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Newcastle Dragon

Opinion: Newcastle have done very well to add to their squad in January and they can finish the season well

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Antonio Barreca and Miguel Almiron

Miguel Almiron and Antonio Barreca can uplift Newcastle this season

According to BBC Sports, Newcastle United have broken their transfer record to sign Paraguayan international playmaker Miguel Almiron for £20million from MLS outfit Atlanta United.

Almiron, however, is not the only new face at Tyneside after the January transfer deadline, with the Magpies also securing the services of Italian left-back Antonio Barreca on loan from Monaco till the end of the campaign.

Rafael Benitez deserves all the sympathy in the world for fighting in the Premier League with a rather mediocre squad. The Spaniard has managed to get the club out of the relegation zone following a calamitous start which included a winless streak of eleven games.

Newcastle haven’t lacked organisation and discipline under the stewardship of the gaffer but they could not have expected much returns after spending a measly amount in the summer to acquire the services of Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar, Yoshinori Muto and Ki-Sung Yueng.

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Miguel Almiron

They have often been criticised for their ultra-defensive brand of football this season but it is important to take note of the fact that the manager hasn’t had too many attacking options at his disposal. And that is exactly why the acquisition of an out-and-out No.10 in Miguel Almiron for a club-record fee has come at just the right time.

Benitez has been forced to use a back-five system with a line of four in the middle to thwart the opposition, but the availability of Almiron and Barreca is likely to prompt a more positive approach from the manager. While the former has lightning pace, acceleration, guile and vision to fill in the role of a wide forward or a second striker off Salomon Rondon, the presence of a specialist left-wing back will allow Matt Ritchie to play in a much more advanced position.

Both of them can add a lot more pace to the team, which is likely to make Newcastle more potent on the counter-attack and Rondon can expect a lot more joy inside the box. This combined with the fact that that the team has other quality attacking players – does make them a better prospect now.

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Newcastle currently sit 15th in the standings with 24 points, just a couple of points clear of the relegation zone. Benitez’s men did exceptionally well to pull off a surprise win against Man City last week but they couldn’t replicate the same feat against Spurs in the next game.

Read More: Newcastle would be very wise to sign this former Premier League champion on a free transfer and here’s why

There is still plenty of time for them to secure a respectable finish. The presence of Almiron and Barreca will certainly help their cause.

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Arsenal

Premier League gameweek 4: Winners and Losers from the weekend including Chelsea’s slip and Leicester’s rise

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2019-20 Premier League: Winners and Losers from Round 4 

There was plenty to savour and admire for all sets of fans, as Round 4 of the 2019-20 Premier League season lived up to the expectations, with none of the games failing to produce a goal.

Man United kicked off the action on Saturday away from home at Southampton, with the Red Devils looking to bounce back from a shock 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace the week before. 

Daniel James continued his fine run of form early in the campaign and put United in the lead just 10 minutes into the game before Jannik Vestergaard’s headed equaliser in the second half ensured that both the teams shared the spoils. 

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United, though, will be bitterly disappointed for failing to break down a 10-man Southampton unit after Kevin Danso was sent off for a second bookable offence on Scott McTominay. 

Elsewhere, Chelsea failed to capitalise on Tammy Abraham’s second brace of the season, as the Blues squandered a two-goal lead at home against Sheffield United to earn a 2-2 draw.

Callum Robinson’s strike followed by Kurt Zouma’s unfortunate own goal towards the dying stages of the game meant that Frank Lampard’s side went into the international break with only a solitary win in their first four games in the Premier League. 

However, there weren’t any hiccups for defending champions Man City after Pep Guardiola’s side put in yet another dominant performance to claim all three points with a resounding 4-0 victory over Brighton, thanks to a brace from Sergio Aguero and goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. 

Similarly, Liverpool continued their merry way with a rather straightforward 3-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor, as an own goal from Chris Wood followed by goals from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino meant that Jurgen Klopp’s side went into the international break with a perfect record. 

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Shifting the focus to the North London Derby, there was nothing to separate the two teams, as Arsenal and Spurs played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Emirates. 

Christian Eriksen opened the scoring for the visitors and Harry Kane’s spot-kick doubled the advantage for Mauricio Pochettino’s side after Son was brought down inside the box by a reckless lunge from Granit Xhaka. 

However, Lacazette handed the Gunners a lifeline just at the stroke of the interval before a lively second-half performance saw Aubameyang bag the equaliser with an intuitive finish from Guendouzi’s perfectly-weighted lobbed pass. 

Meanwhile, Leicester City continued their unbeaten run in the Premier League with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Bournemouth at home, thus registering their second victory in a row after a 2-1 result against Sheffield United last week. 

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Jamie Vardy’s early opener was cancelled out by Callum Wilson but Youri Tielemans restored the lead for the hosts towards the end of the first-half before Vardy bagged his third goal of the season later in the game to cap off a dominant display from Brendan Rodgers’ side. 

