The past twenty-two days for Newcastle United have now evoked the proverbial dire straits.
I have never called for the head of Steve McClaren, but I told myself that four points (from Stoke & Bournemouth) was a minimum for me to throw any kind of support behind him for the rest of the season.
An eighteen day wait for the Stoke game, after a catastrophic meltdown at Stamford Bridge and a trip to Spain, left me an anxious wreck for this past week. It was not worth the wait, as the team came out completely lacklustre and ended up losing again because of the tactics/player malaise.
It is obvious to all of us that the lack of motivation in the squad is disheartening; especially when a lot of us, no matter how negative we seem, support this club wholeheartedly. However, it is hard to not be negative when Steve McClaren is obviously out of his depth, and lacking in confidence himself. McClaren has no confidence in his tactics and players, which is why he has to go now.
I want to speak briefly about the game today, as it would be uncouth of me to administer such a condemnation of McClaren’s ability without duly noting my problems with him. I could say the same things about the Stoke game, but the manner in which we lost at home today (Bournemouth) is the perfect example. McClaren sunk himself, and the players did not do him any favors (I cannot blame them for not playing so well, I wouldn’t want to play for this balding moron either).
I was surprised to see Rivière in the line-up today, but I did not immediately condemn McClaren for including him in the side, because looking at the line-up I thought that we could only be playing a 4-4-2 (which all of us have called for from McClaren). Also, I thought Rivière (although he played terrible when he came on at Stoke) seemed to be in a better place physically from the last game, and thought that his physicality had gone up and would now be able to hold-up play.
With Mitrović just getting over a knee injury as well, I thought it might be a good idea to give him some rest; I also believe that Doumbia might be slightly under match fitness. So Perez and Rivière up front I had some reservations; however, I thought if the team made it through the first half alright, Mitrović or Doumbia (or both) could replace Perez or Rivière and they would not be at risk to irritate prior injury (i.e. Paul Dummett’s hamstring).
Paul Dummett came off the pitch in the 31st minute, for Anita — this is where the game took a tactical turn for the worse.
First off, Henri Saivet was the better choice, as Anita has proven that he has a problem stacking up in English football. If you do not believe that Saivet is a good player, you are gravely mistaken. Secondly, this is where McClaren went negative. The formation switched back to the 4-2-3-1, which fans have all but grown to hate. McClaren showed no confidence in his defence at this point with Colback at left-back, but somehow shows complete confidence with Perez as a winger.
Gini started out on the left wing and while I do not love this positioning for him (I would rather him play CAM over the middle), he has shined there slightly and was playing fine in that position. Newcastle went down by one, and McClaren’s instinct was to go even more on the defensive in the middle of a serious relegation battle.
If McClaren believes that putting the ball in the back of the net is the basis of how to win football games (it is, we all know that it is), then his move and switch of formation was completely idiotic and unwarranted. I understand that Jack Colback might not be the finest left-back, but Newcastle lost all width on the left with Perez on the wing. Wijnaldum’s maturity as a footballer allows him to play anywhere in the midfield, while Perez is, and will always be, a striker. I love Ayoze Perez, I think he is a great lad with a lot of potential, but he will never have the workrate for playing on the wing.
Mitrović came on at the half, and I fully expected that to happen and it would have been the right move if McClaren did not idiotically switch the formation mid-game. I yearn to watch Mitrović and Perez up top together. Mitrović’s passing is nothing short of gorgeous at times, and I feel that link up play with Perez would be nothing short of spectacular as Perez is a willing runner, and rarely fears the moment at which he must shoot (see his goal in the 80th minute).
I never got the chance to see that today, or at all this season. Two young players, with the contrast that every good striker pair needs — remember Demba Ba and Cisse, or a bruiser and the crafty one. Cisse tanked hard once Demba Ba left for Turkey, and it became very clear that he needed a partner up front. Perez is the same type of striker — that is not a knock against Perez. The truth is that a manager must think about how to best play his personnel, and as football is a team game it is a matter of complement. That is to say, that a footballer’s success (especially a striker) is dependent on the complement play of his teammates. Complementary play depends on balance, all of which Newcastle lacked at this point of the game.
Moussa Sissoko’s substitution must be addressed and at the point of his substitution is when I knew the game was lost. I ask for full patience here, as I am about to explain my position on Sissoko, and it is in stark contrast to the “majority” opinion.
I must explain first that I live in America and therefore watch each game on the television, I do not know how it works for you English cats, but I get two live feeds of the games, the “tactical camera” and the “main camera” through NBC sports — I turn both on, one on my computer, and one on my television. The tactical camera is essentially a coaches tape, a wide shot of the whole field essentially. This allows me to get the same view of each player as if I was in the stadium singing with you true Geordies, and gives me a chance to see which players are running or not if the play is away from them. With that being said, I will explain now why Sissoko’s substitution for Aarons was a mistake in today’s game.
