What to expect from Newcastle United

Last Season: 12th:

Transfers

In:  Yohan Cabaye (Lille, £4.3m), Gabriel Obertan (Manchester United, £3.25m), Sylvain Marveaux (Rennes, free), Mehdi Abeid (Lens, free), Demba Ba (West Ham, free)

Out: Kevin Nolan (West Ham, £4m), Wayne Routledge (Swansea, undisclosed), Ben Tozer (Northampton, free), Sol Campbell (released), Shefki Kuqi (released), Kazenga Lua Lua (Brighton, loan).

Manager: Alan Pardew

Entering his first full season as Magpies boss it hasn’t been easy so far in inaugural pre-season. After stabilizing the club on the field in the wake of Chris Hughton’s departure and Andy Carrolls £35 million move to Liverpool it was supposed to be an exciting summer for Pardew. With money to spend and a united dressing room it all seemed rosy on Tyneside. But Pardew has had to deal with more problems than most managers this summer with player sales, twitter sagas and visa rejections hampering his preparations. The trip to America wasn’t a total success despite Pardew’s positive spin on things Injury to Ben Arfa along with Joey Barton and new signing Yohan Cabaye being denied visa’s left the tour in tatters. This was all sandwiched between the acrimonius sale of skipper Kevin Nolan and the Barton twitter rants that saw the club pick up the tag of ‘soap opera’ once again. Credit to Pardew though who has kept his head throughout and been the only avenue of communication to both the press and fans. Always confident in his approach as a manager he has assembled a pretty decent squad despite not being given full reign over the Carroll cash. He handled the Barton situation superbly and now the player is backtracking with his tail between his legs. If he can get the players gelled and playing the attacking brand of football he’s promised then Newcastle are set for a decent season with him in the dugout. But he should be wary at the crisis that is so evidently lurking around the corner ready to strike without compromise.

Key Player: This would have gone to Joey Barton but after his twitter tirade he’s likely to be watching from the stands or wearing another clubs colours this season. Second only behind Barton is Jonas Gutierrez. Some fans might moan and groan that he’s a winger that doesn’t score goals or provide assists but his worth to the side shouldn’t be underestimated. Whilst at times he does flatter to deceive and get that blood vessel in your forehead pumping to critical levels he is a key player for Newcastle. If you can name any other winger who puts in as much effort in both attack and defence then I’m happy to entertain you. Gutierrez, despite being predominantly right footed, adds balance on the left. Whats good about his game is that he relieves the pressure on the defence and centre midfield by slowing the game down a notch and wins free kicks in a dangerous area causing the opposition to back track. His defensive work over the last few seasons has also been a big plus to Jose Enrique and made him look better than he is because for a left back he isn’t the best at defending.

One to watch: Whilst many fans will say Shane Ferguson is the one to watch I disagree. Haris Vuckic is top of my list! He’s been touted as a wonder kid for the past couple of years now but hardly seen a glimpse of him in a Newcastle shirt. That could be about to change this season with Pardew prepared to give him more first team opportunities. He’s tall, athletic, skillful and a wiles footballer despite being only 18-years-old. He’s at a point in his career where, for a player of his supposed abilities, should be making in-roads into the first team. His performances in pre-season were one of the few highlights not to mention his goals. Whether he can make the step up remains to be seen but his billing certainly suggests it should be with ease.

Verdict: Despite the doom-mongers already putting us down for a return to the Championship (blaming Mike Ashley of course) I’m confident that Newcastle will remain a Premier League side and comfortably steal a mid-table finish. People may gripe but the squad looks a lot better than last season despite Nolan, Carroll and now Enrique playing elsewhere. Demba Ba will be amongst the goals and will set the cat amongst the pigeons when he’s lumbering towards defences at pace. Cabaye looks a very tidy passer and will have more energy and poise than Nolan although it’s not certain whether he can replicate the former captains goal tally. Sylvain Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan will provide pace and width although the latter hasn’t been well received on Tyneside. Dan Gosling and Hatem Ben Arfa will be like new signings now they’ve recovered from injury and will provide a youthful, vigor with their energy. With Fabricio Coloccini captaining and still imitating a rock at the back Newcastle have the basis of a good side and that’s without Barton in it. The only worry is at left back now Enrique has gone to play Champions Lea…to play for Liverpool. Shane Ferguson can fill the hole along with Ryan Taylor but Pardew will be hoping to dip his toes into the market once more for a specialist. Oh and maybe a striker too to appease the fans.

Final position: 9th