have come in have covered manfully with players like Leon Best, Perter Lovenkrands, James Perch, Nile Ranger and Danny Guthrie.

Not so long ago, we were saying: ‘We’ve got no strength in depth‘, ‘The squad ain’t big enough‘, ‘We won’t cope in this league‘. Some may still feel that that’s the case.

So, I’m asking: Has our ‘squad’ improved?

It seems that Danny Guthrie, after a poor showing last time out, has pulled his game around, delivering a perfect cross for Coloccini to fire home v Spurs. James Perch put in a decent shift. Peter Lovenkrands came on and, but for a desperate lunge by the Spurs defender, could’ve put us two up in the same game.

Nile Ranger is showing some good skill and determination to get at teams and was desperately unlucky not to score; maybe he could’ve squared it to Lovenkrands, but hey, he’s getting there.

It’s starting to look as though some of the squad players are starting to get with the program and find their ‘Premier league’ feet. Some of them have time on their side in as far as they are young lads getting their first taste of Premier League football – it’s a big step up from the Championship. It’s gonna take time, but with some decent encouragement and game minutes maybe they can make the grade.

So after a few dodgy moments I’m beginning to have a bit of faith in our young squad. Do you feel that they’re gelling and that the team is becoming interchangeable and a level of consistency is creeping into our game, slowly but surely?

Yes, it’s always good when you can put out your best 11, especially for the big games. But can we now rely on whomever comes in as cover when the inevitable injuries and suspensions happen?

The main thing being that, even without some of our ‘big’ players recently, the lads have pulled together and showed some Premiership level resiliance. Something most of us would have not thought possible not so long ago.

Cheick Tiote still has a game left of his ban and Andy Carroll may or may not be back for the Fulham game, that gives a bit more time for the squad to make its mark. They are big boots to fill right now, but if the team goes about it like the S’land and Spurs games, they should do alright and give Alan Pardew something to think about.

If they can rise to the challenge, it could allow a bit of squad rotation when necessary. What’s more, it could help us, the fans, feel slightly more relaxed when faced with the prospect of some of our first team out.

NUFCBlog Author: CLiNT FLiCK Cut me in half & it'll say Newcastle United F.C. just like a stick of Black 'n' White rock! CLiNT FLiCK has written 42 articles on this blog.

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16 Responses

  1. I think of the squad players that have played the last few games Best has improved he was unlucky against Spurs not to score when the ball bounced down after hitting the crossbar , it could have crossed the line with a bit more luck . His hold up play is decent from what i have seen and imo is looking better than Ameobi and against WestHam he proved he can score . Guthrie is a decent young player that needs games in his natural position to improve and i think is going to become a very good squad player in years to come , he is already a better alternative than Smudger .

  2. Yep, I agree totally. We’ve done far better than I’d dare hope, and it’s been wonderful to see players showing their worth – especially after the slatings some of them have had on here. Guthrie springs to mind.

    I think a lot of credit has to go to AP and the coaching staff for getting the mentality right for this, and no doubt CH had a lot to do with laying the foundations for that.

    One more point: I personally enjoy this approach far more than the ‘buy it in’ approach of the past. I’d much rather see who comes good out of the likes of Vukic, Gosling and Guthrie than just splurge £20m on a known entity.

  3. One of the things that AP has done to help the squad players is to let Enrique and Colo come forward to attack deep. Enrique and Simpson both put in good crosses, which helps Shola and Best. This style of attack capitalizes on these defenders class, and allows the squad members to concentrate on their defense. The score sheets confirm this has worked so far.

    I’m happy to see Guthrie find his range on the pitch, and Perch seems a little better not having a big load dropped on him. Ranger is still only 19, so anything NUFC gets from him is a bonus. Loven needs to be there and get lucky which could happen at any time. All that is missing is a way to rate Xisco.

  4. I’ve been very interested to see young Ferguson do well. He’s only had a couple of appearances, but looked really excellent, including when up against some world-class players.

  5. BeeGuy – nice analysis; hadn’t thought of it like that but it makes sense. So far, AP’s style looks good to me. Just very worried about him letting Routledge go without a replacement – it doesn’t exactly breed confidence.

  6. Felt very sorry for the abuse that Guthrie was taking from bloggers on these forums. He didn’t play well when he first came back but that was the point – he was just back after a long time out. He was needing patience and support from supporters so that he could settle into his game. Unfortunately too many have short memories and have forgotten what he did for our club last season when he was such a valuable player in our promotion season. It was so easy to ignore his time out and after an admittedly poor performance on his return resort to “can’t hack it in the premier” idea. He is a talented midfielder with a good eye for a pass but like all our players will improve with support rather than jibes. Oh – and that goes for Best, Simpson, Krul, Lovenkrands and Gutti too who have all been the target of over the top criticism at times. Perch I feel still has a role to play but maybe not at right (or left) back. As for Shola – ah well, he never seems to be aware of the critics anyway so carry on…. :-)

  7. Tony – good summary of Shola!

    Let’s face it, of the also-rans, Shola’s the only one anything like finding the target at the moment, and even he’s not exactly prolific. But I think that’s only temporary; I’m really hoping Best keeps improving, Lover re-discovers his accuracy and Ranger makes the mental jump needed to do what he does for the Ressies on the bigger stage.

    Most of all, I’m hoping we don’t need another striker come the summer and that what we have is enough to go for a European slot next season.

