We're a good team, y'know? People scoff at me for insisting it's true, but honestly, there's some really talented individuals in that Newcastle United side – your guess is as good as mine as to why we so rarely see it.
Despite needing a quote/unquote “big response” following the horrific performance against Hull City, Alan Pardew and his charges managed to saunter up to Goodison Park in their best lingerie, recline on the mattress, and remove their own garter for Everton within the opening 37 minutes. After taking advantage of the painfully obvious space behind Newcastle's fullbacks for the opening goal, Everton then tried going through the middle, before just letting their goalie have a go. Roberto Martinez, in a wonderful act of charity, refrained from bringing himself on for the second half.
The two goal response Newcastle mustered for the final 45 was certainty pleasing to watch in parts, but how successful they'd have been in pushing their opponents back towards their own goal had they not been three up remains to be seen.
In truth, a quick look at the stats actually tells you 3-2 was a pretty fair scoreline. Newcastle had more of the ball, completed and attempted more passes, and were only fractionally behind in numbers of chances created, but sadly OPTA don't do a stat for the number of times individuals completely switch off, make basic errors, or have no game-plan whatsoever.
The manner of the goals conceded should have embarrassed even Everton. Firstly Davide Santon gave the ball away cheaply, and a routine cross didn't stir Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa into enough life to challenge it; then an entire midfield allowed a centre forward to drop off and thread a ball through, while Fabricio Coloccini was out-thought and out-muscled for a second; finally a 70 yard hump evaded everyone and allowed Lukaku to stroll through and score a goal cheaper even than Kinnear's barber.
To a man last night, Newcastle were poor. Remy and Gouffran did what little they could, both providing a few bright spots with their movement and runs in behind. Whether the lack of joy they had was down to their own poor decision making, or a lack of support from their colleagues I'll leave up to you.
Vurnon Anita had another good game, and despite behind left hanging on a number of occasions by Cheick Tiote and the alarmingly unfit Moussa Sissoko, applied himself well against both Barry and McCarthy – harrying them when out of possession, and breaking beyond them when in it. Quite what logic Alan Pardew saw in removing him when his two colleagues looked both out of sorts and out of breath, is beyond me.
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I'd reserve some praise for Debuchy as well. Although run ragged at times and guilty of some sloppy passes when he had the chance to relieve pressure, he gave an uncharacteristically astute defensive performance that prevented Everton having their usual joy down the left. He created more chances than any of his teammates, got an assist for Remy's goal, was behind only Tiote in the number of successful tackles, interceptions, and ball recoveries, and genuinely seems to be finding his feet after something of a kamikaze start.
These are positives I had to try really hard to find, because the overwhelming temptation is to just sit here and point fingers at the errors made by the rest of the side. Santon's being exposed as a liability when things aren't going well, Coloccini's demonstrating all the leadership of a blow-up-doll with the word “hope” splashed onto it, and there genuinely seems to be a running battle between Cisse and Sissoko for who can have the least impact on a game of football. But, if you watched the game, you know all that already.
Times were that you'd look to the man on the touchline in the hope things would be remedied, but there's little hope of even that. Persisting with Cisse during his long goal drought was either brave or moronic depending on how you look at it, but to then drop him mere days after he's finally found the net is some of the most bizarre man management I've ever seen. The inevitable outcome of the Mbiwa/Lukaku battle saw Williamson introduced at half-time, when any foresight would have seen it made from the start. Then there was moving Ben Arfa, a player renowned for his lack of defensive cover, in front of a full-back who desperately needed some... a decision that cost us a goal inside 4 minutes.
But here's the thing. Individual errors happen, good players switch off, folk toil away out of position, big chances get missed, other teams look to “want it” more, that's just football. What's worrying is how many times over the last few months, including the end of last season, that all these things seem to be happening at once with Newcastle. There's a fantastic team in there, somewhere, but there's also a creeping worry that something's rotten at its core.
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