Newcastle United 1, Real Sociedad 0: Neil Cameron's verdict on the final pre-season game

Things are taking shape for Newcastle United and Rolando Aarons must start against Manchester City

Remy Cabella takes on Real Sociedad's Yuri Berchiche
Remy Cabella takes on Real Sociedad's Yuri Berchiche

It's not often you walk away from a soaking wet St James’ Park after a fairly bland friendly match with a skip in the step.

These games are set to test the endurance of even the most fanatical fanatic – and in many ways yesterday’s game against Real Sociedad was no different.

There was no excitement, not really, the atmosphere was pretty flat among those who did turn up and the only goal came with a few minutes left.

Many had decided they’d had enough by the time Moussa Sissoko casually, and with great skill, stroked a right-foot shot across the sodden grass and into the bottom corner.

However, there was much to be content about in terms of what shape Newcastle United are in a week ahead of the new Premier League season.

They look okay.

Daryl Janmaat was terrific. If his intention was to make a good first impression at his new home then he succeeded.

The Dutchman charged up and down that right wing yesterday, as if it was the most important match of his life. He won tackles, put in crosses, and made intelligent runs both inside and outside whoever happened to be playing ahead of him.

There was no goal for Emmanuel Riviere, but again he looked the part. A moment in the first half summed him up when he took a high ball on his chest, turned, then ran at the Spanish defence before finding his man with a pass.

Jack Colback was industrious. He got on the ball a lot and, while he should have scored, this was his best showing yet.

Remy Cabella earned his thunderous applause as he left the park. Every time the Frenchman got the ball, a frisson of excitement ran through the fans. Things happened, or at least threatened to, every time he got the ball, whether he was in the middle as a No10 or out on the right.

And then there was Rolando Aarons. He must start against Manchester City.

This lad has got something about him. He got on in the second half and made three terrific runs down the left-hand side.

It would be fair to assume that Manchester City will provide stiffer opposition than Real Sociedad who were nowhere close to their strongest team.

And that Pablo Zabaleta will hardly be quaking in his boots at the prospect of some 18-year-old taking him on next Sunday afternoon.

However, I would play him. He’s full of beans right now, and while it would be a gamble for Alan Pardew to unleash his best prospect on the champions, it would one well worth taking.

And speaking about the manager, he refused to take any questions from the press, both written and broadcast, yesterday. If this is the way it’s going to be at Newcastle United this season, then it’s a sad state of affairs.

The fans deserve to know what the manager thinks about Cabella, Riviere, Aarons and whatever else is happening at the club. Don’t they?

Anyway. There were less than 20,000 inside the stadium and you couldn’t blame those who stayed away. Despite ticket prices being sensible, Real Sociedad are hardly football’s most glamorous name, but it was a tad surprising the crowd was as low given this was the first time many would have seen the new players.

And those who did go along would have been impressed, with nobody getting carried away.

A formation of 4-4-1-1, with Cabella playing behind Riviere, was later tweaked, and when Sissoko moved inside, allowing Cabella to drift wide, the system looked better.

Nobody did their prospects any harm, although the back four were hardly tested.

Both Cheick Tiote and Siem de Jong missed out. If they can’t get fit then ten of the players who started yesterday will start against City.

The only alternative, for me, is to play Aarons ahead of Yoan Gouffran, who took a heavy knock in the first half and managed to hobble on without doing much. Cabella was in the centre of most things. A one-two with Massadio Haidara on ten minutes was a delight to watch, even if the full-back had stayed offside inside the box.

A back-heel on 20 minutes sent Janmaat scampering into the opponents box – he does love a scamper – and his cross was on its way to Riviere, only for Sociedad keeper Geronimo Rulli to intervene.

Colback should have scored just after half-time when, guess who, Cabella’s pass put the midfielder through, only for him to delay the shot enough for Gorka Eustondo to make a block.

It was almost the exact spot from which he scored in the derby, as it happens.

Aarons then got on and his first move was to run at the Real defence, beating men for fun, and he tried a shot when a pass to Cabella was on.

His decision-making may not have been great, but he lifted the team every time he got on the ball.

Mike Williamson went close with a header on the hour and Aarons continued to torture Spanish defenders as the game drew to a close.

It seemed we were heading for a goalless draw, until Gabriel Obertan slid a pass from one side of the penalty box to the other, and Sissoko produced a fine finish.

Newcastle are not perfect. But there is reason to be excited about what they can do this season.

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