Newcastle’s FA Cup hurt goes on after another third round exit, this time at the hands of Watford.
Not only that, but it was the side’s fourth consecutive loss in all competitions, each by a score of 1-0.
There was a lot of optimism before the game, with the experimental formation. McClaren opted for a 3-5-2, with Janmaat and Mbabu as wing-backs, Dummett playing as a centre-back (a position where he has always looked more comfortable) and Sissoko & Wijnaldum both operating centrally (which most fans have been craving).
There couldn’t be criticism of the club’s lack of intent in the cup competitions, which has been a problem over the years, and the performance overall was a relatively good one.
But, yet again, Newcastle fluffed a good number of chances and conceded sloppily at their own end. Newcastle’s inability to finish of late is becoming a serious problem.
An old saying of encouragement for out of form attackers is that ‘it’s okay to miss chances, you should be worried when you aren’t getting them’.
I’m sorry, but I’m not having that. I’m very, very worried.
I’d rather be beaten comfortably by an opposition being the better side than our own incapabilities letting us down game after game.
Our four wins this season have all came from clinical finishing on our end (and the occasional Rob Elliot blinder).
We didn’t create much in any of the games against Norwich, Bournemouth, Liverpool and Tottenham, but put away the chances when they came our way. Even in the thumping of the Canaries, we scored six goals from six attempts on target.
I was confident that we would survive relegation because of this, as long as we could amend our scathingly obvious defensive frailties. The golden rule of Premier League football is so often said that you have to take your chances, which we were doing, and doing well.
Fast forward to today and the tables have completely turned. Our defence actually looks alright now, even Coloccini has found some form of late, but we couldn’t buy a goal right now.
The problems started against Aston Villa. De Jong missed a glorious chance minutes before Newcastle surrendered their lead. Sissoko, Wijnaldum and Perez all missed further good chances in that game, but nothing doing.
Against Everton, Wijnaldum and Mitrovic are both handed golden headed chances on a plate. The first is headed straight at the goalkeeper, the second is, somehow, thumped wide. The last touch of the game loops into Newcastle’s net and we lose 1-0.
The pair are again both wasteful against Arsenal, both missing several good opportunities before a defensive lapse gifts Arsenal the game’s winning goal. 1-0.
The supposed magic of the FA Cup couldn’t even grant Newcastle’s wishes of a goal, as Janmaat, Perez, Sissoko and (again) Mitrovic fluff a number of key chances. Wijnaldum’s poor back pass gifted Deeney the opportunity to send Watford into the fourth round, which he took. Game over, 1-0.
This is the kind of play that can cost a side their Premier League status, and it’s getting more and more worrying by the week.
You could argue that eventually the law of averages will work in our favour and we’ll start scoring goals. But will it? I’m honestly not so sure. Especially with one of the league’s best defences next up on our fixture list.
Never have I seen a side create so many opportunities yet still look inept at scoring goals.
Luckily for us, the transfer window is open, and Ashley looks intent on spending a fair bit. Goal scorers need to be brought in. Shelvey is capable of both getting and creating them from midfield, and would be a good acquisition for us.
As for out-and-out strikers, Austin, Carroll, Lacazatte, Remy and Gabbiadini have all been mentioned in the media – any of them would be welcome.
But the transfer committee are going to have to act fast.
Failing that, shooting practice in training is hopefully heavily on the agenda.
It could be a long few months.
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