Premier League Preview: Newcastle United

My Premier League previews continue with last season’s Championship champions now the team to focus on. After Chris Hughton steered them back to the top flight after only one season in the second tier of English football, can he now guide them to Premier League safety?



After 2008/09’s tragic relegation for Newcastle the Magpies are back with a decent squad that includes some good young players. Newcastle are yet to really splash the cash this summer with James Perch the only acquisition to hold a transfer fee. A £1.5 million buy from Nottingham Forest is a good piece of dealing by the Newcastle manager, though, as Perch is a solid defender who should cope with the pace of the Premier League. Dan Gosling and Sol Campbell have also joined the club after being snapped up by Newcastle after they were made available for free transfers. Campbell brings some experience to the Magpie’s back line while Gosling is a young, exciting prospect. The former Everton midfielder chose to move to Newcastle with the idea of getting more first team football; at the age of 20 he may well be looking towards the England squad already. The promotion-winning side has remained, though, with no notable departures from the squad. 
           
In defence Newcastle look relatively strong with some big ex-Premier League players still on their books after the 2009 relegation. Ryan Taylor and Jose Enrique are both quality defenders and should have no problem re-adapting to the top flight again. Taylor is also a free kick specialist which will come in handy for Newcastle this season. They also have Danny Simpson and the former Manchester United right back will be looking to play a lot of first team football this season after leaving Old Trafford in 2009. The wealth of experience that is available through the centre backs, though, is quite impressive. Between them, Steven Taylor, Fabrico Collocini and Campbell have made a total of 925 club appearances across their respective careers. In 2009 the Magpies looked weak at the back with Collocini out-of-depth and lacking any pace, but the defender seems to has got his act together while in the Championship and shouldn’t be of burden to his side this term.
           
The midfield of Newcastle is littered with Premier League talent and knowledge. Alan Smith has matured immensely since his conversion from striker to central midfielder and the former Manchester United and Leeds man now wears the captain’s armband with pride. Kevin Nolan was a star for Bolton before his move to Newcastle in their relegation season and so many would have expected him to move again in order to stay in the top flight. The midfielder, though, chose to battle it out in the Championship and starred in their promotion push, scoring seventeen goals. Danny Guthrie is a solid young player who could make a name for himself this season. The former Liverpool midfielder has a good passing range and is confident on the ball; something that Newcastle will definitely want if they intend to keep the ball. The always-controversial Joey Barton makes a return to the Premier League after he battled back from injury last season. The former Manchester City midfielder is sure to ruffle a few feathers this season and a partnership with Smith could make the central midfield of Newcastle very feisty.
           
The wings of Newcastle could do with a little more pace with Jonas Gutierrez, who played at right back for Argentina in the 2010 World Cup, Peter Lovenkrands, who at the age of 30 may find himself out-of-place in the Premier League as the ex-Rangers midfielder is nowhere near as quick as he used to be, and Wayne Routledge are all wingers on the Magpie squad list. Newcastle could do with a play that has blistering pace to help them unlock defences and to give them a new dimension; Shaun Wright-Phillips could be looking to leave Manchester City as his first team chances could be limited and the England midfielder would be a great buy for Newcastle.
           
The Magpies also look rather weak when it comes to strikers. Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi the are the only players that stand out from the squad; Carroll is yet to show if he is Premier League quality while Ameobi has always shown that he isn’t. Newcastle have been linked with French international Hatem Ben Arfa recently which would be a good buy, but they could do with a striker that has Premier League experience and is a born goal scorer. Without goals, Newcastle are going to find Premier League life a lot more difficult.
Where will they finish?: 17th
Official relegation odds: 11/4 (Bet365)
Star man: Alan Smith
Main weakness: They have little pace on the wings and barely any goal scoring prowess up front
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