Cheick Tioté

Newcastle XI for Sunday's 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. Typically British, this scene depicts one of many Steve Harper punts upfield for Andy Carroll to flick on at Kevin Nolan or Wayne Routledge. Carroll won most of his duels with Kieran Clark, creating space for Nolan's - slow - bursts. However, Hughton's bizarre insistence on playing a ridiculously high-line allowed the likes of Stephen Warnock and Stylian Petrov to play quarterback-passes over to Ashley Young or Mark Albrighton. Tioté's athleticism may help United maintain this tactic, as less loose-balls in the midfield will land at the feet of the opposition, and even if they do, the Ivorian offers a better recovery option than the one provided by Alan Smith.

Unlike the majority of their Premier League counterparts, Newcastle United’s squad seems to askew cosmopolitanism. Buttressed by an English spine, you can almost taste its Carling-flavoured depth.

This isn’t to suggest Geordies are a xenophobic bunch – rather, it’s a reflection on a monotonous birthplace-list nestling in a league where Wigan Athletic don’t include a single Englishman in their first-team.

With the signing of Cheick Tioté all but complete, Chris Hughton’s squad is gaining the seemingly-mandatory globalisation-embracing feel the 20 items in Richard Scudamore’s Premier League basket encompass.

The Ivory Coast star will line-up alongside an Argentine midfielder – both of whom will then be in front of a defence boasting a floppy-mopped chap from Córdoba, and a speedy Spaniard.

Tioté joins Alan Smith as the only man on Tyneside to have played under two England managers – Steve McClaren (FC Twente), and Sven-Göran Eriksson (Ivory Coast).

Physically, the centre-midfielder will have no problem in adjusting to the frenetic pace of Premier League life: Tioté is strong, powerful, agile, quick and possesses great balance. Continue reading

Peter Odemwingie

Chelsea 6-0 West Bromwich Albion, 14/08/2010

West Brom today completed the signing of Lokomotiv Moscow attacker, Peter Odemwingie. The fiery Nigerian follows in the footsteps of compatriots Nwankwo Kanu, Sam Sodje and Ifeanyi Udeze in representing the Baggies.

As a fan of the Russian Premier League, I’ve grown accustomed to watching the 29-year-old in action. His versatility and volatility always make for entertaining viewing, and he’ll offer Roberto Di Matteo fresh attacking impetus.

Recently, Odemwingie has found no luck at club or international level. At World Cup 2010, Nigeria floundered, while Loko’s recent form domestically has been laughable.

In Russia, the Uzbekistan-born forward has spent 2010 positioned in various points of Yuri Semin’s 4-2-3-1. However, he’s at his best on the right flank as this favours his right foot. Continue reading

Sunderland 2010/11 preview

Sunderland's line-up in the 2009 pre-season friendly with Atletico Madrid

Steve Bruce’s Sunderland begin their fourth consecutive season in the Premier League against that other noughties yo-yo club, Birmingham City.

After taking over from the beleaguered Ricky Sbragia last summer, the former Wigan Athletic manager steered a squad ravaged by injury to 13th place, and two early cup exits.

While another summer has been/is being spent shearing the squad of its Roy Keane-era high-earners, arrivals have also been forthcoming.

With four young talents set to continue their exciting developments (Jack Colback, Jordan Henderson, David Meyler and Martyn Waghorn), and Darren Bent aware now is the time for more permanent England duties, the Black Cats must target a Europa League spot.

2009/10 begin in a blaze of pre-season friendlies. Chief among them was the game against eventual Europa League victors, Atlético Madrid, which Sunderland won 2-0. Continue reading