There are a number of things that a team needs to be successful in the Premier League, but there’s one attribute that’s widely regarded more highly than any other; pace. With the speed of English football incessant, it is vital that you have a handful of quick players within your team, not only to keep up with play but also to catch sides on the counter attack. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has in the past admitted that this was an area that the Magpies struggled in, so it appears that he’s made it his mission this summer to address that clear deficiency.
It’s not necessarily that Newcastle’s squad is on the slow side, but they seem to lack players who have out and out pace. In the past Kieron Dyer has provided that outlet, or Craig Bellamy; in other words someone who can burst out of midfield with the ball or terrify defences with their turn of speed. Peter Lovenkrands is relatively quick and Nile Ranger is no slouch up top, but you wouldn’t say they had electrifying speed. The midfield was perhaps even more of a worry, but that’s one area which is being rectified.
For large parts of large season Newcastle went with a midfielder four of Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, Cheik Tiote and Jonas Gutierrez. Barton’s not a traditional winger who’ll show a full back a clean set of heels, Nolan can get forward but you wouldn’t describe him as being quick, Tiote is terrier like without being that speedy, and Guiterrez, arguably the quickest of the lot, would himself rate his dribbling abilities higher than his speed.
Pardew has no doubt identified that and in just a couple of weeks has transformed the look of Newcastle in the middle of the park. By bringing in Yohan Cabaye in the place of Nolan, the Magpies have a box-to-box midfielder with the fitness and stamina to keep going for 90 minutes. Add to that Sylvain Marveaux, who himself likes to get up and down the wing, and put him alongside Gutierrez, who hopefully will stay, and you have the option of pace on both flanks.
So what about upfront? When Demba Ba gets into his stride he can certainly shift, and his direct and powerful running will come in handy. With his ability in the air, maybe a speed demon alongside him could work well, but speed mustn’t come at the sacrifice of other attributes. Pardew has rightfully made an effort to make his team faster and you only have to look back to Sir Bobby Robson’s time in charge of Newcastle to see what an invaluable asset speed is, and hopefully it will go hand-in-hand with exciting football at St James’ Park next season.
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