Without a doubt, the appointment of Sam Allarydce, Big Sam, as the new gaffer or manager for Newcastle for the 2007-2008 season had been greeted with cheers by the Toon Army. With his growing reputation of grooming of Bolton Wanderers that were challenging for Europe and giving the Big Four of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, it is widely expected that Newcastle would finally challenge for Europe at least.
In the off season, Big Sam has radically transformed his Newcastle squad; making wholesale changes to his team and moulding it into his own image. Let take a closer view on the 2007-2008 squad below.
At the back, with Irish Number 1 Shay Given in goal, Newcastle is usually in safe hands. In front of him, there are the ever improving England U21 Steven Taylor and new recruit the Czech David Rozehnal, Newcastle has improved a previous weakness. Another indicator was the release of Craig Moore, Oliver Bernard, Alan O’brian and Titus Bramble from defence shows his determination to cut the dead wood from the team. Plus the transfer of or the addition of Geremi from Chelsea, Claudio Cacapa from Lyon, Jose Enrique from Villarreal and Habbib Beye from Marseille to the likes of Steve Carr, Peter Ramage and Celestine Babayaro , Big Sam has rebuilt up the defence and his options at the back.
As for midfield interestingly enough, Allardyce has allowed the likes of Kieran Dyer, Scott Parker and Nobby Solano to leave St James Park. These three players have been the main stay of previous Newcastle midfield. In came Joey Barton from Manchester City and Faye from Sam’s old club Bolton. Looking at it, it could be a wise move on Big Sam’s part as Dyer had his injuries, Solano is getting older in age and Parker may not be in his mould of a player. Furthermore, with exciting youngsters such James Milner and Charles N’Zogbia added with the experience of Nicky Butt, Emre and Damien Duff, Big Sam has a strong midfield to choose from for every match. Only concern is the addition of Barton may test his abilities to the fullest as he had been a problem player at City.
Up front, what more can be said of a front line of Micheal Owens, Mark Viduka from Boro, Alan Smith from Manchester United, Obafemi Martins and Shola Ameobi. A combination of youth and experience. The major concern of Allarydce would be the health of his strikers at his disposal especially Owen’s. Without a doubt, with Viduka and Ameobi, Sam may be trying to play a big-small combination up front if Owen is fit.
So far the performance have been encouraging though the recent defeat to Derby away is a wrong step down. Newcastle is current in 10th position, winning 2, drawing 2 and losing 1. At the moment, Newcastle is a team in transition as Big Sam is still moulding his teams to his ideals and playing styles. It can be strongly concluded once the team is consolidated to the playing style of Big Sam and gotten used to each other, performance should improve.
It can safely be concluded that Newcastle should be strongly challenging for a European Spot come end May 2008 with the current team and Big Sam’s abilities.
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