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NUFC: 4-4-2 At It Like Atsu Will See Magpies Through

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“We have to be mentally strong. It was great to make my home debut, they are fantastic fans and I’m happy I made my home debut, but right now we have to focus on the next game, which is what is important now.

“Everyone is down after the game, but the manager spoke with us and we have to have the mentality to win the next game… We learn from our mistakes.

“This is football… Each and every day you have to focus and work so hard, because if you lose concentration, you pay for it.”

Christian Atsu, speaking to NUFC TV

On a day in which overconfidence from a 6-game winning run capped by a magnificent 6-0 away victory at QPR swept through St. James’ Park – even reserve keeper Freddie Woodman joked of a “double figures” victory pre-match – substitute Christian Atsu was the brightest spark in Newcastle’s unexpected 0-2 defeat to Wolves.

The 24 year-old Ghana international – replacing the wound-up Matt Ritchie in the 63rd minute before the already-booked Scottish international could be sent off – looked sharp and eager to get Newcastle back into the game.

It was more than could be said for team-mates who lacked urgency, discipline and concentration all day deserving to lose. David Moyes blamed Beyonce & pop concerts for Sunderland’s bad start to the season and maybe Newcastle’s lethargy resulted from the storms that hit Tyneside on Thursday resulting in a  sleepless night on Tyneside.

moyes-beyonce-toon

Vurnon Anita was sent off in the 87th minute after an uncharacteristically wild challenge on Wanderers substitute Ivan Cavaleiro meaning a first, forced rest for the Dutchman allowing DeAndre Yedlin to make his full debut on Tuesday night. And Mo Diame was also lucky not to be sent off for two yellow-card worthy first half tackles although he may not have made the second had he been booked for the first.

‘Never Change A 6-0 Winning Team’

For once, Rafa Benitez got his tactics and selection wrong making three changes and starting forward Ayoze Perez in an unfamiliar left-wing position leaving the rejuvenated Yoan Gouffran and dangerous Atsu on the bench.

Gouffran has been one of the Rafa revelations of the season and Atsu had looked electric on the wing at Loftus Road on Tuesday night when he came on as a 61st minute substitute setting up the 5th goal of the game for Aleksandar Mitrovic with a dangerously drilled shot-cum-cross into the box and hitting the bar himself.

It is a matter of time before a player who scored the African Nations Cup Goal of the Tournament in 2015 makes his goal-scoring mark for Newcastle.

Benitez also benched Aleksandar Mitrovic instead of a much-needed start for crucial match fitness – like many big players, the Serbian international is the type who needs a run of games to fully thrive with game sharpness.

Mitrovic was occasionally effective as a super-sub last season notably at Spurs when he scored yet is better starting holding the ball up as he did on Tuesday night allowing men behind him to flourish and would have been especially effective against a giant Wolves rearguard which Gayle struggled to compete with physically.

 

When he came on against Wolves, Atsu did as much as anybody in a black and white shirt to change the game, first attacking from the right wing then switching to the left to try his luck and was always available for the ball and willing to dribble determined to make a positive difference.

He almost latched onto the game’s killer pass from JonJo Shelvey in the 68th minute to get one back for The Magpies soon after coming on and a bright overall performance means Atsu has to start on Tuesday night in The EFL Cup tie where they are paired once again with The Molineux outfit.

An instant repeat of the Wolves game just 3 days after Saturday gives Rafa the chance to show his tactical nous:

4-4-2: M ‘n’ M – Mitrovic and Murphy – Can Be The New SAS – Alan Shearer & Chris Sutton – And Strike Goals

“Strategy 24 – Take the line of least expectation : do the unexpected…Sometimes the ordinary is extraordinary because it is unexpected.”

Robert Greene, ‘The 33 Strategies of War’

shearer-statues

In the mid-1990s, a tactical trend which dominated the Premier League was two big strikers fed by wingers & Newcastle legend Alan Shearer, honoured mid-week with a statue outside St. James’ Park, was at the forefront of two of the best strike partnerships, with Chris Sutton at Blackburn and Les Ferdinand at Newcastle.

Blackburn Rovers won The Premier League in 1994/5 with a tight 4-4-2 formation with two big strikers and rapid, crossing wingers, quality in central midfield and a stern defence.

It’s very much horses for courses this season and Rafa Benitez has the striking resources to field his own powerful, aerially-dominant strike partnership in the shape of Aleksandar Mitrovic and 33 year-old Republic of Ireland striker Daryl Murphy and he may have to do so to fight fire with fire against a giant Wolves defence.

With two wingers like Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie on the flanks feeding crosses to the big men in the middle, Newcastle could force the issue against Walter Zenga’s men and give a defence that lapped up long balls to Dwight Gayle on Saturday afternoon something to really think about if not terrorise.

From JonJo Shelvey’s free-kicks and Matt Ritchie’s corners, Newcastle would be dynamite at set-pieces with great headers of the ball Mitrovic and Murphy on centre forward stage backed up by giant defenders Grant Hanley and Jamaal Lascelles or Ciaran Clark, all three of whom have scored from set-pieces this season.

Again on Saturday, Matt Sels was unconvincing so must make way for Karl Darlow, Newcastle lacked a proper defensive shield in midfield, something which the return of Jack Colback as anchor man would immediately address with Shelvey at the tip of the diamond where he can unleash his creativity and flair.

Back to basics is always a good way to stop the rot after defeat and a 4-4-2 of Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Hanley, Dummett; Atsu, Colback, Shelvey, Ritchie; Mitrovic and Murphy up front will get The Magpies the victory they need to keep hopes of a domestic Cup trophy very much alive. Don’t Stop Believin’


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Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police

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Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.

According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.

Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.

The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:

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Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch

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Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.

Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.

“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.

“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.

“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”

Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.

“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.

“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.

“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”

 

 

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Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player

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27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.

Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.

Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.

Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.

“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”

“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.

“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”

“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.

“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.

“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.

“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.

“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.

“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”

Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.

“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.

“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.

“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.

“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.

“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”

 

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