4 Positives Newcastle United Can Take from Their Defeat to Manchester City
Well, it had to end some time.
After a fairytale start, Newcastle United's unbeaten run has come to an end at 11. After a strong defensive performance early on, Manchester City's attack were simply too good and powered to a deserved 3-1 victory.
But it's not all doom and gloom for the Tynesiders. Being the optimistic sort that I am, I got to work on the positives shown from their performance.
Silver linings such as...
Depth Is Not as Serious a Problem as Once Thought
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One of the big problems with Newcastle being able to maintain their great run was always going to be depth. A side like Manchester City can effectively put out two squads, all capable of beating any team in the league. Comfortably.
Manchester United are superb at rotating players to get best use out of everyone, and the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham all have contingency plans should someone important go down for a few weeks.
At Newcastle however, most of their success was owed to a few very good players.
But even with Chiek Tiote out (where last season his absence proved almost catastrophic), Leon Best gone and Demba Ba not looking at his peak, the Magpies still looked competitive for most of the game.
Danny Guthrie, Hatem Ben Arfa and Sammy Ameobi all look good, Davide Santon can come in for Ryan Taylor should the need arise, Shane Ferguson has experience at fullback and even Shola Ameobi is a viable choice at striker (albeit not one the Toon Army will be too optimistic about in the long run).
As far as depth goes, that still won't compete with the top four, but I don't think it's an issue that will be as big a problem as some pundits are calling it.
Hatem Ben Arfa Is Back and Better Than Ever
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For someone in a team playing mostly in defensive mode, Hatem Ben Arfa looked superb with the ball at his feet.
His pace, footwork and body control are all looking like something that will prove a real asset this season. Better yet, he's gone and worked on his upper body strength so he can comfortably hold his own when he has to.
Should Mike Ashley choose to keep him around this season, he should provide a useful attacking option later on.
The Defense Is Still the Best in the League
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Newcastle United's defense is still the best in England, tied now with Manchester City and Liverpool for 11 goals conceded.
Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor have been extremely solid at the back, supported by Danny Simpson and Ryan Taylor who both do well going forward.
Jonas Gutierrez has covered the left side superbly, and the return of Chiek Tiote should apply a lot more defensive pressure in midfield.
Also of encouragement is the knowledge that the Magpies kept City to just three goals (two of which from the penalty spot), where red-hot Tottenham Hotspur leaked five and Manchester United six.
The Rise of Davide Santon?
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The Italian fullback has yet to start at his favored position at St. James' Park—a fact which most fans find surprising.
I suspect that Taylor will have the next two games (against Manchester United and Chelsea respectively) to prove that his poor showing against City was just a blip from which he can easily right himself. After which, Santon is the prime candidate to replace him.
While largely unproven in England, the injection of Santon—who has Champions League experience—could bolster United's backline even further.