Newcastle's Transfer Signings Shine as Magpies' EPL Survival Plan Begins
The win now sees the Magpies a full win outside the drop zone now whilst the loss sees the Villans drop back inside the league's bottom three.
Yet it wasn't just the fact that the Magpies won this match against a relegation rival that was most telling from the win; it was the manner in which Alan Pardew's side moved the ball in the first half with such ease and then defended for dear life in the second.
And it was many of their latest recruits from the winter transfer window that were instrumental in achieving both of those things throughout the match.
Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy all started for Newcastle, as the Magpies looked to win the game that nobody wanted to lose. Both they and Villa knew the significance of the three points heading into this one, and both knew too well the impacts of losing this match also.
The opening ten minutes were a perfect example of why Pardew brought in the three players, for all had started brilliantly for the Magpies.
They were moving the ball from side to side with ease—whipping the ball in from the right with ease for the likes of Papiss Cisse in the middle.
It took just 19 minutes for Newcastle's signings to make their mark on the scoreboard, with Sissoko slicing open the Villa backline with a slick ball to Cisse. The January transfer signing from last season beat Braz Guzan with ease and the Magpies were, deservedly, in front.
Frenchman Yohan Cabaye would double that lead on the half hour mark with a blistering volley to the top left corner—a result of the continued pressure that Newcastle were piling on Aston Villa through the middle of the field.
Villa were threatening on the counterattack, with Charles N'Zogbia rattling the post on his thundering volley, but they were not as potent as their opponents.
They were looking less skilled, less involved, less creative and less dominant right across the park, and Newcastle took a deserved 2-0 lead at the interval.
The attacking side of their three signings had come to the fore brilliantly, and Newcastle had yielded the rewards because of it. Debuchy was flying up the right, Sissoko controlling the middle and Gouffran finding his feet in the Magpies' attack—all to great effect for Alan Pardew.
Yet, like always for Newcastle this season, they would face a harsh test throughout the second half as Paul Lambert's men would play with a desperation not seen from them this season. From the opening whistle, Villa were on the attack—pressing the Magpies—and very nearly found a goal through Andreas Weimann in the first minute back after half time.
Were it not for a great save from Tim Krul, Weimann would have found the back of the net, but Villa would go one better just moments later in attack.
Debuchy would concede a soft but fair penalty on Agboniahor in just the 49th minute, and Belgian star Christian Benteke would capitalize from the spot.
Suddenly, all of Newcastle's first hand dominance and control would seem up in the air, with the desperate Villans perhaps playing for their future in the Premier League, as well as Paul Lambert's future at Villa Park.
And whilst they would huff and puff all throughout that second half, they simply could not blow down the little house that was Newcastle United.
It wasn't for a lack of trying, for a lack of opportunity either. It was simply a determination to hang on and not fall away from the Magpies—something that the vast majority of fans have been screaming for from the grandstand all season long.
Aston Villa simply threw all they had at Alan Pardew's men.
The difference from the half-time statistics to the full-time statistics showed just how much better and how much more effective Villa were in attack. They simply threw every weapon they have in their arsenal at Newcastle in the second half, and yet the Magpies weathered the storm.
They would emerge with their lead in tact, and would pick up a huge three points over their relegation rivals in the process. Yet Newcastle picked up more than just points here; they picked up something far more intangible and far more crucial for the remainder of the season.
Newcastle picked up the belief that Alan Pardew has been preaching for weeks now, and they showed that they are still a top team this year.
The Magpies proved to themselves—and to the rest of us—that they can win, that they can attack with blistering skill, and they can defend well.
They proved that they don't belong in the relegation zone and that their latest signings do have what it takes to drive this team away from the bottom.
Aston Villa begrudgingly left Villa Park without a lot.
In the space of a week, they had been eliminated by lowly Bradford City in the Capital One Cup and lost embarrassingly to Milwall in the FA Cup.
They had been defeated by a relegation rival and had showed that outside of Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann, they don't have another attacking option to go to.
They might not even have their manager for that much longer.
Yet for the first time this season, Newcastle United departed an away fixture with their heads held high and belief rampant through their team.
They had won their maiden away game of the season, and had proved that they could still be competitive this season. It wasn't perfect and it wasn't the way Alan Pardew would have planned it, but with strong performances in both attack and defense, the Magpies showed that they will triumph out of the relegation battle this year in victory.
Pardew admitted after the game that the season so far had been "tough for our fans" (via BBC Sport) and that without his transfer signings, they would most likely not have had their big lead or been able to hold on to it at the end either.
It was nowhere near perfect or complete, but perhaps Newcastle United just kicked off their relegation survival plan in the Premier League this weekend.
And so far, the plan doesn't look that bad at all.
Especially given the celebrations at the end.
Was this match a defining moment in Newcastle's season this year?
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