Credit where credit is due, last Saturday not only did we see a positive result at home to Liverpool, a team that hammered us 6-0 in the preceding fixture last season, but we also saw a much more progressive performance from the side than we have seen in recent weeks.
Pardew took a number of bold decisions; playing Ben Arfa up front, partnering Mike Williamson with M’biwa, sticking with Tiote over the more technically capable Anita, all proving to be contentious decisions, and while some could argue over whether these decisions were positive or not, or whether they even worked or not, what still remains is that as a team we played well. We defended as a unit, we broke with pace, we kept things simple and we caused Liverpool problems.
Individual players were back to their commanding best, Cabaye is getting better with each passing game, Tiote looked like the player he was when we finished 5th, Gouffran looks like the hardest working 2 million pound player we have ever signed and Remy plays with a confidence and swagger that could breed a little bit more fluidity into our side.
On top of that, we have the Cinderella story with local lad Paul Dummett coming off the bench to play centre half against Suarez and Sturridge, yet he managed to get up the other end and score a goal!
It took courage and bottle to go for it when we were down to ten men, and to be fair to Pardew, he decided to go for it. I have been vocally critical of him in the past, and will continue to do so if he reverts to type against lesser sides in the league. However, on the basis of Saturday’s performance, he should be given a pat on the back, Now go out and do it on a weekly basis and perhaps we could see a little bit more positivity from the playing side of things.
In light of this positive performance, I would just like to turn our attention to the rather mammoth game that will be in the hearts and minds of Newcastle fans up and down the country, indeed all over the world. The derby. The first Tyne-Wear derby of the season sees Newcastle United make the wearisome trip to Sunderland. New Sunderland manager Gus Poyet had a tough introduction to life as Sunderland with an absolute spanking off Swansea and they will be hurting right now. We are in a much more comfortable position in the table than Sunderland are, and early indicators would surely point to Sunderland being one of the frontrunners for relegation this season. The ludicrous decision to appoint, and then subsequently sack Paolo di Canio has strange familiarity with our own relegation season – Over hyped, over paid players of insufficient quality, managerial upheaval et al and I think Sunderland fans will be looking at this game with trepidation.
There are no certainties in a derby game. You cannot go into it thinking you have it sown up, especially when we were embarrassed in our own back yard last time out. Much like how Pardew wanted to atone for the shocking defeat to Liverpool last season, I hope he has a similar frame of mind going into this game. We have the quality to beat Sunderland, will Pardew be as ambitious and bold to go out and prove it?
Do not let Poyet use this game as a springboard for Sunderland’s season. We have a chance to kick on from this positive result and leave the fans in really buoyant mood over the playing side of things. But a defeat in this derby would surely see this momentum lost. We will have to just wait and see.
What do you think? Were you encouraged by how the lads played on Saturday? Who was your stand out performer? Do you think Pardew can get that sort of performance from the lads every week, especially in our big derby match? I’d love to hear your views.