Not so long ago we were looking at Newcastle and casting pitying eyes on a disaster. Two massive scalps later and the Magpies are getting a second chance. Liverpool and Tottenham somehow both came unstuck against McClaren’s charges, but can this team of misfits get a win when they’re favourites? Despite wilfully battling Arsenal, Villa are in the same dire straits they were before. A few weeks ago Remi Garde would have highlighted this fixture as a winnable one. It doesn’t feel much like that any more. Apparently Garde will get funds to spend in January, but unless Messi fancies swapping Birmingham for Barcelona, who could Villa sign to turn this shitshow around?
One of Newcastle’s summer signings, Mbemba must have been shocked at the level of dysfunction rumbling on at St. James’ Park. That hasn’t stopped him from being a consistent performer for the Magpies and making 16 league appearances. Against Liverpool and Tottenham, Mbemba was one of the best players on the field, and the young man looks full of potential. He could easily become a top Premier League defender in the years to come. Has made on average 3 tackles, 3 interceptions and 6 clearances per game—an indicator of what an important piece of this squad Mbemba has become.
Maybe the Frenchman has finally realised he needs to be playing well if he’s ever going to earn that coveted move to a Champions League side. Along with Wijnaldum and Perez he looks to be Newcastle’s main threat and the best chance of staying up. If Sissoko continues in this form—and with the increasing pressure on owner Mike Ashley in light of revelations about working conditions at Sports Direct warehouses—a bid for the midfielder has every chance of being accepted in January.
Game-changer. Subbed on for the ineffectual Papiss Cissé, the ex-Anderlecht forward had an immediate impact at White Hart Lane. It remains to be seen if his heroics have won the trust of his manager, but he and Ayoze Perez could have a crack at the classic little man/big man centre forward pairing. At the very least Newcastle should score a few more goals. And with the fans now expecting, the Magpies will have to attack Villa to keep them onside.
It’s difficult to pick out the positives for this Villa side, and unless they start getting some points on the board this Christmas is going to be a grim one for fans. Jordan Ayew cost more than he should have—especially when brother Andre Ayew was a free transfer—but the striker looks to be the best Villa can call upon right now. With 3 goals in 9 appearances, it might be an idea to give Ayew a few games in that favoured centre forward position.