Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa: 6 Things We Learned
The late goal was the Magpies’ first in seven hours and 30 minutes of football, and victory lifted Alan Pardew’s men back into eighth place in the Premier League.
Papiss Cisse should have given the Toon a half-time lead but scooped his chance over the bar, while Remy hit the woodwork in the closing stages after good work from Luuk de Jong.
Here we look at six things that were learned from a result that left Villa just four points from safety and handed Newcastle only their second win of 2014.
Fabricio Coloccini’s Return Was Vital for Newcastle
While Loic Remy will rightly hit the headlines following his late winner against Aston Villa, the return of Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini brought a sense of stability to the Toon.
Aside from a 15-minute spell in the first half, Paul Lambert’s men were kept at bay in an attacking sense thanks largely to the central defender’s influence at the back.
Alongside Mike Williamson, who produced a dominant display together with his skipper, the 32-year-old Argentine grew in stature as the game wore on, and helped limit the visitors to just two shots on target.
His return from a knee injury that had sidelined the international for seven games has come at just the right time for Magpies boss Alan Pardew and the rest of his squad.
Papiss Cisse Needs a Fresh Start
Despite starting up front alongside Loic Remy in a 4-4-2 formation, Newcastle United striker Papiss Cisse struggled to make his presence felt in the Magpies’ attack.
The Senegalese striker passed up a glorious opportunity to net his fourth of the campaign before the break, slicing the ball over the bar from close range from Remy’s pullback.
Though the 28-year-old was pulled out of position as Alan Pardew tinkered with his lineup, his lack of involvement for long spells must be a worry for the Toon boss.
Luuk de Jong replaced Cisse with 20 minutes to go, and on this showing, even his staunchest supporters would have to admit a transfer might not be a bad idea.
Aston Villa Looked Happy with a Point After the Break
For a spell in the opening 45 minutes, it looked like a matter of time before Aston Villa would take the lead at St. James’ Park, as they hit their hosts on the counter-attack time and again.
Gabriel Agbonlahor looked particularly lively before the break and tested Tim Krul in Newcastle United’s goal before sending a fizzing shot just inches over the bar.
In the second period, however, Paul Lambert’s men seemed to take their foot off the gas, and rarely troubled the Toon’s back four.
The substitution of Ashley Westwood, who had been Villa’s best player until he was replaced on the hour mark, opened the game up and allowed the home side to assert some late authority.
The Long Ball Approach Does Not Suit Newcastle
They may have won the game eventually, but for long spells Newcastle United looked devoid of ideas going forward and continually launched the ball long in an attempt to find their front men.
And it wasn’t until the latter stages that the Toon were rewarded for prolonged spells of possession in the opposition’s half.
When the Magpies did get in behind Aston Villa’s full-backs, their crosses regularly failed to clear the first man in the visitor’s defence, and they suffered a similar fate from most of their 10 corners.
Route-one football has never gone down well on the terraces at St. James’ Park, and such consistently wasteful deliveries will have frustrated manager Alan Pardew.
Defeat Leaves Aston Villa in a Precarious Position
Sunday’s loss at the hands of Newcastle United leaves Aston Villa four points away from the relegation zone, and with just two wins in their last 13 league games, nerves are beginning to jangle.
Things are as tight as ever down at the bottom of the table, and next Sunday’s home match against fellow strugglers Norwich City is fast becoming a must-win fixture.
Paul Lambert has to navigate trips to both Manchester clubs as well as a final-day clash at Tottenham Hotspur during their final 11 fixtures, while they face table-topping Chelsea at Villa Park in three weeks.
But it is meetings with the teams around them that will define their season—starting with the visit of Chris Hughton’s Canaries next weekend.
Loic Remy Is Integral to Newcastle’s Hopes
It’s no coincidence that Newcastle United had failed to score in any of their previous trio of fixtures before Sunday’s game—and that Loic Remy missed all three ties through suspension.
The French striker proved his worth against Aston Villa with a last-gasp winner, but was a constant threat and tested visiting goalkeeper Brad Guzman within the opening seconds.
The on-loan Queens Park Rangers forward now has 12 goals to his name this term, while the remaining strikers on the Toon’s books have just one Premier League strike between them.
The powers that be at St. James’ Park opted not to make his move from West London a permanent one during January, and they could live to regret such hesitancy.