What’s Newcastle’s Best Back Four Right Now?

It will not surprise anybody when we say in the last two games we have not missed Michael Owen, Shola Ameobi and Mark Viduka in attack.

The starting combination of Martins and Luque scored 4 goals between them and young Carroll’s appearance as substitute heralded him a great goal against the world’s best goalkeeper yesterday.

Yet our starting two will probably be Owen and Viduka when fit. Same thing in midfield, we haven’t really missed Barton and Butt.

We’ll take a look at what our best back four could be – if we don’t sign anybody else – the nightmare scenario.


Charles N’Zogbia – outstanding performance against Juventus

Moving first from the attack to midfield – we looked good again yesterday. Geremi is an experienced player who can provide great crosses, free kicks and corners and young N’Zogbia yesterday was a revelation in central midfield. Milner looks to be improving on last season and Solano looks a new player under Sam. With Joey Barton and Nicky Butt – probably our starting central midfield missing – it’s fair to say we didn’t miss them too much either.

If only we could say the same thing about our defense we would be able to make a top six league position next season.

Rozehnal and Ramage to their credit have played well (solidly is a better description) in central defense. Rozy looks a class act and Ramage is what he is – a local youngster doing his very best under Sam’s guidance and fighting like crazy to keep his position. But poor Huntington looked exposed again at left back – simply because he isn’t one. Put him in central defense and he is a much better player. It’s hard to criticize Paul because he’s playing wherever Sam puts him but we need a left back – how often have you heard that this summer?

Sam may even be able to get Babayaro to play solidly – if he ever gets him fit.  Celestine is in Germany (with Emre) getting his ankle injury fixed and we’re unsure of his situation. But it’s unlikely Sam will want to sell him now with the team so weak at left back.

If we don’t bring anybody in – let’s take the nightmare scenario – and ask who should play in the back four?

We think Sam will keep Ramage and Rozehnal there until Stephen Taylor gets match fit – but that will probably not be before the first game in less than two weeks. But the two have played solidly together and that’s what we need right now – no mistakes from the central two.

Paul Huntington should be replaced at left back.   Of all the young center backs at Newcastle we think Edgar has been the best one when deployed as a full back. So we would give David a run out on Wednesday against Hull City at left back – and if Nicky Butt is back Sam can also  play N’Zogbia there – who could become a terrific utility player for us and get lots of games next season. We certainly hope he gets the games because that’s all he needs.

Right back – Sam will probably stay with Stephen Carr right now for his experience and it looks like he wants to use Solano where he can be most dangerous – on the right wing.  Nothing wrong with that as Nobby has looked great in pre-season.  So our best back four for the first game – with alternatives could be:

Carr (Edgar)    Ramage (Taylor when fit)  Rozehnal   Edgar (N’Zogbia)

That’s what’s available to Sam – not too bad – but we need those experienced defenders in to lighten the mood surrounding our defense.  Of course we could include Geremi – who can play either full back position – and maybe play Zog and Butt could play midfield – another possible option in our first game.

If we can get them in and keep the squad a lot fitter than last season – we could still make top six – which would be a very successful season for the new management. The next two weeks are going to be critical in the transfer market for us – and you can bet most Newcastle fans every morning will be scanning the papers anxiously for new signings.

Comments always welcome.

42 comments so far

  • AlexW

    Jul 30, 2007 at 9:48 AM

    Comment #1

    Ramage over tayler, are you mad?

  • Ed Harrison

    Jul 30, 2007 at 9:51 AM

    Comment #2

    AlexW – no not quite that daft. Ramage until Steven is fit again – have clarified that above – that team is one that will probably play first game at Bolton. Taylor – Rozehnal top two in central defense.

  • Josh

    Jul 30, 2007 at 9:53 AM

    Comment #3

    I think its WORRYING when you look at our defense i CANT SEE any other option but to get more Defenders in.

    Carr is a DISASTER area

    and as for a LB, how can we go a whole season WITHOUT a good LB???

    Doesn’t bare thinking about

    every game will be 4-4 or 5-5

    we’ll score alot but also concede alot, poor shay given he deserves SO much more protection.

  • Ed Harrison

    Jul 30, 2007 at 9:56 AM

    Comment #4

    Josh agree – this is the very worst case. But shows a good experienced LB would raise our squad capability a lot. So we probably need two LBs to be safe. Putting together a piece on who’s available on continent as Sam said he’ll need to look there. Only when we get two should be let Baba move on.

  • Dave

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:00 AM

    Comment #5

    Yep, I think we’re looking at muddling through until we get those signings and they’re bedded in.

    I favour: Solano (Carr), Roz, Taylor (Ramage), Zog (Edgar/Hunt..)

