Wally with the Lolly – but no plan…
Steve McClaren turned away in disgust; a red card, another penalty conceded, another penalty scored, Everton now leading 3-0.
In truth the result flattered Newcastle. Everton had already hit the woodwork three times and if it were not for some Rob Elliot heroics – rapidly becoming Newcastle’s player of the season – it could have been six or seven.
Statistics don’t always tell the full story of a football match, but they give clues.
This one read 3 goals to 0, 18 shots to Everton and 7 to Newcastle, 7 on target to Everton 3 for Newcastle. I’d argue those stats flatter Newcastle. Perhaps the most telling statistic was the 15 fouls by Newcastle. One every 6 minutes. Desperate.
There is one other damning statistic which is worth considering.
Steve McClaren has a 22% win ratio at Newcastle. Carver had a 15% win ratio, Joe Kinnear shares the 22%. In fairness to the latter, they never had the lolly spent on their team that this wally has had. But it’s not good company to be keeping.
As I stood on the terraces at Vicarage Road (no beer in hand due to the dry stadium policy!!) a couple of weeks ago, many thoughts went through my mind as to what was wrong with this team.
It certainly wasn’t the fans – I thought we did our bit, sung non-stop even at 2-0 down. Not being able to finish chances was high, but also the ability to cope with speedy attacks was a close second. It was obvious to most in the crowd that Watford were targeting Collocini. Passes aimed long and behind Coloccini to give their forwards something to run onto was apparent very early on and it never stopped, eventually they got their reward forty seconds into the second half.
I could see it. The guy next to me could see it. Apparently nobody told McClaren.
For all the Watford result was a little harsh on Newcastle, the Everton result was as accurate as it gets. Newcastle made a very ordinary Everton side look like Leicester City (the 2015-16 season Leicester City), this an Everton side that has struggled for form in the last few months putting their manager under pressure. They didn’t play like they were and Newcastle were more than sympathetic to the opposition’s plight.
With McClaren I have two major question marks.
The first is over the style of play he is trying to introduce at St James. What is it exactly? Most games I look at the team sheet and I’m still guessing. Will they try wing-backs, possession based football, long balls over the top, attacking wingers with crosses for Mitrovic, counter-attacking? Honestly I have no clue.
Plenty of my mates who support other teams and know little about Newcastle United ask me what is going wrong and it’s hard to pick a single thing out because it changes from week to week. We’re almost two-thirds into the season and it would appear McClaren still has no idea what his best team is, what his ideal formation is, what brand of football he wants to bring to this club. And that must be a problem for the players.
My second issue is more intangible, more subjective.
You don’t always need the best players on the pitch to win games but you do need that extra thing, that bit of desire, that never stop running attitude that some managers instill. I have never seen that in a McClaren team. So many times things aren’t going our way and heads drop, pace drops, the hard tackles, the running back, the breaking your neck to make that run into the box. Teams that get out of relegation battles have at least this, even if their players aren’t as good.
But let’s also face it, this group of players isn’t actually that bad, it’s probably not the third worst in the league. I genuinely looked at the team sheet (not knowing what formation they’d play of course) but it was pretty exciting. Townsend, Perez, Gini, Sissoko (sometimes), Shelvey – there is quality in there and yet not quality enough to resist getting thrashed by a mediocre Everton team.
So what is the solution? Well clearly they can’t buy a striker or defender, it’s too late for that. We’re an experienced striker and speedy centre half away from having a good team and we may pay for that.
McClaren needs to settle on a formation, on a team, a style of play and not change every week to match the opposition. He needs to find a way to get the best of this team of players and not just play to nullify the opposition. He needs to find a way to win games, good or bad, or he needs to go. It’s as simple as that.
I saw nothing on Wednesday that doesn’t make me think we won’t get relegated. Lose at the weekend and others around us win and it becomes a near certainty.
Over at Old Trafford they are desperate for a new manager because of the dull, possession based clean sheet football van Gaal has introduced.
Right now, a few dull, lifeless 1-0 wins would be the crowning achievement for Newcastle United this season and I would take that right now, above anything even slightly resembling entertaining football.
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