Supermac: Football intelligence behind Newcastle’s form

INTELLIGENT ... Newcastle United.
INTELLIGENT ... Newcastle United.

MALCOLM Macdonald feels the football intelligence of Newcastle United’s players has been behind their stunning run of form.

The Magpies became the first team to beat Chelsea this season with a 2-1 victory at St James’s Park on Saturday.

That result made it seven wins out of nine for Alan Pardew’s side, and moved Newcastle up to seventh in the Premier League.

Less than two months ago, United looked to be in a relegation battle, with Pardew’s position as manager under intense scrutiny.

However, those clouds have long since departed Tyneside, and Newcastle’s intelligence has impressed Macdonald, who scored 121 goals for the club between 1971 and 1976.

He told the Gazette: “It has been absolutely terrific, the way it has turned around.

“The players have got a terrific belief in themselves and they look to be playing the game in a very intelligent fashion.

“When you look at the last game, they were prepared to weather the storm and then at the right moment start to turn it around when Chelsea were starting to run out of ideas, and the pressure was reversed.

“It is a footballing intelligence, and Newcastle are brimmed full of it, which is not something I thought I would be saying.

“For a long time, Newcastle have lacked that, but not these days.”

Jak Alnwick is set for his first senior start for Newcastle at Arsenal on Saturday, with Tim Krul and Rob Elliot injured.

Alnwick impressed when he was brought on at half-time of the Chelsea game, and Macdonald has no fear with the 21-year-old between the sticks.

He added: “There is a dressing room saying, and Jak Alnwick proved just how true it is against Chelsea.

“Managers and coaches say to their goalkeeper that the first opportunity they get, they should clatter the centre forward.

“That is exactly what Alnwick did. He clattered (Diego) Costa and from there, his confidence was sky high, and Costa disappeared from the game.

“It’s an old saying, but absolutely true. Things like that can turn games, and I’m expecting to see him do exactly the same against Arsenal.

“There’s nothing better for a back four than to know the goalkeeper is going to come for whatever goes over their heads.

“It fills them with a bit of confidence to go and play the game. The impact that the goalkeeper has filters all the way through the team.”