Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Newcastle United's 2012-13 Season

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIAugust 15, 2012

Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Newcastle United's 2012-13 Season

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    Newcastle equaled their best English Premier League finish since the 2003-04 season in their previous campaign, and the Magpies will look to crack the top four this season.

    Alan Pardew was a success in his first full season as the team's manager, and supporters will certainly be optimistic about his future with the club.

    Newcastle have a proud history, but have fallen on tough times in recent seasons. This past year featured several encouraging signs and I will analyze whether or not certain positive trends will continue in their upcoming campaign. 

    Here is a full preview of the team's 2012-13 season. 

Transfers In, Transfers out

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    Transfers In Transfer Out
    Curtis Good Leon Best
    Gael Bigirimana Fraser Forster
    Romain Amalfitano Danny Guthrie
      Peter Lovenkrands
      Alan Smith
      Ryan Donaldson 
      Tamas Kadar

     

    Key Additions

    Romain Amalfitano

    Amalfitano is the latest French-speaking player to join Newcastle and he will help give the squad depth as they take on more matches due to their Europa League qualification.

    The 22-year-old is an attacking midfielder who will be an excellent addition to the team.

     

    Curtis Good

    Alan Pardew was not in a buying mood this summer. The players he did target and bring to Newcastle are young, talented and were bought for low prices.

    Good moved from Australia to England for £400,000. The 19-year-old center-back has a bright future ahead of him, although he may not get a chance to feature in the the first team just yet. 

     

    Key Departures

    Leon Best

    Best started 16 matches for Newcastle this past season and did not poorly. He was not a standout, but still managed four goals and two assists. 

    However, Papiss Demba Cisse arrived midseason from SC Freiburg and was simply spectacular. This made Best expendable, and Pardew made a wise decision to sell him for £3 million to Blackburn, who suffered an unfortunate stroke of luck when the Irishman suffered a serious injury in a preseason match.

     

    Danny Guthrie

    Guthrie played an important role in the center of the pitch while Newcastle spent a season in the Championship. He scored four goals and notched 12 assists during that 2009-10 campaign.

    But the 25-year-old has failed to establish himself as anything more than a utility player in the past couple seasons, and his absence will not have any effect on the side. This season's Newcastle squad will be nearly identical to last year's team. 

Biggest Matches and Full Schedule

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    The full Newcastle schedule can be found via the team's website. Here are the must-see matches.

     

    Vs. Tottenham, Saturday, August 18

    The Magpies started last season by winning seven of its first 11 matches and drawing the other four.

    In order to get off to a similar start this season, it will have to pull off positive results against Tottenham in the first match, then Chelsea in the second contest.

    Spurs will be desperately trying to defend its place in the top four this season, while Newcastle will be eying a coveted Champions League qualification spot. Both sides are capable of finishing fourth, and this match will show which team is ready to fight for it from start to finish.

     

    At Sunderland, Sunday, October 21

    The Tyne-Wear derby will certainly provide a heated battle between two sides that are not particularly fond of one another.

    Last season, the Magpies started the season off well by taking down its rivals in the second match of the season, but only managed a draw in the second leg of the derby.

    Rivalry matches such as this one are always intense and often unpredictable. These two sides are sure to produce an intriguing game.

     

    Vs. Liverpool, Saturday, April 27

    Liverpool and Newcastle were two sides on the outside looking in at the top teams in the Premiership last season, and they will hope to reverse their role this year.

    By this point in the season, both will hope to already hold a top-four position or be within striking distance of one of the top spots. In either scenario, a strong finish will be extremely important.

    This is the last match in April for the Magpies and earning points here will set the team up to be in fine form during the final month of the season. 

Key Players

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    Papiss Demba Cissé

    Alan Pardew bought Cisse during the January transfer window and it turned out better than anyone could possibly have imagined.

    The 27-year-old had nine goals in 17 Bundesliga appearances for SC Freiburg, but he went on a goal-scoring tear once he arrived on Tyneside. Cissé hit the back of the net 13 times in 14 appearances.

