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Know Your Opponent: Newcastle United

We chatted with the folks at Coming Home Newcastle to preview their match with Tottenham Hotspur this weekend.

Michael Steele

Hello everyone! Remember how fun the football was on Thursday? Do you think it will be that fun this weekend? No? Me either. Regardless, there's a game on Sunday and we need to talk about it. So, in advance of our match against Newcastle, I spoke to Robert L. Bishop of Coming Home Newcastle, SB Nation's Newcastle United blog. Here's what he had to say:

Cartilage Free Captain: So, uh, how are things going this season? #awkward

Robert L. Bishop: We certainly expected better than this, but it's not surprising. Nothing is really going to change until better investments are made and we have a manager that doesn't handcuff the team with every decision made. Maybe if we can survive until January and buy some defenders, things will turn around, but it's hard to see either of those things happening. #ThisTeamSucks

CFC: I love a lot of the players that Newcastle brought in over the off-season and really thought they could push for a Europa League place if things broke right. So, tell me, why are you trying to ruin the careers of Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong?

RLB: I was optimistic as well, though not as much as you were, which is weird. The thing that kept me from hoping for more than mid-table mediocrity was the refusal to upgrade an aging and frankly awful back line. De Jong hasn't really had a chance yet, and this week he said it will be 8 more weeks before he returns, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As for Rémy Dude is screwing it up for himself. He's actually all the bad things that Pardew thinks of Hatem Ben Arfa. He wants to take everybody on all at once, and it works once every 3 matches or so. He can pick out a pass, but for some reason doesn't really like to. His tendency to disappear during matches is the most frustrating thing about him, though. Until he figures it out, I'm happy with him on the bench. I honestly thought he was the best bet of the new guys to stick, apart from maybe de Jong.

CFC: Seriously though, given the talent at Newcastle, things should be better. Is this Alan Pardew or Mike Ashley's fault?

RLB: Yes. Ashley is the root cause of almost every problem Newcastle has right now, but the way this team played after assuring themselves a place in the top 10 last season was inexcusable. There's all kinds of fighting within the fanbase over whether that falls on the player or the manager, but for me, the leadership has to come from the top. We need less "It's science against me" or "I don't think the local press have helped" and more something along the lines of, "We should have done better." It's so much more than just the post-game pressers, but it's also the post-game pressers.

CFC: Let's assume, for a second, that Ashley actually decides that he's had enough of Pardew and sacks him. You do realize that Tim Sherwood will be your next manager, right?

RLB: Nope. I refuse to believe that.

CFC: Based on the numbers of our resident stat nerd McofA, Newcastle are attempting the fifth most shots and creating the fourth most expected goals in the Premier League, but the Magpies have scored only 8 goals, fourth worst in the league. Is the team's poor finishing down to some underlying problem with the attack or do you expect that they'll start producing goals at a better rate in the coming weeks?

RLB: That's encouraging, I guess. We do have some players who have developed reputations for being unable to finish - Emmanuel Rivière and Yoan Gouffran come immediately to mind. We've also seen some high-profile whiffs from Jack Colback, Fabricio Coloccini, and Papiss Cissé recently (though I must say that Cissé has really returned to form). I expect that things should get a bit better, but they'll have to continue producing chances at that rate or better to have a chance of climbing the table, given Newcastle's defensive deficiencies.

CFC: What's the matchup you're most concerned with heading into this match?

RLB: All of them. I'm always worried about conceding an ungodly amount of goals. This week, though, I'm feeling particularly pessimistic about our attack, mostly because we have no idea who is going to be lining up at the top of the formation, since Cissé is out.

CFC: Finally, what's your prediction for the match?

RLB: 0-2 to Spurs, because I'm feeling kind of optimistic.

Thanks to Robert for taking the time to chat with me. You can follow him on Twitter here and you can following Coming Home Newcastle here. Also, head over to their site to see the answers I had to Robert's questions.