Five talking points from Newcastle’s defeat at Swansea.
Indiscipline proves costly
Soon after his arrival at the club, Steve McClaren laid down some new ground rules with the aim of improving discipline within the group – latecomers are now sent home, while the players are also banned from swearing.
So, with indiscipline having been clearly identified as a problem, Daryl Janmaat’s red card was a big let-down and proved costly. The Dutchman must shoulder the blame for his needless dismissal but McClaren too was at fault for not taking action to prevent the inevitable.
Similarly, the wisdom of introducing Aleksandar Mitrovic as a late substitute must be questioned. Possibly a little over-eager to make his presence felt, the Serbian striker’s two cameos have now resulted in two yellow cards as he has already shown himself to have a reckless streak that needs tempering.
Surely Ayoze Perez would have been a safer bet.
Can Mitrovic become Newcastle’s Drogba?
If Steve McClaren is intent on sticking with the 4-2-3-1 formation that he has deployed in Newcastle’s first two games then Aleksandar Mitrovic needs to spearhead the attack.
The Serbian striker has had to make do with two short substitute appearances so far and while much has been made of his apparent recklessness, he has also shown that he has the aggression and strength needed to lead the line to good effect.
Papiss Cissé’s lack of physicality means that Newcastle often fail to get a foothold in games as he ploughs a lonely furrow up front, hoping to make the most of whatever scraps come his way.
Newcastle need a stronger presence to be the focal point of their attack, to bully opposition defenders and to help bring his team-mates into the game. The early signs are promising that Mitrovic may well be that man.
Whether he has the temperament to handle the responsibility is another matter…
Toothless in attack
In truth, Newcastle looked a beaten side long before Daryl Janmaat’s dismissal. They offered absolutely no threat going forward as Swansea’s high pressing nullified Newcastle’s slow and pedestrian build-up play before it even got going.
There was no creative spark, no swift incisive passing and very little threat offered from wide areas.
Siem De Jong was again absent due to injury and unfortunately it’s looking increasingly likely that the Dutchman’s contribution to Newcastle’s cause will end up being no better than that of his brother.
Meanwhile, Remy Cabella is another of last summer’s arrivals who has struggled to make an impact. The Frenchman has also been quite uninspiring in his time on Tyneside so far and he needs to prove his worth when he returns from injury. Although he will find himself at the bottom of the pecking order by the time he is ready for first team action as Steve McClaren is clearly a big fan of Rolando Aarons.
With Newcastle looking worryingly blunt in attack, McClaren needs his most creative players back at his disposal as soon as possible.
Lack of aerial presence a problem
Newcastle were undone by yet another headed goal at the Liberty Stadium, as Andre Ayew found the back of the net to give the Swans a two goal cushion.
Having missed all of our pre season preparations, Fabricio Coloccini again looked woefully off the pace as Swansea’s Ghanaian winger beat Newcastle’s captain to the ball with frightening ease.
Chancel Mbemba looks to be a shrewd acquisition but he also lacks aerial presence, leaving Newcastle hugely exposed.
Thankfully, Steve McClaren has already realised that while Mike Williamson can provide some much needed height at the back, he is simply not good enough.
If Newcastle are to finally solve their long-standing defensive problems, then any new reinforcements need to be a significant upgrade on Williamson, rather than a like-for-like replacement.
Is Sissoko part of the problem?
While undoubtedly a very talented footballer, Moussa Sissoko is beginning to feel like the answer to a question nobody asked.
Powerful and pacy, Sissoko’s speed and directness provide Newcastle with the ability to change defence to attack in a matter of seconds and to destroy opponents on the break.
Ironically, however, it is this powerful athleticism that is also Sissoko’s biggest weakness as the Frenchman repeatedly tries to bulldoze his way through enemy lines instead of trying a more subtle and nuanced approach.
For all his flaws, Sissoko remains too effective to demote to the bench and yet his playing style seems too unrefined for him to thrive in the new patient passing system that McClaren is trying to implement at Newcastle.
McClaren has already stated that Sissoko is someone he wants to build the team around, so it’s up to the Newcastle boss to find a way to make it work.
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