DANNY Simpson believes Newcastle United’s airtight centre-back pairing is a match for anyone in the Premier League.
Dogged United notched their third clean sheet in four top-flight games in Monday’s otherwise disappointing draw with QPR – further illustration of the defensive progress made under manager Alan Pardew.
Unusually for a team clad in black and white it makes them the Premier League’s most difficult to beat, along with the achievement of being the only team in the football pyramid to have conceded a solitary goal so far in this embryonic campaign.
Simpson believes that deserves credit, suggesting that no other top-flight team will match their four-game sequence for the rest of the season. For that the peerless skipper Fabricio Coloccini and fearless Steven Taylor must take credit.
Both have been outstanding so far this term, with the latter in particular having roared back to form after a troublesome two years.
“The two centre-halves have been magnificent in every game this season,” Simpson said. “They seem to work off each other so well. It’s credit to them, they work just as hard in training as they do on the pitch and that work is really paying off.
“Tayls is exactly the same in training – he blocks shots left, right and centre and the ball hits him all over the place. You know all about Colo’s class, and the two of them seem to work well together.
“As a defence that’s three clean sheets out of four now and that’s some achievement really.
“There won’t be too many, if any, teams do that over the course of a Premier League season.
“It’s testament to the lads – not just the back five, but the whole of the team. We work so hard on our organisation, and at the moment I think we look hard to beat which is obviously great. That’s a massive thing to be taking into games.” Simpson believes that Pardew’s intensive defensive coaching is one reason for the steep improvement this season.
An emphasis on shape and discipline are bearing fruit, with the right-back saying he knows his responsibilities and those of his defensive colleagues “inside out”.
He said: “When the manager came in, I think the shape of the team was the first thing that he wanted to sort out.
“He feels that everyone should know their job as soon as they step out onto the pitch, especially at the back.
“We work together that much on the training ground that we know each other’s job inside out now.
“I know what Tayls is going to do before he does it, and I think the same is true of him with me. We’re working off each other, we know what our role is, and watch videos back and discuss things as a back four.
“It seems to be working, but we’ve got to keep working at it because we’re really benefiting from keeping these clean sheets.
“We’ve got a fairly small squad, but in a strange way, maybe that’s helping at the moment. Competition is good, but it can also be good for players to know they’re going to be playing week in, week out.
“It means you can start putting partnerships together and working on them. If you’re playing next to the lad you played with the week before it can help in terms of working on your game.
“It’s nice to have that closeness. We’ve got a small squad, but we also know it’s a long, long season. We’ve brought in a couple of players and hopefully we’ll have more than enough to get through.”
Simpson also answered a few critics with his performance in west London, turning in a solid shift against a QPR side clearly full of confidence.
The examinations continue to come thick and fast, though, with a trip to Aston Villa facing Pardew’s side on Saturday.
That means Charles N’Zogbia, former United flier and constant thorn in the side of his old club in previous meetings, will be pitched into direct competition with the former Manchester United man.
He knows it will require every ounce of concentration to nullify the France international.
“It’ll be interesting,” he said. “I played against him in the Wigan away game last season, he’s one of those players where you can’t afford to switch off for a second.
“I wasn’t here when he was at Newcastle, but I know what he’s all about. You’ve got to look forward to playing against good players. Hopefully, we can build on this match, go into that game and keep another clean sheet.”