How do we process Newcastle’s most famous, and improbable, victory since their last triumph in Manchester? Here are three thoughts after the Magpies’ 2-0 victory against Manchester City to advance to the quarterfinals of the Capital One Cup. Since everyone knows Rolando Aarons is legit, and Ryan Taylor is a hero walking among us, let’s talk about other interesting nuggets from the victory.
Alan Pardew gave Twitter, and critics everywhere, the double bird.
Once the lineup was announced on our favorite social media platform, every keyboard critic – including myself – gave Newcastle a negative percent chance of success in the tie. If you follow me on Twitter, (and you should, @Lavanglish) I lamented about how it would be wonderful to root for a team that actually tried. Too many changes and too many kids in the starting XI rehashed the old narrative of Newcastle not taking the cups seriously. On paper, it wasn’t a question of if Newcastle would lose, but by how many goals. Boy, we were wrong.
To the astonishment and joy of us all, Alan Pardew was right all along. Much like the famous victory at Old Trafford last season, his tactics hit the green part of the bull’s-eye and forced us Twitter warriors to eat a heaping helping of crow. The manager deserves all the credit in the world for how he lined the team up. Paul Dummett at center back and the returning Rolando Aarons and Ryan Taylor all came up aces for the manager. Even his substitutions were flawless.
Newcastle broke out of its slump with an injection of pace.
I was texting with a friend who was at the match, both of us attempting to wrap our heads around how someone who should have been fired months ago got the better of the Premier League champs. My friend asked me the common theme among the goals the Magpies have scored in the recent breakout. I mentioned that the un-zombiefication of Gabby Obertan and Sammy Ameobi have helped Newcastle on the wings by offering something the likes of Yoan Gouffran have not. The inclusion of Aarons in the starting lineup on Wednesday illustrated one thing Newcastle had missed in its early-season slump: rocket-powered pace scaring the daylights out of opposition back lines.
The one thing Aarons, Obertan, and Ameobi have in common is speed to burn. And in each of the last three victories, one of those players wreaked havoc on opposing fullbacks en route to a goal. Besides the direct effects, defenders have also been forced to back off because of the pace on the wings, opening up space all over the park. This has allowed Moussa Sissoko to have his resurgence in midfield, as he's taken advantage of the extra real estate to make his power runs through the center. Sissoko’s goal was reminscent of City's Yaya Touré, splitting defenders and surging into the box.
Up next for Newcastle is a scuffling Liverpool side. (We'll talk more about that match later today.) If the Toon can put together a repeat performance on Saturday, another win is a distinct possibility. The manager has finally seen rewards from sticking with a formation which looked dead in the water. Does he keep the young burners in the lineup, or go back to trusted lieutenants in familiar spots?
After everything that happened in the first few weeks of the season, it's pretty amazing to think that a) Pardew still has a job, and b) he seems to have motivated the squad again. While the majority of the fanbase still would prefer to see the man removed from his position, a continued run of results could see the hostility dissipate.
What about the curious case of Rémy Cabella? He admitted during the week to L’Equipe that he has struggled to adapt to the pace of the league. The talented Frenchman was bought to replace Hatem Ben Arfa, but instead has just replaced him on the bench. How to work Cabella into the lineup is just one of the decisions Pardew wil struggle with in the coming weeks. As we know, league position is still most important to the Newcastle board. And even though getting out of the bottom three was a nice first step, there is still plenty of work to do the rest of the season.