Newcastle United’s front three the best in the Premier League?

Newcastle United’s first half display against West Brom was one of the best performances of this season as there three attacking players tore open Albion’s defence time and time again.

Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse all played a part in making it a torrid afternoon for their opposition and most teams in the country would have struggled against the pace and the movement of Newcastle’s front three. Hatem Ben Arfa had been criticised for his defensive work this season and this is why he struggled to get into Alan Pardew’s first 11 for a large part of the season but today proved why you cannot leave him out. He just gives the team something different, there are very few players in the world that can pick up the ball from inside their own half and beat three or four players before shooting or laying it off to someone else. He was simply unplayable in the first half and even in the second he managed to get on the ball and relieve some of the pressure that was being put on the defence.

The first goal was pretty simple but still required some craft as Jonas Gutierrez (he had a very good game and will not get the credit he deserves for his performance as the front three stole the limelight, any other game and he would have been close to man of the match) had to play through Ben Arfa who was not being tracked by a defender. His part in the goal was simple as all he had to do was put the ball across the six yard box which doesn’t seem that hard however we see it week after week that wingers struggle to put it in the right spot and the chance is missed. Demba Ba slid in and missed the ball but Papiss Cisse was on hand to finish first time, this does show natural strikers instinct from both of them as they were both onside but unchallenged. So it was fantastic movement from them both and very good concentration from Cisse as he had to watch the ball onto his foot and steer expertly into the net.

The second goal showed everyone what a quick counter attack is with Ben Arfa picking up the ball inside his own half and playing a few neat little passes with his teammates and then placing the ball past the diving Ben Foster. Cisse yet again played a part in the goal but the Frenchman will take all the credit as he ran a long way and there was no chance he was going to be stopped by the defence. His finish was pretty good too which any striker would have been proud of.

The third goal was pretty similar to the second as it was on the counter attack. Ben Arfa yet again picked up the ball deep and ran with it before sliding it to Ba who cleverly flicked it round the corner for Ben Arfa to put the ball into the danger area. It was slightly fortuitous as he was looking for Ba but he was bundled over and may have been awarded a penalty, and the ball rolled to Cisse who yet again produced a very good finish with his left foot.

A fantastic display from the Newcastle attackers but what I want to know is, why when Newcastle are performing well and have good attacking players do the defence look so weak and vulnerable to any attack? Mike Williamson had a shocker for the goal and he struggles when dealing with pace and movement. Danny Simpson is quite consistent but he does occasionally get beaten too easily and the winger has a clear cross or shot at goal. Davide Santon always looks more interested in attacking and taking players on. James Perch has actually proved he is quite good and was the best defender in the second half although he sometimes struggles too. When Coloccini went off injured the alarm bells must have been ringing in the Toon fans heads as he is a very good defender and is arguably one of the most in from defenders in the Premier League.

If they could sort out the defence Newcastle would certainly be a top 6 side consistently. This summer is massive for the Toon and if they can keep their best players and add to their defence they will have a very good chance of winning trophies which the fans desperately crave.

Sheffield Wednesday sign Reading winger Michail Antonio

Sheffield Wednesday have signed 21 year old winger Michail Antonio to help get their promotion charge back on track after a miserable couple of weeks.

The winger has signed on loan from Reading until the end of the season after it was revealed that Jermaine Johnson is currently struggling with an injury which could keep him out of action and with the Sheffield Derby just round the corner, the Owls fans know they need some creativity in the midfield if they are to beat the Blades at Hillsborough and this is exactly what Antonio will give them. Megson would have loved to have been able to play both the wingers as they would have scared the life out of any defence in the division with their direct running and pace.

The young winger has played in League 1 before with both Southampton and Colchester and performed quite well, impressing in many games and looking like he could make the difference in crucial games. The fans of every club have taken to him very well even though he has only had short spells there with managers wanting to take him off Reading permanently. But the Royals have rejected any enquiries as they see him as a player with massive potential and one for the future at their club.

He is at Wednesday now and they will be hopeful that between now and the end of the season he can replicate what Ben Marshall did in the first half of the season. He does have the potential and will not be worried about playing in front of large crowds as he has already experienced these in his short career so far. This season he has played 16 games in League 1 and scored four goals which isn’t a bad record for a winger and shows that he can put away chances when he gets the opportunity and is not only in the team to provide assists.

The player and club will be hoping that the team can get themselves into the automatic promotion places by the end of the season but if they don’t and have to go through the playoffs then it could be another chance for Antonio to score on a big stage because he has already scored one goal at Wembley when playing for Southampton in the JP Trophy final in a comfortable 4-1 victory.

The Owls fans needed a lift more than anyone before the Steel City Derby and hopefully this transfer will excite them and make them more confident of victory. The last few weeks have been close to disastrous but maybe this can be the catalyst to a brilliant end to the season and dispel any rumours that Milan Mandaric is losing patience with Gary Megson.

It is getting closer and closer to the big kick off and now United have another player to worry about which they didn’t expect and may have to change their game plan so Antonio doesn’t have a debut that the Wednesday faithful will be talking about for years to come.