    He is a premier poacher and truly lethal in around the goal. His confidence built steadily throughout the second half of the season, reaching a climax in a May 2 match against Chelsea, where he led the Magpies to a 2-0 victory at Stamford and scored the goal of the season.

     

    Demba Ba

    While Cissé's torrid goal-scoring pace was remarkable, Ba still finished the season as the team's leading scorer, albeit with far more games that his striking partner to reach his total. 

    Ba notched 16 goals last season. He is a capable center-forward who is also versatile enough to slide over and play on the wing.

    With Cissé sure to draw a significant amount of attention, Ba will have space and is a safe bet to score double-digit goals again this season. 

     

    Yohan Cabaye

    Cabaye had a stellar season in the middle of the pitch for the Magpies. He was an important defensive presence while also making a significant contribution to the attack.

    The 26-year-old scored four goals and dished out six assists in 34 Premier League appearances. Defensively, he contributed 3.4 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per match, according to Whoscored.com.

    He is a talented player who consistently gives high-level performances. His role in aiding both the defense and the attack makes him a vital player to the squad. 

Strengths

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    Individual Skill Up Front

    Between Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cissé and Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle is loaded with talent on their attacking line.

    Cissé give defenses nightmares when he sits on the center-backs and causes opposing supporters to hold their breath every time he touches the ball in the penalty area.

    Ba is also a lethal goal scorer when he hangs around the goal, but is also dangerous when he is further out toward the touchline. 

    Lastly, Ben Arfa is a true winger who is equally effective as a scorer and a distributor, scoring five goals and recording five assists last season. He will be counted on to improve on those numbers and if he does, Newcastle's attack will be extremely potent. 

     

    Tackling in the Center of the Pitch

    Attacking up the middle is a difficult task against the Magpies, as all three of the players they use as center midfielders are excellent tacklers.

    Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tioté are the primary central midfielders, while Jonás Gutiérrez is sometimes called up to slide over from the left side.

    Cabaye's 3.4 tackles per match and Tioté's average of 2.8 ranks both players in the top 20 among Premier League players in that category, according to Whoscored.com. Gutiérrez's defensive skills are strong enough that he is occasionally tasked with playing outside back.

    All three of these players are staunchly committed to winning balls in the center of the pitch, and this gives Newcastle an advantage over teams that rely on keeping possession in the midfield. 

Weaknesses

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    Defensive Depth

    Depth all over the pitch will be important to Newcastle this season as they must manage to stay fresh through their domestic and European schedules. The area with the most glaring lack of options is along the back line.

    Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor are a reliable pair of center-backs, but both must stay healthy. 

    Davide Santon shows plenty of promise and Danny Simpson is serviceable on the other side, but the team's reserves are often inconsistent. Other than these players, the team is dangerously thin at the back. 

    If Alan Pardew's top choices in the back are not available due to injury or fatigue, the Magpies will struggle to get positive results.

     

    Creating Scoring Opportunities

    Newcastle's strikers are remarkably efficient finishers, and the team would score more goals if it could only give these players more opportunities. 

    The team's 12.9 shots on goal ranked 14th in the Premier League. However, the team scored the sixth-most goals of any EPL team.

    The Magpies often struggle to keep possession, keeping the ball an average of just 46.8 percent of the time last season, which ranked 12th in the league.

    The team wins the ball often enough, but needs to do a better job once they get it. They only completed 76.7 percent of their passes and need to do better than that. With the talent they have up front, they must create more opportunities than they did last season.  

    Notes: all stats courtesy of Whoscored.com.

Prediction for 2012-13

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    Wins: 18

    Draws: 13

    Losses: 7

    Points: 67

    Place: 5th

     

    Newcastle will be strong again this season, but still will not be able to crack the top four.

    Starting the season with Papiss Demba Cissé will be a boost to the team's attack, but defenses will be more prepared for him as well.

    Alan Pardew knows how to get this team to start fast, but he must avoid a midseason lull and keep his team fit and composed through both English and European competitions.

    This will be a challenging season for the Magpies, and they will have more successes than failures. Ultimately, the team will not have enough depth to get the points necessary to improve its place from last season.