West Bromwich Albion vs. Newcastle United: 6 Things We Learned

Dan Sheridan@@dansheridanContributor IJanuary 1, 2014

West Bromwich Albion vs. Newcastle United: 6 Things We Learned

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    Newcastle United stumbled to their second 1-0 defeat in a row on New Year’s Day, with a late penalty enough to hand West Bromwich Albion all three points.

    Saido Berahino’s 87th-minute spot-kick handed the Baggies their first win in 10 league games against the Magpies, who had Mathieu Debuchy sent off after the break.

    The victory saw managerless Albion move four points clear of the drop zone, while the Toon remain in eighth place.

    Following the top-flight clash at The Hawthorns, we take a look at six things that were learned from Wednesday’s fixture.

Saido Berahino Is Living Up to Expectations

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    Ahead of Wednesday’s clash, West Bromwich Albion’s caretaker manager Keith Downing backed England Under-21 star Saido Berahino to handle the hype surrounding him.

    And against Newcastle United, the 20-year-old displayed confidence and composure when it was needed most, netting an 87th-minute winner from the penalty spot.

    In an interview with Sky Sports, Downing outlined his belief in the youngster and his ability to cope with the publicity his performances have triggered.

    Berahino’s pace was a constant thorn in the Magpies’ side, and having followed up his solo effort against West Ham United with the all-important winner, the Burundi-born striker is backing up his talent with signs of maturity.

Hatem Ben Arfa Is Consistently Inconsistent

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    With Newcastle United seemingly in control at The Hawthorns, but without a goal to show for their first-half efforts, the introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa seemed a logical move at the break.

    But rather than stirring the Magpies into life going forward, the Frenchman produced a lacklustre display devoid of any attacking prowess.

    His duties were admittedly altered following Mathieu Debuchy’s unnecessary sending off just after the hour-mark, but going forward, Ben Arfa regularly failed to create.

    His manager, Alan Pardew, has been reluctant to name the former Marseille man in his starting XI of late, and on this performance, it’s not difficult to understand why.

Mathieu Debuchy’s Sending off Was Pivotal

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    With an hour gone at The Hawthorns, Newcastle United looked more than comfortable at 0-0 despite a distinct lack of goalmouth action.

    But when French right-back Mathieu Debuchy needlessly lunged two-footed at Albion midfielder Claudio Yacob and rightfully received a straight red card, the game swung in the home side’s favour.

    The Magpies’ efforts weren’t helped by a medial ligament injury to captain Fabricio Coloccini which is expected to side-line the Argentine for six weeks.

    Combined with the sending-off, the Toon were forced into a complete reshuffle at the back. But ultimately, Debuchy’s irresponsible actions handed the Baggies all the impetus they needed.

Keith Downing Has Steadied the Ship at Albion

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    Despite telling Chris Lepkowski in the Birmingham Mail that he doesn’t want the West Bromwich Albion job on a permanent basis, it’s becoming difficult to rule caretaker boss Keith Downing out of the running.

    In his four games in charge so far since the sacking of Steve Clarke, the former Cheltenham Town manager has overseen three draws and a victory and moved the Baggies four points clear of the drop zone.

    And if his unbeaten start continues against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Saturday, his suitability for the post could prompt Albion owner Jeremy Peace to make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Newcastle Need Extra Firepower

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    While Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew remains coy on the subject of new signings this January, his team’s need for a boost in the striking department is glaringly obvious.

    When on-loan forward Loic Remy fails to fire like he did at The Hawthorns, the Magpies lack any real threat in front of goal and revert to shots from distance from the likes of Yohan Cabaye.

    Shola Ameobi and Papiss Cisse have just one Premier League goal between them this term, and while Yoan Gouffran has done his bit, the over-reliance on Remy is a concern.

    A fresh face up front would drastically improve the Toon’s options and give the club’s existing strikers something to think about during the second-half of the season.

West Brom Can Look Up the Table Rather Than Down

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    Steve Clarke’s sacking as West Bromwich Albion manager following four straight defeats was regarded as harsh in some quarters, but it has provoked a response from the club’s players.

    Baggies defender Jonas Olsson admitted he was caught off-guard when the Scot was relieved of his duties, and in an interview with Expressen via Sky Sports, he spoke of his “surprise” at the decision.

    But the Premier League table doesn’t lie, and following the 1-0 loss at Cardiff City that cost Clarke his job and left Albion dangerously close to the relegation places, results have undeniably improved.

    Comebacks at Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, coupled with Wednesday’s win over Newcastle, have eased their worries, and Albion are now just one win away from the top-half.