The season is finally upon us after yet another excruciatingly long and busy summer for City. Newcastle pay a visit to the Etihad on Monday (3pm EST, NBC Sports Network) in Manuel Pellegrini's first game in charge to kickoff the season. I talked to Robert from Newcastle's SB Nation Blog 'Coming Home Newcastle' for a closer look at the club heading into the new season. Isn't it great to have some SB Nation intra-blog camaraderie? I also did a Q&A with them, which can be found here.
- B&B: Thoughts on the summer? Have Newcastle addressed their needs sufficiently?
CHN: Not at all. We said at the beginning of the window that Newcastle needed at least two strikers, depth buys at the back, and ideally some talented youth to bolster the reserves. So far all we've got is 17 year-old Olivier Kemen and then Loic Remy on loan. Remy is a good get, but hes's not available for at least this week, and of course there's the trial coming up in December. The best thing that could be said about the summer is that nobody of any real consequence has left (yet).
- B&B: Last season was a disappointment following the incredible 11-12 season. How can we expect Newcastle to do this season?
CHN: Following up a 5th place finish with a 16th place showing is obviously not ideal. The real Newcastle is probably somewhere in between those two extremes. There won't be a European schedule to contend with (the squad was and still is simply not deep enough to handle something like that), and hopefully the injury situation shouldn't be quite so bad. The median would be 10.5, and I would be surprised if Newcastle bettered that. I'll predict an 11th place finish.
- B&B: Is Alan Pardew the right man to get Newcastle to their goals, short and long term?
CHN: When you put it like that, probably not. I'm a Pardew supporter, mostly because I don't think there's a decent upgrade available if he is sacked, and at this point it would probably be Joe F. Kinnear. Having said that, his matchday tactics are typically unimaginative and he's too stubborn with selection. For example, he always plays a negative, 10 (or 11!) men behind the ball game against City. I hope he surprises us all with a decent plan on Monday.
- B&B: Are there any particular under-the-radar players that fans of other teams might not know much of, that we should keep an eye on this season?
CHN: It's hard for me to assess which players are under the radar for fans of other teams, but I'll try. Yoan Gouffran is a guy that doesn't get enough attention, even on his own team. He should absolutely be a starter on the wing, but instead he typically comes on for Jonas Gutierrez when the result has already been decided. If he gets regular playing time, I like him for double digit goals, and that's his floor. Two attacking midfielders that could surprise if given the opportunity are Sylvain Marveaux, who has always been held back by injury, and Haris Vuckic. I think this may be the year that Vuckic puts it all together and makes Pardew think twice before writing in the usual names on the team sheet. Finally, young defender Paul Dummett has had a good preseason and could see some time at fullback.
- B&B: Predicted lineup and score for Monday?
CHN: With Remy out, Pardew will probably roll with a 4-2-3-1, with Cabaye and Sissoko playing in each other's spots: Krul | Debuchy, STaylor, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa | Tiote, Cabaye | Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Gutierrez | Cisse
I don't expect a competitive match, but either Cisse or Ben Arfa will have a magical moment that frustrates us more than anything. 3-1 City.
Thanks to Robert for his time!