Following late drama down in the capital, Newcastle have now accumulated 4 points from our first 3 games in the 2020/21 Premier League season. Throughout this piece we re-live Saturdays game against Tottenham to take the positives from not just the last minute, but also the other 96!
#1. Another point on the board
From the viewpoint of a neutral, the fact that we have 4 points on the board after our opening 3 fixtures would appear positive. As we all know, this is not the case.
Having to watch the football served up under Steve Bruce, the value of these 4 points cannot be underlined enough. Admittedly our opening fixture against West Ham offered us a sense of excitement, but in reflection it seems the Hammers were just so bad, we actually looked good!
Torn to shreds by 15th placed finishers Brighton last week, the performance down in the capital yesterday did not show much sign of improvement.
We had Karl Darlow to thank for keeping us in the game, while the efficiency of Kane, Son and Co. had seemingly dropped off a cliff following their previous 5-2 victory over Southampton.
The absolute gift of a penalty however in the 97th minute allowed Callum Wilson to double his Premier League goal count in black and white, as we snatched a point at the death.
Referee Peter Bankes awarding the spot kick after a length VAR review, in which Eric Dier was penalised for a handball, even though he was facing the other direction, and using his arms to lift himself off the ground.
Of course the rules are the rules, and no doubt we will be on the other end of these dubious decisions at some point this season. The fact we took a point is all that matters.
#2. Karl Darlow appears to have learnt a thing or two from Dubravka
When it was announced in pre-season that Martin Dubravka was ruled out of the start of our season, many fans were rightly left feeling very concerned. It can be argued the Slovakian was our most important player last season.
Playing in every minute of every Premier League match, the shot-stopper made a league high 140 saves, scooping up our Player of the Year Award in the process.
With Mark Gillespie rejoining his boyhood club in the transfer window, there was no guarantee that Karl Darlow would be the man to replace the injured Dubravka.
Bruce opted to place his confidence in our number 26 and that show of faith has certainly been repaid.
Karl Darlow made a total of 11 saves, keeping us in the game throughout the 90 minutes. This was the highest number of saves that a Newcastle keeper has made in the Premier League since that Tim Krul performance in 2013, again away to Spurs!
It has been suggested that Dubravka will be fit to play against Manchester United on October 17th, but with Darlow in top form, the Slovakian may be afforded extra time to recover.
#3. Joelinton has found a home
It has not been an easy move by any stretch of the imagination for Joelinton, since his arrival last summer. Swapping the Bundesliga for the Premier League, while carrying the pressures of the number 9 and a club record fee over his head, the 24 year old has certainly not hit the ground running in the North East.
Playing in an overly defensive system, the fact is any striker in world football would have likely failed to make a strong impression last season. With Bruce relentlessly placing Joelinton up top in complete isolation (Before Lockdown was ever a thing!) it was clear that his confidence deteriorated over the course of the campaign.
Fortunatley for Joelinton, the recruitment of Callum Wilson, a proven Premier League striker, has helped lighten the burden on his shoulders.
Firstly, it highlights the weakness of Bruce’s setup, with Wilson also not having much impact in open play so far this season.
Secondly, it has allowed Joelinton to take up a position on the left wing, and therefore become more involved in the games.
Following the Brazilians midweek brace against Morecambe, he seemed to be playing in a much more confident manner against Spurs. Taking top spot in our team for carrying distance, Joelinton was responsible for dribbling the ball 162 yards up the pitch.
The contrast in his game to those prior was epitomised in one particular play, as he was pushed out to the corner flag with the ball. In previous weeks we would expected to concede a throw in, but in this match he managed to burst between the two players, dribble into the box and get a shot away.
The performance of Joelinton was therefore a big positive to take, especially if our record signing can continue these improvements. The salmon dive into Hojbjerg to win a free kick eventually resulting in the penalty, must also be applauded!
#4. The Transfer Window is still open
This point manages to hold down its place from last weeks article, as the transfer window still provides us the opportunity to bolster our squad.
As highlighted against Spurs, just a single injury can upset the balance of our team. Jamal Lewis could not start the game following the eye injury he incurred against Brighton, leaving Matt Ritchie as the only viable option at left back.
Of course we know the Scot is not a natural full back, but his versatility arguably goes against him on this front. Lucas’ goal can be pinpointed to Ritchie’s lack of awareness at the back post, allowing the Brazilian to stab the ball in the net as he made the run behind Ritchie.
If we had a more natural replacement to fill the void of Lewis, we may have been looking at a complete different game.
The thought of Wilson picking up an injury is therefore a cause for sleepless nights! The former Bournemouth frontman has suffered two cruciate ligament ruptures while on the South coast, causing him to miss 55 games in 2 seasons. The need for a backup striker is there for all to see…
Of course this all rests at the feet of one man,Mike Ashley. He did appear to be in a very positive mood after the final whistle, applauding the team off the pitch. Lets hope this was a show of relief as we snatched a point at the death, rather than one of content at the squad he saw in front of him.
#5. Favourable fixtures coming this week!
Its a common philosophy that success in football comes from confidence and momentum.
With this in mind, our upcoming fixtures should bring that feeling of optimism back to Tyneside.
Up first we have a trip to Newport, with the opportunity to earn ourselves a place in the EFL Cup Quarter Final. If we can record a similar confidence-boosting scoreline over the League 2 outfit as we did against Morecambe, it could do our squad the world of good when then Premier League rolls back around.
We then welcome Sean Dyche’s depleted Burnley squad to an empty St James’ Park on Saturday. With the Clarets winless so far this season, registering defeats against both Leicester and Southampton, we should be aiming to make it 7 points on the board after our opening 4 fixtures.
Now this would not be a bad way to begin our 2020/21 season!
A notable mention must also go to the goal scoring record of Callum Wilson this season, already bagging 2 goals in 3 games. Admittedly he has not had big influences in the games throughout the 90 minutes, but if he keeps popping up with the goals then we cannot complain.
There was also a moment of relief that Lascelles managed to recover swiftly from the knock he took. We have seen the impact the captains omission has on the performance of the team, so it is a big positive that he will be fit for our upcoming fixtures.
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