    Josh, I am no Carr fan either but we will have to play him unless bodies come in. We must get people in. We will, of course we will otheriwse we may sink. I can’t face another struggle to stay in the top half.

  • Dumers

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:07 AM

    Comment #6

    Newcastles best team at the moment in my view:

    Owen Viduka

    Milner Emre Barton Solano

    Zogbia Rozenhall Taylor Geremi


    SUBS: Harper, Ramage, Martins, Luque, Butt

  • Kash

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:11 AM

    Comment #7

    IMO we need 6 players and we’re ready for the season. 2CB, LB, RB, DM and Appiah to replace Dyer. The sixth signing should be a utility player who can play LB and couple of other positions (maybe Atiba Hutchison).

    Our defence is not ready!

  • Josh

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:13 AM

    Comment #8

    Dumers- When you lay the team out like that its looks good.

    N’Zogbia is Great and probably could be great at being a Wing Back as he is SOOOO good at counter attacks, he be a similar player to how Ashley Cole was at Arsenal.
    I would just like to see Butt in for Emre, as he would be a Great holding player emre is good for a back up burst of energy in the middle after 60mins or so.

    But apart from looks good UNTIL!!! the injuries kick in which they WILL so thats the BIG worry for me cos i think we have some GOOD GOOD tallent but squad WAY to small.

  • HulioGeordio

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:15 AM

    Comment #9

    It’s just not good enough. Left Back has been a priority for 2 seasons now!!! Nothing has been done.

    We need at least 3 more signings in defence. If the quality is not there then we still need a dedicated left back rather than throwing in Huntington.

    I agree Edgar should be started more often. He played great for us there last season. Huntington is out of his depth there, so much so it’s embarrasing for the lad.

    Carr gets embarrased more than not on the right and is slow and too small. We need a dedicated right back also. I don’t care if they are not English nor played in the PL. We need numbers!!!!

  • Ed Harrison

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:15 AM

    Comment #10

    Josh – well said – so true – exactly what pragmatic Sam is thinking.

  • Dumers

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:17 AM

    Comment #11

    Josh – i definatly agree…i wouldnt be too worrried about the inhjuries but at Newcastle we seem to be prone to them..we are desperate need fo some new siginings..i just wish that BSA would go onto this site and see what we are saying!! Also i agree that Butt is potentially better than emre but only for the big games against arseanl, chelsea, etc. he playts a similar role to parker which is good but we are team that needs golas due to are poor defence so by having that attacking minded player against weaker teams is definatly needed!!??

  • dougy j reay

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:20 AM

    Comment #12

    totally agree it is madness to go into this season without a specialist left back. it has never been a secret that we need a left back, and is glaringly obvious. why wasnt it the first position filled this summer? all the other signings are great, but not at all necessary. Can Mort and Sam really be this thick that they cant see the one glaring gaping hole in the team? Honestly, is making me so fed up.

    On a related note, am i not right that sam was due to do a talk-in at shearers at some point about now? Anyone know waht came of that? Would imagine if the fans there are representative of the rest of us the first (and 2nd, 3rd, 4th!) question would have been – WHY NO LEFT BACK?

  • charles

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:23 AM

    Comment #13

    who’s available at LB right now?

  • Josh

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:23 AM

    Comment #14

    Yes true about the attacking midfielder but i think with barton attacking straight through the middle like he always does VERY Direct which i like, and then milner and solano (and lets not forget from november Duff) down the wings its looking good up front especially with 2 TOTALLY different strikers Viduka and Owen AND THEN there is Martins, BRILLIANT!

  • Josh

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:25 AM

    Comment #15

    dougy j reay – i think the talk at shearers bar is 2morrow evening. Check on NUFC.co.uk

  • Dumers

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:26 AM

    Comment #16

    fair point! butt it is!!

  • Josh

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:28 AM

    Comment #17

    WOW, i NEVER thought i’d be fighting for butt to be in starting line up ha ha, rememeber couple of seasons ago, he wasn;t even around we sent him packing to Birmingham ha ha.

    Though what a brilliant thing it would be if Dyer went and a Miracle happened we got Appiah??

    Then put him in the centre next to barton, he would hold and defend the midfield SUPERB.