Tielemans, though, was lucky to have escaped a red card for a horrible studs-up challenge on Callum Wilson, with the VAR surprisingly not spotting a clear and obvious error in the on-field referee’s decision.

Elsewhere, Watford opened their account in the Premier League this term with a 1-1 draw away at Newcastle, registering their first points of the season after three consecutive defeats.

Will Hughes’ opener handed the Hornets an early advantage before Fabian Schar drew Newcastle level just before the interval. 

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The West Ham fans will be happy with what they saw from their team in the 2-0 victory over Norwich City at home, as goals from Sebastien Haller and Andriy Yarmolenko on either side of the interval handed Manuel Pellegrini’s side their second victory of the campaign.

The Hammers created plenty of opportunities and it could have been four or five in favour of them, whilst Todd Cantwell was left to rue his missed chance from just a yard out.

There weren’t any heroics from Aston Villa this weekend as Crystal Palace followed up their surprise victory over Man United with another tidy 1-0 triumph over the Lions at home, thanks to a solitary goal from Jordan Ayew midway through the second half.

Meanwhile, Wolves’ unbeaten streak came to an end at Goodison Park on Sunday as Everton bounced back from a defeat away at Aston Villa last week to register a well-deserved 3-2 win at home.

A moment of miscommunication between Rui Patricio and Conor Coady allowed Richarlison to fire home the opener before Romain Saiss equalised moments later, tapping it in off Adama Traore’s cross from the right.

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Alex Iwobi then restored the lead for the Toffees before the interval, only for Raul Jimenez to make it 2-2 in the 75th minute. 

It was Richarlison, though, who headed home the winner with ten minutes to go and Wolves weren’t able to muster any meaningful reply after that, as Marco Silva’s side went into the international break on a positive note. Not to mention, Wily Boly’s red card that worsened things for Nuno Santo.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

3 moments when VAR came into play in gameweek 3 of the Premier League including Tottenham’s game-changing call

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3 moments when VAR came into play in gameweek 3 of the Premier League

Some lacklustre refereeing by the officials in the Premier League last season led to large sections of the fans and media calling for the introduction of the VAR system in the English top-flight, with a view to removing the incorrect decisions.

However, there hasn’t been any shortage of controversy following the introduction of technology since the start of the 2019-20 season, with several fans, pundits and players taking to their social media accounts to criticize the VAR. 

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Prior to its introduction in the Premier League, it has been seen in the past that the VAR system is by no means completely foolproof, given that it led to some ridiculous decisions at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia last summer and also in the Champions League, where some calls completely altered the balance of the game. 

It will be interesting to see as to how the fans in the Premier League react when the VAR plays a part in the high-octane encounters later on in the season but for now, let us take a look at three controversial moments from Round 3.

 1. David Silva’s penalty appeal against Bournemouth

Man City picked up three points on their trip to the south coast with a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth but that scoreline could have been a bit more emphatic had Jefferson Lerma’s stamp on David Silva’s foot in the second half been given as a penalty by referee Andre Marriner. 

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With the scoreline 2-1 in favour of the reigning champions, Silva was brought down inside the box by Lerma but the referee, who was in no position to spot the infringement, waved on to continue the game before video assistant referee Kevin Friend came into play. 

Surprisingly enough, though, what looked like an obvious foul and a clear-cut penalty was not overturned by the use of technology, citing lack of conclusive evidence as to the reason behind the on-field call prevailing.

It is hard to slam Marriner for the decision given that he wasn’t in the right position to make the call, however, one cannot help but wonder about the utility of the VAR if the system isn’t empowered to take such blatant refereeing blunders out of the equation.

2. Controversial moment involving Harry Kane and Jamaal Lascelles

Spurs suffered their first major setback of the Premier League this term, as Newcastle United stunned Mauricio Pochettino’s side 1-0 away from home on Sunday.

Indeed, that result came as a massive shock to the home fans, although the majority of them are likely to feel deprived after referee Mike Dean declined to award them a penalty towards the end of the game. 

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Spurs, who were nowhere near their best on Sunday, had a shout for a penalty turned down when Harry Kane appeared to have been brought down inside the box by Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles, who was probably smart enough to make the incident look completely accidental. 

Lascelles slipped inside the box and just when Kane was about to get his shot away on goal, the centre-back went to ground and brought down the forward with his arm going across him. 

However, the video assistant wasn’t ready to overturn the on-field decision because he apparently thought there wasn’t a clear and obvious error made by Mike Dean. 

Accidental or intentional, Lascelles’ challenge did look clumsy and certainly robbed Kane of a certain goal, so much so that it could easily have been given as a penalty by another referee on another day. 

Now, the question is – does the VAR still need to look for clear and obvious errors even when the on-field referee isn’t in the right position to make the call?

3. Lewis Dunk’s disallowed goal vs Southampton

Brighton had a goal disallowed by VAR on Saturday in the 2-0 home defeat to Southampton, albeit it wasn’t the first time this season in the Premier League that the Seagulls found themselves at the wrong end of VAR calls. 

