Newcastle United: Complete Guide for the 2012-13 Premier League Season
After a short absence, Premier League football is almost back.
On August 18th, the most highly-anticipated Newcastle United season in a while will commence, and fans have every reason to be excited.
Following their fifth-place finish last season, the Toon will be looking to go one step further and qualify for the Champions League in 2012-13.
Over the next few slides, I'm going to take you through all you need to know as we head into what should be another great season for the Magpies.
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Premier League: 5th (Europa League qualification)
FA Cup: Fourth Round
League Cup: Fourth Round
Despite their typically poor performance in both cup competitions, last season was a fantastic one for Newcastle.
After a mass exodus in the summer, including the departures of Jose Enrique, Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan, fans were seriously worried heading into the season.
Add to that the fact that star striker Andy Carroll had left the club only a few months ago, and there was definitely some cause for concern at St. James's Park.
But, much to the surprise of everyone in football, the little-known replacements Newcastle signed for the players on the way out were not only as good as, but better than their predecessors.
The "French revolution" ensued on Tyneside, as French-speaking players such as Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba got Newcastle off to an unbelievable start in the league, with Newcastle sitting in the top four for most of the early months.
The Toon slowed down a bit in January—mainly due to the African Cup of Nations—but then Papiss Cisse came along, and Newcastle were back on track.
Newcastle's run for Champions League qualification fell agonizingly short, but getting into Europe at all after the low expectations they had was still a great achievement.
(Credit: Newcastle United)
If you've been paying attention to Newcastle this summer, you have seen them be very active in pursuing a number of players over the last few months.
But despite this, Newcastle have to this point only brought in three new faces, none of whom are particularly big names.
Yet another French player that Alan Pardew has brought in, Romain Amalfitano is the most likely of Newcastle's new signings to get a shot at first-team football.
Amalfitano is an attacking midfielder who spent last season playing for Reims in Ligue 2. Upon the expiry of his contract, Newcastle were quick to pick him up, and based on Graham Carr's scouting history, that probably means there's something there talent-wise.
With Danny Guthrie on the way out, Amalfitano will have the opportunity to earn the backup central midfield role, which will be very important when Cheik Tiote leaves in January to compete in the African Cup of Nations.
Burundian midfielder Gael Bigirimana burst onto the scene with Coventry last season, but at only 18 it's unlikely he'll have the same opportunities at Newcastle.
In his debut season, he won the Championship's Apprentice of the Year award, as he made 26 first-team appearances for Coventry.
At this point, Bigirimana is more of a raw talent, whose physical attributes could really come to fore once he refines his game.
As a defensive midfielder, Bigirimana will have a chance to learn behind one of the best in Cheik Tiote, and if Tiote is eventually sold some time in the future, he looks like a potential replacement.
The last of Newcastle's three signings is yet another young player, this time Australian centre-back Curtis Good.
Newcastle had had their eyes on the defender for a while after an impressive season for he Melbourne Heart, and made the decision to sign him after a successful trial around a month ago.
Good has already represented his nation at under-20 level, and looks to have a promising career. That said, we shouldn't see too much of him this coming season.
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Though they haven't brought in anyone who is going to make a particularly big impact just yet, Newcastle already have their key players in place.
These are the players who got Newcastle to the heights of the top five last season, and if they're to have repeat success, it will come down to these key players once again.
Fabricio Coloccini (C)
After not quite living up to expectations in his first few seasons with the club, once given the captain's armband, Fabricio Coloccini finally became the player Newcastle needed at the back.
His play the season before had been very good, but in 2011-12 he took it to another level, establishing himself as one of the very best centre-backs in the country.
This year, he should once again anchor a quality defence, despite the younger and less experienced players around him.
Due to injury and international duty, Cheik Tiote only managed to play 24 games for the Magpies last season. But if he can stay on the pitch for longer in 2012-13, Newcastle will be much better off.
Tiote does it all with his passing and infectious defensive effort, and is the definition of a holding midfielder.
Don't be surprised if Tiote makes the PFA Team of the Year on the strength of his performances this coming season
Alongside Cheik Tiote in the centre of midfield is Yohan Cabaye, who is responsible for setting up Newcastle's explosive attacking trio of Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.
Cabaye will continue to instigate a strong Newcastle attack, and his presence will help to make Shola Ameobi's job a lot easier if Ba and Cisse are forced to leave for the African Cup of Nations.
Back from Injury
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Injuries definitely hit Newcastle last season, but thankfully that wasn't enough to completely derail the season.
With no notable new signings, Newcastle will be reliant on a boost from the following three players upon their return to health next season.
Newcastle's defence was the best in the league until around the time Steven Taylor went down with injury, so it's plain to see just how important he is to the unit.
Mike Williamson did an admirable job covering for the Geordie, but Taylor is still the superior player, and it will show when he returns to the starting lineup.
Sylvain Marveaux's groin injury stopped him from having any real playing time last season, so his return will really be like a new signing for the Magpies.
So far, the Frenchman has impressed in preseason, and if he can keep up this form, he may just unseat Jonas Gutierrez as the starter in left midfield.
Young Sammy Ameobi—brother of Shola—finally broke into the first-team last season, only to have his impressive start cut short by injury.
This year, Ameobi should play a big role off the bench. Starting in Newcastle's Europa League, he looks to develop into one of Newcastle's more important first-team players.
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Opening Match - Spurs - August 18th (H)
The Magpies will open the season at home against Spurs, a very important fixture considering that they are Newcastle's primary rival in trying to get back into the Europa League.
Tyne-Wear Derby - Sunderland - October 21st (A) and April 13th (H)
The Tyne-Wear derby is one of football's most hotly-contested affairs, and we'll get our usual double dose of action in October and April.
Following Christmas Day, Newcastle will take on Manchester United (away), Arsenal (away) and Everton (home) in the space of only six days. This should be the toughest three-game stretch of the season.
Final Match - Arsenal - May 19th (H)
Newcastle's final match of the season could well be the difference between qualifying for Europe and not, especially considering that the opposition are a team that shouldn't be more than two league places separated from the Magpies at season's end.
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Premier League: 5th
FA Cup: Fourth Round
League Cup: Quarter-Finals
Europa League: Quarter-Finals
Having not acquired too much quality depth in the transfer window, Newcastle will struggle to balance their domestic play and the Europa League, which will seriously hamper their chances of making the top four.
With Chelsea improving, Arsenal keeping Robin van Persie (for now) and the two Manchester clubs remaining dominant, it's hard to see Newcastle cracking the top four, which will leave them racing for fifth along with Spurs and Liverpool.
Newcastle will rightly make the league their priority, letting their younger talent play it out in the Europa League, and this will allow them to retain their top-five position from last season.
The younger squad, filled with impressive players such as Haris Vuckic and Sammy Ameobi, should have quite a bit of success both in Europe and the League Cup, especially if they are joined with a few of the big-name veteran players.
Of course, with Newcastle, you can never bet on them doing too much in any knockout competition, so making the quarterfinals in two will be perfectly fine.
All in all, it should be another exciting season from Newcastle, but though they'll target the Champions League, they will likely fall just short.