Moussa Sissoko is an easy target for hatred, as he has been vocal about his ambitions of one day playing for a better club than Newcastle. I understand that the lack of loyalty to the shirt can cause problems for fans, that live or die by the crest. I cannot blame Sissoko for wanting to leave this club, just look at where we are at, and look at his ability.
Despite what you may think about Sissoko, he is a world-class player; he has plenty of great international performances to prove that (see 2014 World Cup). For those of you that do not think that he is a right wing/right midfield player I accuse you of being Pardewed. Sissoko has always marshaled the right wing of the field until the powers that be sold Yohan Cabaye. The aftermath of that left Pardew with no middle of the field player of Cabaye’s calibre, so he concocted the idea that Sissoko was a “battering ram” and a centre midfielder that could create. Pardew was trying to adapt to losing his best player on the squad, and Sissoko never got going in the middle.
The reason is that “Battering Ram” players are best suited for the wings, where the play is constantly one-on-one and about pace, and the centre is all about creative, visionary passes. I was disappointed to see that The Mag player ratings have him currently at a 2.1 rating for the game. Sissoko put in just as much work as Shelvey today, a lot of crosses, and a lot of good runs down the right wing. I would agree that he has not been in is best form, but he has the most assists out of anyone on our team, all of which came from the right side of the pitch.
I understand that his loyalty is suspect, and very upsetting to hear him talk about “better” clubs; however, it is delusional rage that calls for him to be benched. Booing him for the back passes he did after the switch in formation I thought was uncalled for, as the players in Bournemouth’s half were not moving at all. He sent in some great balls today, and his run in the 20th something minute was a great, powerful, galloping run (which he had more than just one, but this one was the most memorable).
Rolando Aarons is a player that is very immature and he infuriates me to no end. He lost possession twice trying to stupidly dribble his way into the box on a defender that had every advantage (position, space, angle, etc.). He is anxious on the ball, lacks confidence, but acts like he can out dribble anyone. He is a player that has been needed to be loaned out, but lack of depth in our squad has never afforded the opportunity to go out and grow. Rolando Aarons will NOT get better playing four to six games a season in the premier league. I understand that he has played out of position and all of that, but it is very obvious his problems on and off the ball — he is not good enough, and I am very sceptical on if he will ever be given his current amount of playing time.
The problems that occurred today were Steve McClaren’s fault, his confidence is obviously shaken, and his head unclear. I had severe reservations about him coming in the summer, as the biggest blunder of his career was during his tenure at England’s helm (2006-2007) missing the Euros with a team I’m fairly certain an ape could’ve made the tournament with.
However, I wanted to give him a real shot, and thought that with two windows we could’ve very easily been sitting comfortably in the bottom half of the league, but at least on the up curve. I have not called for him to be sacked until now. These past two games were so vital and he blew it. I do believe had Townsend been playing, we would have stood a greater chance, but there is no reason why we could not have won today, and drew on Wednesday with the squads that played. I wanted to wait to see the outcomes of these two games, and now that I have seen the results I am ready to join the masses.
Steve McClaren is a manager with no confidence from his squad, staff, or himself. For that reason alone he must go — I wrote a letter to him that appeared on this website back in January, and the benchmarks I set for my support of him have not been met.
Newcastle has a lot of time before our match with Leicester City in a couple of Mondays, so the time for change is now. Steve McClaren must be sacked by Monday in order for at least someone else to be brought in. I do not know who you would turn to in a time like this, and hell — I do not know if I would even take the job (that’s a bold faced lie, if I could manage Newcastle until the end of the season I’d do it in a heart beat, hell I’d do it for room and board — I do not have the credentials though), but Mike Ashley has to realise that his new television deal money is at stake, and make the change.
Could you lure in a manager like Jose Mourinho (great tactically) for ten games on a two month contract and just pay him a boatload of money for those ten (something that could be mutually beneficial, as in he could show “bigger” clubs that he can motivate players after he fell out of favor in Chelsea, and we would gain a great tactician with a winning pedigree)?
Or do you have to promote within, or promote a lesser known someone that is just “better than McClaren”. Steve McClaren’s negative-play positivity and his “motivation” coach (that, in my opinion, completely degrades players) must go, I seriously implore the powers that be to shove him out.
A fresh week of training, and a time to instill a new idea is now. At least Steve McClaren can take solace in knowing that he tried his best and got a free trip to Spain during the harsh north east winter.
I have been rational and really gave Steve McClaren a shot at trying to turn this club around and I shelved my bias of him until now.
McClaren out NOW!
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