Key Player: Papiss Cisse
In: Romain Amalfitano, Gael Bigirimana
Out: Alan Smith, Danny Guthrie, Peter Lovenkrands
It’s tempting to climb on the bandwagon and to believe that Cisse is an unstoppable scorer on a team which is still about finding out how good it can be. But it’s much more likely that Cisse had a golden four months after being picked up in the January transfer window and that Alan Pardew’s side won’t sneak up on anybody this season. Remember, Newcastle had Champions League football in its grasp before losing nine of a possible 12 points in the final run-in. The Europa League consolation prize doesn’t completely make up for what should have been.
Cisse was the main reason for Newcastle’s strong second half, providing the boost when Demba Ba ran into a scoring slump. Questions about the side this season involve midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa — are they as good as they appeared at times last season, or as average as they looked in June with France — and how the entire Newcastle squad will handle the pressure of expectations. Last season came out of nowhere … this time everybody will be watching and every game that Ba or Cisse don’t produce will add to that heat.