Newcastle United picked up a valuable…essential three points at Bournemouth on Saturday but it was a tortuous route towards the win.
Thankfully the finishing was woeful from the home team and the odd time they got one on target, Rob Elliot was more than equal to it.
Needless to say though, against better teams with any kind of quality up front, any repeat of yesterday will see a cricket score with Newcastle the ‘duck’ side of the equation.
I saw the results of the fans’ player ratings on The Mag this morning and it fitted in with what I’d seen, both in the flesh and when I watched the extended highlights this morning on TV.
Elliot was obviously man of the match, whilst the centre-backs had decent games as they got in the way of a fair few crosses and shots.
However, away from that trio, it was depressing stuff.
Nowhere was this more so than in a part of the pitch which is proving to be Newcastle United’s biggest weakness game after game.
Vurnon Anita and Cheick Tiote were just so bad.
Steve McClaren described Cheick Tiote as being like a breath of fresh air since he came back into the team, well I know that the United boss lives down towards Middlesbrough but really…
It was embarrassing how United reject Dan Gosling and his teammates totally dominated the Newcastle pair, the only kicks I can remember the Newcastle central midfield pair having, ended up with gifting the ball to the opposition.
Tiote was good…four seasons ago when we finished fifth, but since then he has been either injured or rubbish. Whereas Vurnon Anita is surely a joke when it comes to trying to influence matches in the Premier League.
Jack Colback is a little bit better than this pair but even when he is playing Newcastle are always second best in this department.
The only times that Newcastle’s midfield pairing look anywhere near decent is when we play ultra negative teams such as the mackems and Stoke in the previous two games. Both sides sat so deep that they gifted possession and play to United.
We might have defeated Norwich 6-2 but anybody watching that game knows that the Canaries completely won that particularly battle in the middle hands down, only brilliant finishing and six goals from six shots on target was the difference between the teams.
We are coming up to two years now since Yohan Cabaye walked out of the door and no replacement has arrived, in that time it has been painful watching the engine room fail week after week.
You can kind of get by with poor/average players at full-back for example, as the likes of Dummett and Haidara have shown.
In the middle of the pitch though, a lack of quality will be blatant every match, making it so much more difficult to win matches when you don’t win that battle and so end up not dictating the play.
I would love a player or two of Yohan Cabaye’s calibre and you just wonder what could be accomplished then with them playing alongside the likes of Wijnaldum, Perez and Mitrovic.
However, even if that level isn’t possible, there are an awful lot of players who are streets ahead of what United have got at the moment.
This is the priority area in January and at least one new central midfielder must be brought in, or else this is going to continue to be one long hard struggle of a season.
(To feature like John, send in your articles for our website to [email protected] – all views those of the author etc etc)