Continuing on the top/worst five theme, we’ll now be looking at our five highest rated team performances of the season, based on the average rating given to the players involved in each match. As is no surprise in what was very much a season of two halves, the majority of these games occurred in the good half of the season. The links to the corresponding match reports will be in the title of each section.
6.94 – Tottenham (a) – 10 Nov 13
Our first entry in this top five is a hard-fought 1-0 win at White Hart Lane in what was, at the time, our lucky yellow strip. We had the better of the first half as we defended and pressed well, while threatening several times at the other end, including one chance in particular where a clever through ball from Cabaye took almost the entire Spurs side out of the game and set Rémy free.
The only goal of the game came after an action packed 13 minutes, our constant pressure high up the field allowing Gouffran to pounce on a poor pass in the centre circle and immediately thread the ball to Rémy, who rounded Friedel and slotted home.
The second half was a very different affair as Tottenham opted to go all out and bombard the Newcastle net for 45 minutes. If it was not for our man of the match putting in our highest rated performance of the season (Tim Krul, 9.87) it likely would have been a heavy defeat, despite the best efforts of the centre-back pairing in front of him, that being Yanga-Mbiwa (7.57) and Williamson (7.47). Gouffran (7.90) and Rémy (7.52) also put in highly rated performances, while mug of the match Shola (5.00) and Santon (5.28) proved to be the weak links.
Next up is a 3-0 win at Selhurst Park towards the end of that excellent run of form through the final few months of 2013. Cabaye returned from suspension to rejuvenate the side, injecting the creativity that had been missing the week before (1-1 draw with Southampton) and scoring the opening goal, putting away a cut-back from Sissoko on 25 minutes.
As half-time approached, Cabaye’s good friend, and now fellow former Mag, Debuchy earned an assist as an excellent ball into the box was met by an even better finish from Gabbidon to score an own goal. Despite several good chances going close, the third and final goal wouldn’t come until Shola Ameobi earned a penalty with full-time looming; Ben Arfa converted with aplomb to seal the win.
Cabaye earned our man of the match award for this display, rated 8.48, while Debuchy (7.84), Ben Arfa (7.77), Anita (7.52), and Sissoko (7.36) all were also rated highly. No one was adjudged to have played poorly, with Krul’s rating the lowest at 5.84, as he showed a couple of shaky moments, including being bailed out by Anita once, in harsh conditions.
7.01 – Chelsea (h) – 02 Nov 13
Following on from a disappointing derby loss and being knocked out of the cup by Man City, Newcastle bounced back in style with a 2-0 win over Mourinho’s Chelsea side, who had conceded only 6 goals in 9 games before this point. The game opened with our side appearing aware of their recent defensive frailties, choosing to soak up the pressure and try occasional long balls to spur counter attacks in the first half, however after the break it all changed.
The first goal again involved Cabaye; we earned a free-kick down the right and barely in the Chelsea half, and after a quick word with Pardew, the Frenchman delivered beautiful ball in behind the Chelsea defence for Gouffran to score the opener. The second came when, with a minute to go, Obertan and Anita played a couple of passes down the left, the latter then shook off Willian, beat Ramires and Luiz, and cut the ball back to Rémy for a classy finish in off the post.
Debuchy and his 8.53 rating made him the clear man of the match among our fans, as his commanding performance down the right-flank and the partnership with Sissoko began to set a trend for much of the rest of the season. A close second was Anita (8.32), on as a substitute early in the second half, whose introduction signalled the change in momentum. While Rémy and Gouffran also rated highly, it’s worth mentioning that Yanga-Mbiwa earned a 7.74 as his partnership with Williamson, in Coloccini’s absence, matured and proved impenetrable for one of the scariest collection of attacking players in the league.
7.35 – Hull City (a) – 01 Mar 14
The biggest win of the post-Cabaye era and the only 2014 entry on this list comes in the form of a 4-1 win at the KC stadium. The previous game saw us end a 7.5 hour goalless streak in injury time, and this game seemingly provided an outlet for the goals we had saved up through that period. But that’s not what this game is remembered for, that would be the infamous “head-push” incident.
Scoring started after 10 minutes when Debuchy’s low cross picked out for a near post finish, and despite continuing to threaten the second wouldn’t come until minutes before half-time, when Rémy pounced to punish a poor backpass, before rounding the keeper and placing it into the net with ease. Immediately after half-time Williamson conceded a free-kick and we failed to deal with it, resulting in the hosts’ only the goal. Again, 10 minutes into the half Sissoko would score, this time after starting a counter attack he went on a lung-busting run and was in the right place at the right time when Gouffran’s shot was parried. The final goal came in somewhat comedic circumstances, with Gosling bursting into the box and falling over to inadvertently tee up Dummett, who fired across goal into Anita, who applied the finishing touch.
The man of the match award was given to Anita for his goal and creative masterclass in midfield, while resulted in a rating of 8.66. Apart from the back five, minus Debuchy, everyone else scored at least a 7.2, with Sissoko’s two goals putting him just below Anita at 8.45.
Top of the list is our first win at Old Trafford in 41 years, which came on the back of a disappointing 3-0 loss to Swansea to end a winning streak. This seemed to make Pardew feel free to make some changes, after having rigidly stuck to the same line-up and tactics where possible, opting to go for a pressing 4-3-3 instead of a 4-4-2 with a poacher-targetman partnership up front.
This pressure across the pitch mixed with some excellent defending limited the hosts to handful of chances at best, although one of those was cleared off the line by the diminutive Dutchman Anita of all people. The only goal of the game came via what seems to be a trend on this list; a surging run from Sissoko down the right followed by a pull-back to Cabaye who coolly slotted home.
Tioté put in an excellent performance as he dominated the middle and defensive thirds of the pitch, earning an impressive 8.91 rating and our man of the match award. The nearest thing to a weak link in the starting eleven was Gouffran, his 6.54 the only rating below a 7.00 in what was a rare great performance by everyone involved.
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