  • AlexW

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:29 AM

    Comment #18

    dougy – if sam wanted to, he could onto the market tomorow and buy 4 or 5 LBs just like that, but the thing is he doesnt want to bring in crap inexperienced players wh0 will be rubish to the team, thats why its taking som long because we cant sign these quaility players as some dont want to come, remember habib beye looked certain to sign but…………

  • Greg B

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:35 AM

    Comment #19

    Ill have a go at listing all our current squad. Lets just see who we have on board, who is available and who is injured:

    Given – Harper – Krul – Forster
    Carr – Rozehnal – Ramage – Edgar – Huntington
    Taylor – Babayaro
    N’Zogbia – Solano – Milner – Geremi – Pattison
    Duff – Emre – Barton – Butt
    Martins – Owen – Viduka – Carroll – Luque – Ameobi – Troisi

    I’m assuming Owen, Amaobi and Viduka are all OK, just not been risked. I know I havent added all the youth players, LuaLua for instance but the ones I have have all either played or been involved with the first team.
    For me, We have a decent selection of goalkeepers, no problems there. In midfield, we are a bit light through injurys and the Dyer situation but once Butt, Emre, Barton and Duff are all fit we have an excellent array of talent in midfield. Sam will have trouble keeping them all happy!
    Up front, much the same, once everyone is 100% we have fantastic options in attack, probably more and better options than in any recent season.
    Obviously the defence is the problem. Once Taylor is back i actually think we will be OK for ceter halves (is that showing my age :)). Rozenhal, Taylor, Huntington, Ramage and to a lesser extent Edgar may all have a pert to play this season in the center of defence. The right back position seems OK with Carr looking something like and Geremi as back up.
    Left back, left back left back! Our only left back on paper is out with a groin injury (in Germany I think) which could see him sidelined for God knows how long. And even when fit he does not inspire the greatest confidence. I see only Edgar as having any chance of emerging as decent cover from the squad we have available. True N’Zogbia has been tried there but for me you may aswell put Milner there as either way you are taking out a great midfield option to cover the left back spot which IMO should have been addressed weeks ago.
    So in my opinion while we are an experienced center back short we are desperate for a left back. Do you think we would be in this position if it was actually the goalkeeper spot we were talking about rather than the left back spot?

  • Kash

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:42 AM

    Comment #20

    Let’s get some numbers in and cover the squad. Then once BSA has proven (again) what he can do with decent players hopefully he’ll get the backing to add to the current squad with some world class players next season!

  • apan

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:57 AM

    Comment #21

    Charlie Barnett was impressive yday as leftback heck even better than huntington but i agreed that edgar would be the perfect candidate for now if babayaron isnt fit..barnett stil inexperience for epl….carr also played solidly imo i guess big sam trainin method works on him too…but my back four for now would be ( including the injured players)

    baba(edgar) taylors (huntington) rohzehnal (ramage) geremi (carr/solano)

  • ChrisL

    Jul 30, 2007 at 10:57 AM

    Comment #22

    How about leaving Ramage where he is and putting Taylor at right back when he’s fit again.

    Ramage (like Huntington) looks badly out of his depth when played anywhere but centre-back, where I think he does a decent job (when he’s with a decent partner).
    Taylor always looked comfortable & did a good job regardless of being in the middle or at right back.

    Basically, I’d rather have Ramage in the middle of defence then Carr on the right.

  • Steve R

    Jul 30, 2007 at 11:01 AM

    Comment #23

    Very worrying piece yesterday saying Sam thinks there are no left backs available! I guess that means we won’t be hearing of us signing anyone today then!! Indeed the article states that he is losing hope of finding a left back …. surely we can’t go through yet another transfer window without signing someone to play left back!

  • Ian

    Jul 30, 2007 at 11:03 AM

    Comment #24

    What on earth is going on at Newcastle?! We don’t seem to be even competing for the few decent defenders that are available, i.e Luke Young. He might not be the type of player Big sam fancies, but he is an experienced solid defender who has represented his country and has premiership experience. Out loss and certainly Middlesborough’s gain, and for very little money. Come on Mort, show us the money!!!

  • Kash

    Jul 30, 2007 at 11:34 AM

    Comment #25

    Well Leighton Baines and Giorgio Chiellini are apparently available, why can’t we sign one of the 2? I don’t rate Luke Young, i’d prefer someone else and rather strengthen the holding position before RB anyway!

  • Dave

    Jul 30, 2007 at 11:41 AM

    Comment #26

    gerimi rozehnal taylor n’zogbia
    solano barton milner
    owen viduka martins

    4-3-3 is a very good option as we have alot of great strikers and would really improve our attaking force.
    it is also a possibility as 4-3-3 was sams favorite formation at bolton.
    tell me what you think of the above team.

  • apan

    Jul 30, 2007 at 12:03 PM

    Comment #27

    Kash – agreed, LB is the most critical position atm, the most vulnerable part yday as proved in the game againts Juventus, huntingon is not natural there and babayaro needs time to get fitness back, if we dont do somethin about that part i guess all the teams will exploits our weakness there as proved yday by laquinta, except that given is better 😀

  • Cockney Magpie

    Jul 30, 2007 at 12:11 PM

    Comment #28

    i think our best bet 4 now would be solano talys roz geremi

  • Andy T

    Jul 30, 2007 at 12:43 PM

    Comment #29

    In all honesty if Dyer went I wouldn’t be too concerned about getting a replacement immediately – I’d want to stay 100% focused on the defence

    options for midfield would be
    Left Wing
    Duff, NZogbia, Milner, Luque
    Right Wing
    Solano, Geremi, Milner
    Butt, Barton, NZogbia, Emre
    Behind Striker
    Milner, Luque

    Then there is still Triosi who is a decent player who needs experience in the event that there is a real depth of injuries like last season – and if we don’t sell Matty Pattison – as a last resort!

