It was back down to earth with a bang for Newcastle last season after reaching the dizzy heights of fifth the year before. Alan Pardew's side went from narrowly missing out on a UEFA Champions League place to scarcely avoiding relegation as the effects of injuries and underperforming players took their toll. The reality is that Newcastle have a squad that is good enough to avoid relegation but ultimately requires significant improvement to regularly finish in the top six or seven. Alan Pardew will be looking for progress this season and a top half finish would be welcome after 2012-13's flirtation with relegation.
One player the Toon Army will be glad to welcome back to full fitness is Hatem Ben Arfa after the Frenchman missed much of last season through injury. The attacking midfielder started just 16 games all season but still managed to complete the fourth most dribbles in the league. His close speed, close control and creativity were sorely missed by Newcastle last term and to have him back for the whole season running at defences will be a major boost. As pundits often tell us, there is nothing defenders hate more.
|Dribbles - PL 2012/13|
|Hatem Ben Arfa||19||79|
Another Frenchman Newcastle will be keen to hold onto and hope will be able to stay fit and in form throughout 2013-14 is Yohan Cabaye. The midfielder is the man who can get his side playing, when he's on form he allows the rest of the team to play well around him. His ability from set-pieces will again be a useful weapon in the Magpies armoury but it is his range of passing in open play that could prove most crucial. Last season he averaged 2.6 key passes per game at St James' Park, an impressive amount. However, the fact that these passes resulted in just two assists for Newcastle's no 4 clearly shows that Pardew's side must improve in front of goal.
|Newcastle chances - PL 2012/13|
Goals were rarely a problem for Kevin Keegan's Newcastle side of the 1990s and they were a team also known for playing some very attractive passing football. Things appear to have changed under Pardew, however, with his side hitting more long balls forward than any other Premier League outfit last season. The former West Ham boss hasn't been labelled a 'long ball' manager in the same way Tony Pulis and one of his predecessors on Tyneside, Sam Allardyce, have been, but should results fail to materialise for Newcastle then questions may be asked of the style of football the manager is using. The fans accepted it when their team were flying high a couple of seasons ago but another season struggling at the bottom of the league may see Pardew go the same way as Allardyce before him.
|Long balls - PL 2012/13|
|Team||Long balls per game|