Alan Pardew had this really annoying trait when he was at Newcastle and I have my fears that Steve McClaren has already been Pardewed.
In this instance though, I’m not talking about the negative effect our former manager had on many of the players.
Instead I’m referring to Pardew’s habit of trying to repeat something as often as possible, even though it wasn’t true, in the hope that people eventually think/assume it is true because so many of us soak stuff up without thinking for ourselves.
If you can get enough fans (and press) to believe/accept something, then they will help to then perpetuate the lie.
This is the case whether we are talking about the media or the ‘ordinary’ fan. In fact the media are undoubtedly the laziest of all as we well know, happy to just repeat whatever comes out of the club without giving it due diligence.
One other aspect to mention before we come to Steve McClaren, is that in the Pardew era you would often find the club also using the players to repeat key phrases in the brainwashing process, quotes appearing in their names which were suspiciously similar to what Alan Pardew was saying.
Fastforwarding to the present day, Steve McClaren was very keen in advance of West Ham, to talk about the strong ‘platform’ that had been built over the course of all four Premier League matches.
In the absence of any wins and almost zero attacking play for some five hours of Premier League ‘action’, this ‘strong platform’ was repeatedly used in an attempt to reassure fans and the media and whoever else, that whilst there was an acceptance that attacking play had to be improved, at least the new regime were getting things sorted at the back, the evidence being the first four Premier League matches.
After the West Ham no-show, this has continued.
As you can see from below, Steve McClaren uses these latest quotes to talk about how West Ham was a one-off and a departure from this ‘strong (defensive) platform’ that had been shown/displayed in the first four games.
“Very disappointing (West Ham). A bit of a wake-up call, you can’t come into a game away from home and not be 100%. We weren’t 100%.
“What we have been doing for four games, in terms of the basics and the platform and being hard to beat, organised, disciplined – we weren’t.”
Two or three steps:
“We kept plugging away and kept going, but what we have been doing for four games and trying to build on…it is kind of two or three steps forward and two or three steps back at the present moment.”
Then we had the club giving the local press these Fabricio Coloccini quotes earlier today:
“For us, we cannot afford to have our heads down so we must look forward and get some points.
“We didn’t do what we’ve been doing in the first four games in the Premier League. I’m frustrated about that.”
So leaving the West Ham match to one side, what did actually happen in those first four matches?
Against Southampton the team started pretty well but conceded from a Pelle header against minimal challenge from our defenders, then after coming back to lead 2-1, as the second half went on the Saints were increasingly in control and after equalising could and should have went on to win. With Sadio Mane missing two great opportunities after waltzing through the United defence.
Second match was away at Swansea and they absolutely battered Newcastle and should have been more than one up by the time Daryl Janmaat’s frustration at getting the run around eventually got him sent off.
Swansea then strolled through the second half and after making it 2-0 showed little interest in extending themselves and took it easy.
In neither of those two opening matches did I see any real signs of establishing this strong defensive platform and doing the basics well. In fact the two displays reminded me very much of the West Ham match in terms of the defending and the basics.
What about the defensive rearguard actions against Manchester United and Arsenal I hear you say…
Well that is pretty much all they were. Everybody behind the ball and not a shot on target in the two matches.
At Old Trafford we got into the opposition half a handful of times and crafted a couple of chances but other than that, it was just defending so deep and try to stop them scoring. Is that really a plan? It reminds me of a lower league team trying to grind out a draw against a higher division team in the cup. The odd time you do get away with it but very rarely.
Against Arsenal, in the 15 minutes Aleksandar Mitrovic was on the pitch he was totally isolated and needed binoculars to see any of his teammates, this to me helped build up his frustration before the red card, as the lack of support meant he was crowded out whenever the ball was played long to him.
The following 75 minutes were more of the same, yes the players all worked hard to try and keep out 11 man Arsenal but that is all we attempted. There was no signs of any plan to try and get an equaliser, or commit any players forward to have some kind of go.
An Arsenal fan I play football with asked me why Newcastle didn’t at least give it a go in the last 10 minutes and I couldn’t answer him.
Thinking afterwards, it looked really as though Steve McClaren was more intent on keeping it at 0-1 than taking a risk and chancing a 0-2 or 0-3 in the hope of an equaliser.
However McClaren organises the existing players and if you did buy into creating this strong defensive platform to the build one..do you honestly think with only the purchase of Chancel Mbemba that Newcastle now suddenly have the players to grind out clean sheets???
Janmaat and Haidara are both better at getting forward than defending and once we start and try to attack a little bit, like at West Ham, I think Fabricio Coloccini will once again be shown to be horribly exposed.
It suited him perfectly those two games at Man U and against Arsenal. Defending so deep that there was no space for the opposition to get behind and then neither team playing a striker to cross the ball in the air to, until Giroud came on late.
If Newcastle do have strengths then surely it is in loading the midfield with attacking players such as Thauvin, Wijnaldum, de Jong, Perez, Aarons, Sissoko and of course Mitrovic in front of them when he returns.
Playing a defensive formation and team selection and leaving the attacking third short of numbers is just a case of waiting to get beat in most matches in my opinion.
If Steve McClaren was serious in any way about prioritising a strong defence, then he should have raised his voice in the summer when Graham Carr was choosing the signings.
Rather than bringing in wingers, midfielders and strikers he should have said that he needed a couple more defenders on top of Chancel Mbemba, who to me has done pretty well in difficult circumstances.
Creating chances and scoring goals is the answer to moving Newcastle away from the bottom of the table, not a mythical strong disciplined platform based largely on a strong defence.
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