An evening where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, starting from the coach’s selection. A glaring highlight being the retention of Aarons at left back. Aarons did a decent job while not being a regular left back (v West Brom) and I had already mentioned in my previous article that he would struggle against the physicality of Ivanovic. However, he even struggled with the pace of the game.
I haven’t seen much of Hiddink’s managed clubs in action to ascertain how good his match preparation and tactics are, but right from the get go, you could see it unravelling. The very third minute Chelsea earned a free kick, the ball was instantly directed towards the target that Aarons was marking on the right hand side.
And it remained a theme for the rest of the game, Chelsea pressed and pressed hard, applying pressure on Aarons leading to the bad placed pass and the build up in the final goal showed why full backs get paid for their ability to switch and sprint back, staying with their markers.
I could go as far to say that if there was a drill between Aarons and Zabaleta, the latter despite his age would be able to recover faster on his marker. At the end of the day, as much as you can debate that players despite being played out of position should be able to use their attacking instincts to aid them defensively, in terms of tracking runs and tackles, the blame falls at the head coach’s doorstep.
In a relegation run you make decisions that are more proven than based on potential to aid your chances of survival in a relegation scrap. Colback should have played and Mbabu should be first choice if he is fit, followed by Haidara.
Looking back, the West Brom result ultimately turned deceptive as they didn’t press us, playing like an old-fashioned cautious visiting side waiting to hit on the counter.
This probably made Steven Taylor a better defender than he makes himself out to be. He probably put in the worst shift (v Chelsea) in a Newcastle jersey I have seen in years, including the calamitous Boumsong and Bramble displays.
Hiddink got it right by having his players press Steven Taylor as he mostly ended up giving possession away. For all his bravado and put my body on the line antics, he has never shown to have any ounce of in game awareness or IQ.
The first goal, he proceeds to play his marker while Costa, despite being a prototype physical battering ram, also has a cunning in him to be able to change into that extra gear and gain that extra space to slot in a shot which he managed past Taylor.
Mbemba on the other hand would have tracked Costa’s run and narrowed the angle between him and Elliot. What annoys me is when he sold Elliot short by a bad back pass only to have his backside saved due to a Costa foul on Elliot, he just acted like normal and didn’t look back to Elliot to apologise.
Then the Pedro goal in the second half, Fabregas’ well directed lob saw Taylor lumber painfully and lose Pedro who is half his size. I sincerely hope this is the last time I see him barring injuries and suspensions. I would rather see Lascelles against Stoke.
Talking about taking tough decisions, McClaren for his own good will need to look at Tiote and Sissoko. Tiote had a good run of games in 2011-12 but after seeing the first seven minutes you knew which version we were in for, which can be attributed to the well planned pressure tactics by Chelsea.
What followed is something we fear, fouls given away in dangerous areas, losing possession and when under pressure he tends to play worse than Anita/Colback by passing it more and more backwards.
While Sissoko just doesn’t do enough for me nowadays, other than the odd cross and being a liability on defence, unable to track runners and conceding free kicks around the box. Those fouls look all too similar in each game.
I have been damning with my criticism but there has to be a way and an effort to arrest the decline, especially on away games. We have noticed that in those debacles against Palace, Leicester and Chelsea we couldn’t manage any possession.
McClaren should have dropped Tiote for Colback instead of choosing to alienate himself from his best hope of beating the drop in Wijnaldum. Colback came and did a good job of improving ball retention but Tiote regressed as the game progressed. I accept that Gini can be a bit of an enigma on the road where he seems to show an indifferent first touch but if as a Coach I would have to upset someone, than I might as well do it with my more inconsistent players.
Colback, for all his offensive shortcomings, is at home sitting in front of the back 4 and is more technically adept than Tiote in retaining and moving the ball. He needs to take Tiote’s place while I would champion Saivet to take over from Sissoko on the wing, as he has already shown he is so much better on the ball and since he started his career as a winger, so is much more of a natural fit there than Sissoko is.
Townsend needs to go to the right wing permanently as he is more potent and is able to have much more of an impact. If you have an issues with scoring goals than you might as well play the players who will get you goals but more importantly to be put in the positions where they are able to do it for you.
Doumbia with his little cameo showed what the running into channels and dragging the defence along with him can do by opening the middle spaces for a cutting winger to shoot, like the Townsend goal. He should continue to get a 30 minute run at least.
These are some minor tweaks but offer better odds than the inconsistent shifts we have been witnessing. McClaren may never have the courage to drop Sissoko and Tiote. He hasn’t shown a mean streak in him for me to believe that he is the man to take this club forward considering Ashley’s new stance on investing in the squad.
McClaren had retained a few supporters due to the fact he showed the will to change the style and philosophy but as the going has got tough his excuses, deluded stance on our predicament, and inability to change tactics, has me fearing the worst.
We can hope the likes of Norwich, Swansea and Bournemouth slip, while we show enough of Jekyll rather than Hyde to survive the drop this season.
You can follow the author on Twitter @bobbyonwestside
(To feature like Bobby, send in your articles for our website to [email protected])