So another week and another crisis at Newcastle United.
At least that’s the perception anyway, Steve McClaren has other ideas:
“It has been a normal week after what was a very disappointing result and performance”
That is what he said on Friday – seemingly only he saw the 0-1 away win at Bournemouth as anything other than the luckiest of wins, seemingly only the first team manager saw our 0-3 home defeat to Leicester as a shock.
An effective, well organised and hungry team built on limited resources coming to SJP and taking the points? Well I never, haven’t seen that before.
Still, perhaps a visit to Crystal Palace and a re-union with previous manager Alan Pardew (pictured above – ‘Alan Pardew enjoys a chat with John Carver’) is just what we need to unite the players, management and fans. Palace have lost 4 of their 7 games at home this season following only 6 home wins last season and on the back of a confidence sapping defeat to relegation Sunderland, Palace are easier to beat in London than anywhere else.
Tactically, both Pardew and McClaren will have something to prove this weekend. The self-proclaimed Master Yoda of football, Fat Sam Allardyce, trumpeted that his tactics on Monday had won the Mackems the game at Palace, his 5-3-1-1 formation supposedly preventing any wing-play from Zaha and Bolasie, the main attacking threat of Crystal Palace.
Alan Pardew admitted as much, that neither he nor his team had an answer to a team who lacked ambition to that level. I don’t know whether it is true, I didn’t watch the game, but I do know that the most people reported the Mackem formation to be more like 8-1-1 than anything else and it is difficult to promote winning games with that mentality, whether Steve McClaren could or would play a similar formation is up for debate.
Playing five at the back rather than four may just means there are five people in black and white to make mistakes rather than four, always assuming we can come up with five defenders.
Whichever formation McClaren opts to play, it has to be better than last Saturday. The first half 4-2-3-1 formation with Tiote and Anita seemingly having been told to drop into defence when in possession of the ball, meant that we had no one in the middle of midfield at all.
The second half 4-1-4-1 was even worse. With Perez and Thauvin on the wings it meant that not only were our most creative players out wide where they would be least effective, we had no pace to defend against their quick wingers. Sissoko may not have covered himself in glory for Jamie Vardy’s goal last week but at least he was up with play. We had no such cover for the second and third goals.
A high defensive line with limited pace against a team built on pace was just asking for trouble.
Not as bad as one up front at home and when you are losing. Let’s hope that this weekend’s line-up contains at least two forwards and that one of those forwards is Ayoze Perez. The only 30 seconds of football we have played in the last two games was inspired by Perez and again he has been one of our best players in this difficult season, why we are considering swapping him for an ineffective and injury-prone winger (Andros Townsend) when we already have a few of them is beyond me.
The young Spaniard needs to play where he is likely to cause most damage, in the middle of the pitch near our opponent’s goal. Perez always seems to be a threat when playing up front, shame the same can’t be said for his Serbian strike partner, whose problems seem to be mounting like the chips on his hips.
‘Mitrovic: The New Mark Viduka’
Both the statement that he is getting no service and those who claim patience because of his youth and inexperience have merit but so far Mitrovic has gone from being the new Alan Shearer to the new Mark Viduka.
After a lumbering and arsey run out last week, Mitrovic has this week claimed that he is only a couple of kilos heavier than normal and that this is at the club’s request, those of us who remember the club’s failed efforts to bulk up Hatem Ben Arfa will not be reassured.
“In particular, my weight is always went between 84 and 86 kilograms, now I am 88kg, but that is what I wanted.”
Being 13 and a half stone doesn’t look like it suits him to me. When Robert Huth had him around the throat last week most of us wondered why Mitrovic wasn’t fast enough to outrun the lumbering oaf, now we know why.
We’ll meet up with Yohan Cabaye again, the only player in midfield on show with genuine quality. The £10million signing from PSG knows how to play football and is a player we should have tried to re-sign in the Summer. Whether he would have returned to Tyneside is open for debate, he never seemed to like the place much and couldn’t get away quickly enough, but it would have been nice to have tried.
NUFC desperately need a creative midfielder who dictates the pace of the game and the type of possession the team has, this week the closest we will get to that is hoping that we can mark one out of the game.
Whoever opposes Cabaye in midfield will have to get more involved than they did on Saturday. Whether we have anyone with the spirit and determination to stop him is another question but Steve McClaren was positive after the Leicester game that this would be addressed:
“Believe you me, the message to them is back on the training field on Monday and try to get some consistency in our performances.”
I don’t think it is the consistency of the performances which needs addressing, it is the quality, McClaren’s team has been consistently pathetic in most of the games I have seen. Supposedly our Manager confronted a lot of the players this week in order to tell them what he thought.
For what it is worth, I’m sure that’s all big and clever but if he’d really been that bothered about their efforts he would have done it after Swansea, or West Ham, or Watford, or Sheffield Wednesday, something he hinted at himself in his pre-Palace press conference:
“There have probably been three or four occasions I have been disappointed with the attitude. I had not seen it for a while. We talked about it.”
Lovely, glad to hear you talked about it but personally I think being disappointed with the attitude three or four times, is three or four times too many. Those players McClaren was disappointed with know that they’ll be in the team come Saturday, so it is quite possible that McClaren is wasting his breath unless he changes his line-up, which is unlikely this weekend.
‘How do these work then?’
That is no more true than in the case of our Captain, who has been poor for the past two years now, but has seen his lack of passion or commitment rewarded with a new contract. Bad enough though that was, to then loan out the only experienced PL defender we have to take his place, sends a message to Coloccini. He’s playing no matter what, no matter how rubbish.
So after some “feisty” training sessions during the week we head off to South London full of confidence that we’ve sorted out our problems and will put Palace to the sword.
It may not be the greatest PL arena but Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, 23, says an impression of Croydon as “an awful place to be in” will change with the proposed new investment coming into the Selhurst Park club.
Whether it is awful or not, it is home to Palace Manager Alan Pardew. He’ll get some stick off the TOON fans and for me he’ll deserve it. We had a good season under him when finishing 5th but most of the time I couldn’t understand his team formations or how the team were lined up and sometimes I couldn’t understand why a player was playing in a certain position. Worse than that, I think the players were the same.
With rumours of Gouffran playing in central midfield it may seem like little has changed but at least Steve McClaren’s diction is better.
During Pardew’s reign of terror at SJP I never liked what he said, sometimes even when his general point made sense, the way he said it made it sound ridiculous.
I would have sacked him for his grammar alone. So let’s hope on Saturday we done great.
Howay The Lads