HE is nicknamed ‘the Beast’ because of his powerful, muscular frame, but as he prepares to take on Newcastle United at St James’ Park tomorrow, Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo could perhaps have another moniker.
Strong, competitive and clinical – all hallmarks of the ideal number nine – Negredo took his goal tally for the season to 18 when he scored a superb hat-trick in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final win over West Ham.
His £17m move from Sevilla last summer is already looking like a bargain, and while Newcastle fans might bridle at the Shearer comparison ahead of tomorrow’s St James’ showdown, it says much about the 28-year-old that it does not feel out of place.
“I see a lot of similarities in terms of Negredo’s pace and power, and all those assets he brings to the team,” said Newcastle boss Alan Pardew. “He’s very much Shearer-like, and I’m sure Alan looks at him and sees a lot of himself in the way he conducts himself in the game.
“He adds a real winning mentality to his obvious quality, and you do not always get that. It must be brilliant putting him in the team every week because you just know you’re going to get the same consistency of performance that this club used to get out of Alan.
“I do see a lot of things in him that remind me of Alan. I actually think Negredo is the best new player (in the Premier League) bar none this year, and he must be putting himself in line to be Player of the Season at this rate.”
Negredo made his Manchester City debut in August’s 4-0 opening-weekend win over Newcastle, and while he did not score as goals from David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri condemned the Magpies to a miserable night at the Etihad Stadium, the quality of his overall performance nevertheless caught the eye.
There were mitigating factors behind Newcastle’s capitulation in their opening game – Yohan Cabaye effectively refused to play as he attempted to force through a move to Arsenal, while Steven Taylor was dismissed for violent conduct at the start of the second half – and in hindsight, a four-goal defeat at the Etihad feels about par for the course given City’s subsequent rampant home form.
At the time, it felt as though Newcastle were in for a repeat of last season’s struggles, but while Pardew was understandably disappointed at such an unsuccessful start, he was never unduly worried by his side’s opening-game defeat.
“As a staff, I think we all felt as though we had been up against a very, very good side,” he said. “That evening, we were probably the first team to really feel that force.
“I think their manager has perhaps lowered the individual pressure on the players, and that has carried through the team. When you have players of that quality, if you can keep the pressure and expectation off them, that is the trick. That is why they are very, very good at home.
“From our point of view, the only question after the defeat was whether we had carried over last season’s performances in that first game, some of which were not very good. We needed to answer some questions after that, but we have answered them emphatically. If we are fit, with our best players out there, we are a good team.”
Newcastle will be without a couple of their key players tomorrow as Mathieu Debuchy remains suspended following his dismissal at West Brom, while Fabricio Coloccini continues to nurse the knee injury he sustained at the Hawthorns.
To further complicate matters in the back four, Davide Santon is also something of a doubt after injuring his thigh in the build up to last weekend’s FA Cup defeat to Cardiff.
“He got through that game, but it hasn’t really improved so we have kept him out of training,” said Pardew. “We will wait and see. They tell me he could train (today), so we will make a call on that one. But Massadio (Haidara) has been waiting for his chance and if he is needed, I have no worries about sticking him in.”
With Mike Williamson expected to return to the heart of the back four, Pardew must decide whether to pair the centre-half with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa or hand Taylor his first league start since his dismissal at the Etihad.
“Steven has been very patient, or impatient, depending on which way you want to look at it,” he said. “He wants to play and he’s eager to play, so we will have to wait and see.”