A great indication of whether this Newcastle gamble has paid off

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Newcastle’s opening Premiership game, at home to Arsenal, has been moved to a 17.30 kick-off to be broadcast live on ESPN. The American sports channel will no doubt be hoping for a game to rival last season’s epic at St James’ Park.

Whilst Cheik Tiote himself will be certain to start the game against Arsenal, his team-mates will be much changed from the 4-4 encounter of last season. Kevin Nolan has departed under acrimonious circumstances, whilst Jose Enrique and Joey Barton will probably join him in departing Newcastle. Leon Best has been made available for transfer, if reports are to be believed, and Peter Lovenkrands will surely be nothing more than a ‘bench warmer’ for majority of games.

Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew have gambled on the ability of chief scout Graham Carr to replace the nucleus of last season’s team with cheaper and younger alternatives.

The new additions to the Newcastle team, counting Ben Arfa and Gosling (as Pardew wishes us to do so) have a combined Premiership experience of 39 games, including substitute appearances. If these players are to act as replacements for Nolan and Barton, the pressure to acclimatise to the Premier League straightaway is immense. Nolan and Barton racked up 531 Premier League games between them.

On the flip side of the coin, if Marveaux and Pardew are to believed, the Geordie faithful will be appeased with the attacking brand of football about to re-emerge from wherever Graeme Sounness last misplaced it.

The side from last season lacked many things, such as flair, pace and creativity. What the side lacked in natural talent it more than made up for with team spirit and determination, summed up by the remarkable comeback against Arsenal.

The opening fixture will be a great tool to measure how far Newcastle has progressed or, alternatively, how much the gamble of rapidly replacing a solid nucleus will cost us.

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