5 Takeaways from Newcastle's Victory over Southampton
Merci beaucoup, monsieur Pardew!
Sunday at St. James' Park, Newcastle United fans celebrated the club's first "French Day," an event staged in an effort to make the Magpies' numerous French signings feel more at home.
It seems to have worked brilliantly for more than just the French players.
A penalty, an own goal and an absolutely majestic strike from Papiss Cisse all played parts in Newcastle's 4-2 victory over bottom-half rivals Southampton.
The victory is an important one, moving the club six points from the drop zone and up to 14th in the table (over Sunderland, fantastically enough), with the possibility of 13th if West Ham loses by two or more goals Monday.
Newcastle now head to Wales, where a win against Capital One Cup winners Swansea would nearly guarantee a Premier League spot next season for a club clearly on the rise.
French Freshmen Splendid Once Again
In his first two matches at St. James' Park, Moussa Sissoko has three goals.
It's hard to believe he's only been with the club a month.
Sissoko, along with Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy, shone throughout the match, playing a part in the vast majority of Newcastle's offensive creativity.
Debuchy, in particular, was remarkable, giving fits to both starting full-back Luke Shaw and his replacement, Daniel Fox, whose handling of Debuchy's shot in the box led to a Yohan Cabaye penalty in the 67th minute.
When captain Fabricio Coloccini was sidelined just before the break on a beautiful bicycle clearance, another French international, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, sturdily filled the Argentinian's shoes in what may be a foreshadowing of next season's defensive unit.
It is easy to forget just how much has changed since December. A squad looking lost offensively and incompetent defensively has become the club that nobody wants to play.
And with Hatem Ben Arfa set to return to the Magpies' first XI against Swansea City, Newcastle's French Revolution will truly be complete.
Rob Elliot Knows What He's Doing
With a goalkeeper like Tim Krul anchoring your club's defense, there is rarely much to worry about between the posts.
But on Thursday, when the Dutch international suffered a knock against Metalist Kharkiv that will leave him sidelined for over a month, worry began to flow like a river.
With Krul's ankle keeping him out of the squad and Steve Harper suffering from I'm-really-old-so-everything-hurts-itis, Rob Elliot was the next man in line.
After a disastrous performance against Nottingham Forest in his only appearance for the club last season, Elliot was not a name fans hoped to see, especially in a crucial six-pointer against a side that sat above Newcastle only on goal differential.
However, Elliot proved to be quite suitable, and he managed to flash a few tricks even Tim Krul rarely shows.
Elliot's distribution was fantastic. He showed a very good eye on both his kicks and his throws (which go farther than most keepers' kicks), and his excellent free kick in the 42nd minute set up Papiss Cisse perfectly for his goal.
His afternoon wasn't without its scary moments, such as his silly run out of the box in an attempt to avoid conceding a corner just before full time.
But the good news is Tim Krul won't have to rush back from injury, as his replacement will be able to hold down the fort, at least for a little while.
Corner Kicks Are an Issue
Despite all the new signings and freshly recovered players Newcastle have picked up over the past month, one important man still remains on the sidelines.
Ryan Taylor, an under-appreciated defender even when he was on the pitch, has an ability with free kicks that no member of the current first XI has been able to replicate.
Yohan Cabaye, who is, of course, a phenomenal player in his own right, has struggled to make chances out of crucial corner kick opportunities.
Now that a replenished squad has its attacking teeth back, creativity is no longer the issue keeping the Magpies from scoring.
It is now the simple execution of putting the ball in the box.
While this deficiency isn't particularly devastating, more quality chances coming out of set pieces wouldn't be a bad thing at all.
The World Owes Papiss Cisse an Apology
It hasn't exactly been a year to remember for Newcastle's prized acquisition from only a January ago.
Demba Ba managed to steal his thunder the entire first half of the season, and even after Ba's departure, Papiss Cisse is still struggling to find the back of the net.
He has taken quite a bit of criticism, with some silly writers even questioning his place in the squad.
But after this absurd goal, it is undeniably clear that Cisse is the striker for Newcastle.
Along with the goal, Cisse performed a special celebration for a special fan.
Since arriving Tyneside just over a year ago, Cisse has truly become an assimilated Geordie, and his dedication to the club and the community makes it well worth it for the club to tough it out through his slump.
Newcastle Is Now Beating the Clubs They Should
While there are many positives to take from the match, the reality is this was a contest Newcastle should win nearly every time.
On paper, the Magpies are a far better side than Southampton, but over the first half of the season, being better on paper didn't mean much. Two losses to Reading as well as one against Southampton earlier in the year exemplify this.
Sunday, Newcastle did what was required of them, moving ahead of both Southampton and bitter rivals Sunderland in the Premier League table. They now sit at 14th, with a great deal more breathing room than they've had in quite some time.
If they continue to pick up victories against weaker opponents, Newcastle will avoid relegation with ease.
And with the steadily improving side now being sent on the pitch every week by Alan Pardew, it seems likely that matches against weaker opponents will pop up much more frequently.