  8. Some good perspectives. I tend to think probably yes…but we’re still a body or two short, of the calibre of our 1st team, if that’s not a contradiction!

    I think we’ve all agreed when Guthrie first came back, he looked out of his depth, but he has definately showed us in the last couple of games that he has regained his form/match sharpness, and could still go on to be the player we’ve all hoped he could. Williamson, for the most part has also slotted back in, having lost 1st choice to Taylor a while ago.

    I still think, with circumstances as they are, and a big drop back if we do screw this up now, that we are still, squad players or not, a little bit too light in bodies. If, in this window, there aren’t many players available of that quality, then we’ve got no choice but to stick.

    I would try to bring a couple of loans in as INSURANCE. Should be ok doesn’t cut it…give the squad lads a chance all well and good, but with just less than half the season to go, a few bad results, etc, it could all go t*ts up still. There’s no safety net other than the Championship…

  9. Forget Ireland and get this boy signed up. Yohandry Orozco, his name trips off the tongue ?

    There’s only one Yohandry Orozco :)

  10. But to be serious for one minute, this squad has done well this season having previously swept all before during the run out in the CCC.

    However if you think 9th is safe you only have to look at the bottom three to realise we’re three defeats away from bottom place or Wet Spam are three wins away from 9th.

    As I said before 40 points wont guarantee safety this season and if Carroll’s likely to be out for longer than these next two games then Fat Man has to dig deep and bring in another quality forward. Shola will always be useful to have on the bench but Lovenkrands and Best are not fit for purpose I’m afraid even for the next ten or so games.

    Apart from LB where we’re still short of cover (although I like the boy Ferguson and would prefer to see him deputise Jose rather than Perch who flounders (geddit) at left anything) the right wide midfield position is the only other area we’re lacking in quality.

    It’s less of a problem providing JB stays fit but longer term however we need to bring in another HBA for the right and free up JB for a central role or switch Jonas and see how he adapts to the position which earned him rave reviews on his debut against the Mancs all those years ago.

    So overall a thumbs up but it’s goals that will keep us up this season.

  11. Guthrie had a ‘poor showing’ because it was his first game in ages. He was key last season, but just cos he cant get in the team now doesnt mean hes rubbish. Also, Ryan Taylor was never given a chance to show what he could do, James Perch and Alan Smith somehow always picked ahead of him.

  12. AndyMac: Like you I’d like to see more of Fergie, if worst came to the worst, as I think if owt happened to Enrique, then most of our alternatives are going to fall well short of the Bull’s level anyway. May as well be Fergie as Perch for me.

    Tom: Raylor has his critics on here, but I agree mate, he’s had practically zero opportunities this season. I think he’s a useful player, but more r/flank than r/back. He’s out for the rest of the season, though, isn’t he…

  13. I always thought guthrie was a good player.it’s just that he will take time to develop.i doubt he’ll reach someone like tiote’s level but i see him,gosling,tiote and barton leading our team in the middle of the park in the future.
    from what i’ve seen nile ranger is capable of i think he will either be good or end up like shola.again with time i hope nile ranger can become a real goal threat.
    as for the others mentioned here i only see them at best being mediocre even by championship standards.
    maybe if our club continues to build on wisely from this season onwards we should have a good squad with a core made of world class players and the rest who would easily make the grade in any country’s premier division.

  14. Yes, some have improved, Simpson has IMO done more than most to improve his game, has become a more coplete player by introducing an attacking role to his game.
    Unfortunately Williamson`s distribution and frequent poor positional play needs work but he has the making of a decent CD.
    The fine distinction between a PL and a second tier player, is for the most part consistency, which was probably the reason Routledge was shipped out.
    Yes Guthrie`s pass was responsible for Colo`s goal, but like Routledge he shows the occasional flash of brilliance followed by poor decisions and a very average game.
    R.Taylor is`nt good enough for this division.
    Perch, again has had decent games but the same lack of cosistency plagues him, but because of his his pace and versatility, is worth keeping.
    Lovenkrands is getting long in the tooth, but has filled both the striker and winger roles, playing OK but would`nt be missed.
    Shola has the same effect on certain fans as Berbatov, seems to be only coasting along (it`s just the way he moves)but can come up with that critical goal.
    Best works hard and he`s better than given credit for, would like to see him get more games.
    Young Ranger`s been looking dangerous when he gets a late opportunity and could be a big player for the future, could see a decent combination up front of he and Carroll.
    Have`nt seen enough of the youngsters so no point in guessing, but from reports we have some prospects, who IMO should be loaned out to clubs in lower divisions, for experience.
    I probably missed someone, but those not mentioned are IMO pretty solid PL quality and i feel many have also improved their game over the last couple of years.
    Whether that`s down to Hughton or not is probably debateable.

  15. One player i forgot, Tiote !
    He has obviously pleased the fans with his hits on the opposition and ball winning abilities.
    However there`s a lot of room for improvement, possibly the reason he came relativly cheap.
    By that i mean he has to be able to distibute the ball after winning it, not the short quick pass to the nearest team-mate (seems he`s afraid to hang onto the ball)but look around and try to be a bit more selective
    That and when tackling, hey you dont have to put everyone into the stands, lighten up on the hit`s, again be more selective, that or your card collection along with reputation will suffer, and so will the team with you watching in the stands.

  16. All in all we are all sounding fairly satisfied.I never thought I’d hear myself saying that.We seem to have a good foundation to build on.Lets hope nobody comes along to spoil it all.No more Stevenages or player tantrums please.