Newcastle Need To Ditch Cisse & Take Some Chances Or We're In Trouble
There's always plenty to talk about when you're a Newcastle United supporter. Following a pre-season that could best be described as “very us”, our annual drubbing at Manchester City had given way to some fairly reasonable results. A steady draw with West Ham, an avoidance of a banana skin at Morecambe, breaking down a stubborn Fulham, and a well deserved away win at Villa. The consensus seemed to be that, despite the off field issues, we're actually a good team.
But on Saturday Newcastle didn't look anything like a good team. Primarily because they didn't do any of the things that good teams do.
When you're building some momentum, and fate hands you Hull City at home instead of an away trip to a bogey side, good teams capitalise on that. Newcastle United didn't.
When your initial dominance and bright start to a game rewards you an early goal, good teams keep the pressure on and don't allow themselves to get complacent. Newcastle United didn't.
When you've scrambled around defending and your opponents are coming back at you, good teams reorganise quickly and find their shape. Newcastle United didn't.
When you've got a lead to defend against a technically inferior side, good teams keep the ball well and force their opponents to work hard to get it back. Newcastle United didn't.
When your initial tactical approach isn't working or has been nullified, good teams find a way around it or adapt what they're doing. Newcastle United didn't.
When you're trailing against a team you should be beating, good teams rouse themselves to put the opposition defence under serious strain. Newcastle United didn't.
Instead, Newcastle United proceeded to concede three goals at home to side who'd only scored two all season. They failed to find any fluidity in the middle of the pitch, despite having a distinct numerical advantage. They looked bereft of ideas going forward, devoid of organisation going back, and the investigations that'll need to be done of the defending will be better off taking place at The Hague instead of Darsley Park.
Look, not every “winnable” game gets won, and not every “better” team always comes out on top, but after screaming and shouting that Newcastle needed to get back to 4-3-3, ditch the so called dependable players, and have a bit more bravery in the way they go about things, there's a worry this one defeat (or, more specifically, the manner of it) will see us revert back to type.
Loic Remy's two goals will take the headlines, but Vurnon Anita was by far and away Newcastle's best player on Saturday. It's often hard to see indirect contributions, and without 30 yard goals and blockbuster challenges he'll forever be undervalued as a midfielder, but his role in the side is to provide balance to the rest of the system. Filling in the gaps left by marauding fullbacks, connecting the defence to the midfield, mopping up opponents who break beyond his colleagues, as well as taking up some of the creative responsibility – being the middle child of the midfield 3 arguably the hardest role in football.
He lacks Cabaye's Hollywood moments, and Sissoko's paralysing glare and carved mahogany torso, so he'll no doubt be on the bench for Cheick Tiote next week as we get back to humping the ball towards a centre forward bereft of presence. Speaking of which, Papiss Cisse seems to be going out of his way at present to highlight how important it was to buy a centre forward in the summer – despite being back in a system that should suit him a lot better, he's mustered just two shots on target all season. Two.
One defeat doesn’t equate to disaster anymore than two wins equated to success, but the last few weeks have seen Newcastle almost fighting against themselves to achieve. Coming unstuck so spectacularly now brings the creeping worry that any confidence the manager had in the players and systems he normally shied away from will be gone for good. That would be more damaging than the result.
What has to happen instead? A renewed work ethic in training, a swift addressing of the where we came unstuck, a picking up of the players, and a dusting off of the result. Forget it, move on, be ready for the next game. That's what good teams do.
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