It always feels a little premature when the media start labelling matches as ‘must-win’ games, but here you’ve got to imagine it’s right on the money. After a creditable draw against Chelsea (where they could have won), the Magpies undid all that good work by taking an absolute thrashing against Manchester City. Rooted to the bottom of the table they face newly promoted Norwich, and McClaren needs a big performance from his players at the weekend. The pressure will be on from the starting whistle—will the Magpies respond to it, or crumble?
Norwich’s forwards haven’t scored that many goals, so Martin has stepped up to provide them. The defender has scored a team-leading 3 goals in 8 appearances including this delightful equaliser against Liverpool to earn the Canaries a point at Anfield. Promoted teams often try different methods of tackling the step up in quality when they arrive in the top flight. Norwich have decided (not for the first time) to play with guts and tenacity, and will earn points on the road this season. Whether they win enough will determine their survival, but draws against Liverpool and West Ham have done them no harm at all.
The veteran Irishman is the beating heart of this Norwich side, with 5 assists and 1 goal in 7 appearances. His passing and creativity have helped the Canaries through any early season jitters, but their future is heavily dependent on his staying fit. Norwich’s strikers haven’t shown up yet, with Nathan Redmond the only forward to score more than once. Against Newcastle’s wafer-thin defence Norwich should get goals—the question is, can they outscore their opponents? Hoolahan will have a big say in where the points ultimately end up, and in what might be his last season in the top flight, he will want to make it a memorable one.
The Spanish striker from Tenerife was in dynamic form against Chelsea two matchdays ago—he set up a goal and scored himself in a MotM performance that should, should have won the game. His goal was taken magnificently, a finish that could have come from any top class striker. The Magpies just need him to be consistent—against the Blues was his first real show of quality this season. But McClaren needs to roll the dice now. The manager desperately needs a win—will he look to Pérez to bring home the bacon?
In a team of chronically underperforming misfits, Wijnaldum has been something of a bright spark. 2 goals and an assist in 8 games isn’t bad for a midfielder—although he will need to improve if he wants to justify the £14 million Newcastle spent on him. The Magpies need someone to step up and give this side some heart, and at 24 years old, with 22 caps for the Netherlands, Wijnaldum can be that player. The Dutchman was linked to other, bigger teams than Newcastle in the past—it’s time for him to prove he’s worth the hype.