    Left back is just such a glaring hole its unbelievable. I can’t believe of all the names that have been thrown around this summer we haven’t been able to get one of them.

  • Ryan

    Jul 30, 2007 at 1:07 PM

    Comment #30

    There are left backs to be found, i can’t understand whats taking so long. Regardless if Big Sam doesn’t think there great any being mentioned are better than what we’ve got. Dede from Dortmund would be a class LB and is available for around 6 mill, a consistent perfromer with speed to burn, his move to Roma just fell through. Baines is just waiting for a decent club to come calling as is Shorey. You can find left backs as good as Babayaro in your local pub side.

  • Keep Oba

    Jul 30, 2007 at 3:19 PM

    Comment #31

    I know this is about defenders…I say we blow our total amount of money…if it is true that its only 10mil on someone like Riise…a true left back…so we should hope Heinze goes to liverpool somehow to free him up…but its all wishy washy talk I know…what I really want to say is why everyone always wants Viduka to start? He has never played a game for us and yet people always mark him to start over Martins. Its not like we paid anything for him since he was a free transfer…so you have one guy thats a 10mil man on the bench and a free transfer starting? One guy has gotten 17 goals for you and possesses two cannons for legs and the other one has got no goals and he starts? I dont think Viduka is bad, I just dont think he should be in over Oba for everyones starting 11. Of course the only persons starting 11 I care about is BSA.

  • Keep Oba

    Jul 30, 2007 at 3:21 PM

    Comment #32

    Unless its someone like Daves comment about a 4-3-3…that wouldnt be bad to throw out there sometimes…but we do have alot of midfielders.

  • Tez

    Jul 30, 2007 at 4:54 PM

    Comment #33

    Yea we do have a lot of midfielders but people like Duff, Dyer (if he stays), N’Zogbia and milner can play as one of the wide players of the 3 upfront (off the main striker)

  • Phil

    Jul 30, 2007 at 5:36 PM

    Comment #34

    Apan, I think you’ll find it was Lough that came on at LB (Barnett is a midfielder and replaced Solano). Keep Oba, with respect to your monika, the reason Viduka will start is that he scored more goals in the premiership per game than anyone apart from Henry last season. If he’s fit he’ss start!
    Carr has had two decent games in the warm ups and hopefully will start at RB. Playing players out of position should be a last resort but he also did better than anyone else in that position last season so you could start him there and play Geremi at RB.

  • apan

    Jul 30, 2007 at 6:42 PM

    Comment #35

    phil – i just realized that haha to many new faces and they all look alike

  • Dave

    Jul 31, 2007 at 12:06 AM

    Comment #36

    KEEP OBA the reason that people choose viduka over martins is because owen and martins are very alike in their playing styles , viduka however is totally diverce to them both .good striking partnership generally have two completely diffrent styles of players. thats why i think he is chosen over martins.
    I would still apt for 4-3-3 though.

  • ChrisL

    Jul 31, 2007 at 9:52 AM

    Comment #37

    I would go for a 4-3-3 too, yet both Martins & Viduka would be waiting on the bench.

    Luque – Owen – Milner
    Butt – Barton – Geremi
    N’zogbia – Rozenhal – Taylor – Solano

    Martins / Viduka / Duff / Ramage / Harper

    Obviously that’s if everyone was fit (unlikely). But if we only get one more player in… it has to be at left back. Someone like Gallas would be perfect, can play left or centre.

  • Dave

    Jul 31, 2007 at 11:55 AM

    Comment #38

    I don’t see every ones obsession with butt. Sure he used to be a great player but he’s well past hissell-by-date

  • ChrisL

    Jul 31, 2007 at 12:02 PM

    Comment #39

    Do we currently have someone else in the squad that will do a better job of protecting the defence in a 4-3-3?

    I can’t see past him & Geremi with Barton pushing forward, currently in the squad (fit or not). Would be happy to see someone better being signed, as personally I think we’re short on numbers in the middle of the park.

  • Ed Harrison

    Jul 31, 2007 at 3:54 PM

    Comment #40

    Please take a look at our comments policy. The comments are getting a bit too raucous in terms of bad language and we cannot always catch them before they are submitted. Please try to make your points with decent language.
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