What are the positives and negatives in the Newcastle United team of the present time?
What has helped or hindered the team this season?
Ignoring whether or not Rafa should have persevered with Matz Sels in goal, there is one clear problem that was shown up yet again on Wednesday night against Norwich.
Most of you no doubt assume that I’m going to talk about Mohamed Diame, Aleksandar Mitrovic, two up top or one in the whole etc etc.
To be honest, I think that is all secondary to Newcastle’s main issue at the minute.
On Wednesday night we saw Matt Ritchie and DeAndre Yedlin combining in excellent fashion, then when you add Jonjo Shelvey you have a triangle of passing and movement that caused Norwich all sorts of problems. This being despite the Canaries concentrating their defensive resources on this side as it is where the obvious threat is.
Then we have the other side of the pitch.
Paul Dummett and Yoan Gouffran just doesn’t work as a partnership, Newcastle create next to nothing down that side, despite often the opposition encouraging NUFC attacks in that area as they put the extra manpower to try and stop the likes of Ritchie etc.
Adding Jack Colback to that mix was just making the situation so much worse, endless passing backwards amongst the trio and with so little pace or creative ability between them, repeatedly Newcastle lost momentum down that side.
Thankfully Isaac Hyden replaced the very poor Colback and fingers crossed we won’t see this mistake made by Rafa Benitez again.
However, the Dummett/Gouffran pairing is more than likely to continue.
You might ask why look for negatives when you have just had that stunning 4-3 but I think it is clear that teams are increasingly working Newcastle out and asking more difficult questions.
The excellence of the likes of Shelvey, Ritchie and Yedlin (the Ritchie/Anita was also much better than our left side but Yedlin takes it to another level) has helped to cover up just how weak we are elsewhere on the pitch, namely the left.
Gouffran is doing ok but he’s not great on that left hand side, work rate yes, creativity no.
It reminds me very much of the Jonas Gutierrez/Jose Enrique partnership. Even though Jonas was a worker like Gouffran, who was never going to do a winger’s usual job, his excellent work ethic meant that instead it was Enrique who would charge forward, with superb dribbling ability and create chances.
The fact Jonas and Gouffran are also both right-footed is another parallel, the Frenchman isn’t capable of getting down that side and crossing it into the box left-footed.
Just as Jose Enrique used to do that, hopefully we have an answer just around the corner. Achraf Lazaar undoubtedly looks to be a full-back whose biggest strength is going forward, a bit like Yedlin and Enrique.
Gouffran would suddenly become a far better player if paired with the Moroccan international, with Lazaar charging forward then Yoan Gouffran’s willingness to work back would then be a much bigger asset to the team.
The alternative if we want to make the left hand side an asset going forward is to potentially put Christian Atsu out there, he’s an out and out winger and if he was playing then it wouldn’t be that much of a problem playing Paul Dummett, who is a liability 99% of the time when attacking.
The other alternative is to send Mohamed Diame out onto either wing. His big strength is running with the ball and I don’t think it has done him any favours either playing as a second striker, just behind Dwight Gayle.
In summary, it is the supply line that we need to get right on both sides, rather than worrying too much about who is waiting in and around the box to finish the chances.
Whether playing alone or with a partner (Mitrovic or Murphy?), Dwight Gayle has shown more than enough that he is the man for the job, even though it may take a few chances…