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Leandro Trossard had a goal ruled out against West Ham in the previous game and this time it was Lewis Dunk, who scored with a thumping header towards the end of the first half, only to have it cancelled after the intervention of technology. 

Dan Burn, who was in an offside position when the goal was scored, didn’t get a touch on the ball but he was clearly blocking the view of goalkeeper Angus Gunn. 

This incident came after Florin Andone had been sent off for a shocking studs-up challenge on Yan Valery and amidst all the blemishes of the VAR, these two calls on the south coast seemed to do justice to the introduction of technology in the Premier League. 

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Newcastle Dragon

How Steve Bruce masterminded Newcastle United’s brilliant 1-0 win away at Tottenham

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How Newcastle United upset Spurs with their resolute defending

Newcastle United hit the ground running in the Premier League this term in an emphatic manner as the Magpies stunned Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 away from home on Sunday to register their first win of the season. 

The 1-0 victory was Newcastle’s first-ever over any big-six opposition since their return to the Premier League a couple of years ago. 

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When Crystal Palace shocked Man United 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday, many would have thought that they had seen the biggest upset that Round 3 of the Premier League had to offer. 

However, as unpredictable that the English top-flight can be, there was even more drama on Sunday as Steve Bruce’s side defied the odds and produced a perfect defensive display that spoke of pure resilience and industry.

Having lost back-to-back games against Arsenal and Norwich City, even the most ardent Newcastle fan wouldn’t have given the Magpies a chance of coming away with anything against Spurs away from home. 

Joelinton had other ideas though, and the Brazilian’s first Premier League goal proved to be a golden one. From Newcastle’s perspective, he couldn’t have scored at a better time. 

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Indeed, Joelinton grabbed the headlines with his well-taken winner but he wasn’t the only one who starred in the fascinating 1-0 victory. Truth be told, it was Newcastle’s defensive organisation, discipline and pure resilience at the back that earned them a coveted victory over a top-six opposition. 

Steve Bruce fielded a compact 5-4-1 formation to shut the doors on a Spurs side that boasted of the likes of Harry Kane, Heun-min Son and Lucas Moura in the attacking ranks.

As a matter of fact, those tactics were reminiscent of the ‘park the bus’ approach deployed by Rafael Benitez against top-six opposition in the Premier League last season. 

Benitez’s ultra-defensive tactics against the big clubs made it difficult for them to create chances and find openings, and Bruce followed the path used by his predecessor to good effect.

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In what proved to be a battle of creativity, innovation and relentlessness against discipline, shape and defensive organisation, Newcastle came out on top after a long and hard tussle, as Steve Bruce’s side successfully prevented Spurs from scoring and preserved their lead. 

The tactical part

Bruce might have fielded two wing-backs in Matt Ritchie and Emil Krafth in his back-three system, but realistically, it was more of a straight back-five in front of a midfield-four featuring Issac Hayden, Sean Longstaff, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin (replaced by Christian Atsu in the first half after an injury).

While Longstaff and Hayden closed down the spaces between the lines in the midfield, Ritchie and Krafth shut out the likes of Son and Moura in the wide areas, thus cutting the supply lines for the visitors.

The main part of the defending, though, was done by the centre-back trio of Paul Dummett, Fabian Schar and Jamaal Lascelles, led from the front by the man with the captain’s armband. 

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Interestingly, the most impressive thing about Newcastle’s defending was their organisation, and the fact that they defended well as a unit made it all the more difficult for Spurs to make any real inroads. 

Along with the defenders, the front trio of Almiron, Joelinton and Atsu spent most of the time inside their own half, providing extra protection to their counterparts at the back.

In other words, Newcastle’s defensive performance emphasized the need for the attackers to track back and join the backline in order to make the shape more compact.

Looking at the numbers, Spurs had 81% of the possession on Sunday but Newcastle’s impenetrable defensive wall meant that the Lilywhites were only able to get 2 of their 17 attempts on target. 

Son, for once, called Martin Dubravka into action in the first half but that was just about it as the hosts seemingly lacked the sharpness and the creativity to find a way to score.

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Lucas Moura missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise towards the end of the game and things could have been different had the VAR adjudged Lascelles’ dive across Harry Kane inside the box to be a penalty. However, in the end, Pochettino’s side didn’t have enough in the locker. 

The likes of Jamaal Lascelles (10 clearances, 3 aerial duels), Dummett (13 clearances, 3 aerial duels) and Schar (7 clearances, 4 tackles and 2 interceptions) all displayed incredible levels of concentration and composure at the back, and those numbers reveal that they pretty much dealt with everything that Spurs hurled at them. 

The Newcastle fans should be happy with the character and the mentality that the team showed on Sunday and Bruce, who was a centre-back himself during his playing days, got his tactics absolutely spot on.

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