Premier League Preview - Newcastle United
MANAGER: Alan Pardew
STADIUM: Sports Direct Arena (52381)
LAST SEASON: 5TH
Without question the surprise package of the Premier League last time out. There were more than a few raised eyebrows when Alan Pardew was the man tasked with taking Newcastle United to the next level, but despite initial scepticism, supporters are now wreaking the benefits of Pardew`s assembled side.
Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé were two of the players to arrive at St James Park with a bang, the Senegalese duo on fire in both halves of the season to propel the Magpies to a very respectable fifth place - a far cry from the anarchy of the summer previous, where expectations were bleak and Joey Barton and Mike Ashley were the figureheads of a club teetering on the brink.
IN: Curtis Good (Melbourne Heart, £400,000), Gael Bigirimana (Coventry, undisclosed), Romain Amalfitano (Reims, free), Vurnon Anita (Ajax, £6.7m)
OUT: Leon Best (Blackburn, £3m), Fraser Forster (Celtic, £2m), Danny Guthrie (Reading, free), Peter Lovenkrands (Birmingham, free), Alan Smith (MK Dons, free) Ryan Donaldson (released), Tamas Kadar (Roda JC, free)
Maintaining the standards of last season will evidently prove difficult, and Newcastle have initially sought to shed some of the talent that got them to the top flight in 2010. Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands have stepped down to the Championship while young talent have been drafted in in their stead.
KEY PLAYER: Papiss Cissé
The Senegalese forward set the division alight with his vast arrays of goalscoring qualities in just a short period of time. 'That' goal against Chelsea was a joy to behold and almost a freak of nature, helping Newcastle to a fifth placed finish.
Both he and Newcastle exceeded all expectations and it will be a curious thought as to whether Cissé can emulate his achievements of last season. The Senegalese striker will be looking for more goals and a considerable haul to try and take Newcastle that one step further.
I think Newcastle will still fare well this season, but there will be inevitably be some hangover from a memorable season last time out. Expectation and the demands of European football will place extra strain on a squad that as yet is not fully equipped to cope with these extra exertions.
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