Let’s be honest, Swansea City cruised to victory against Newcastle United in South Wales on Saturday.
They were excellent from the first minute, whilst Newcastle’s transitional side struggled to get anywhere near them, even before Daryl Janmaat – normally one of the team’s best players – pressed the self-destruct button.
First, he carelessly played Bafetimbi Gomis onside for his second goal of the season. Then, with the side 1-0 down, he got himself sent off for two very avoidable bookable offences. McClaren avoided John Carver syndrome and politely called it “naivety” in his post-match interview, but he must have been inwardly raging.
It’ll be particularly painful for the manager given that Newcastle remain thin on the ground and don’t have a natural back-up right back in the squad.
With Janmaat now deservedly suspended, presumably Mbemba will be forced to play there at Old Trafford, just as he did in pre-season against Borussia Mönchengladbach and in the second half, after Steven Taylor’s introduction at the Liberty Stadium.
So where does this performance leave us?
According to the Head Coach, it was impossible to learn anything from the game because of Janmaat’s stupidity, but we did at least have 40 minutes with 11 players on the pitch.
When I reviewed the Southampton game on The Mag last week, I tried to give a balanced and honest view of the match.
I was quick to point out that Newcastle fans ‘could be forgiven for carrying some optimism forwards into the rest of the season’, that Mbemba looked ‘assured, strong and quick’, that Cisse might be getting back to his best, that the ‘quality and imagination of the more attacking moves … was better’, that the team should be ‘quietly satisfied’ and are sure to be ‘buoyed’ by the quality of their new signings.
I certainly felt I had pointed of the many positives that were absent from our first away fixture.
But I also tried to keep my feet on the ground after the Southampton game and asked a few genuine questions.
I wondered if Haidara performed well enough, if the defence looked too vulnerable in the air, and if the philosophy of building from the back looked sufficiently incisive, or if we were guilty of lacking a bit of imagination and simply keeping possession for possession’s sake.
Cue the criticism.
One reader leapt in to call me ‘negative’ and accused me of dishing out unnecessary and premature ‘digs’.
Others questioned my analysis of Cisse’s form over the last few seasons.
As I pointed out, he had only scored 21 goals in his previous 82 Premier League appearances for Newcastle. After Southampton and Swansea, we can now make that 22 in his last 84 league games. It’s hardly prolific.
‘There’s no way that stat can be right’, I was told. It is, I’m afraid, though it is also true that an uncreative midfield is at least partially to blame, and that he has notched a further 7 goals in his last 14 cup appearances.
Ultimately, what I feel that the Swansea game has revealed. is that asking a few pertinent questions after the Southampton match was perhaps justified.
Janmaat’s moments of madness to one side, we once again conceded a headed goal – our third in two games – with Coloccini easily beaten in the air by the 5”9 Andre Ayew. We were also guilty of standing off Swansea far too much, lacking the sort of high-intensity pressing and swift counter-attacking that Everton utilised to great effect in their 3-0 away win over The Saints.
We thus allowed Swansea – and of course, this was exacerbated by only having 10 men for 50 minutes – to build up an impressive 635 passes (with a 92% pass success rate and consequently 66% possession).
It simultaneously made Cisse looked as isolated and unimpressive as he did at times last season and made Newcastle’s 436 passes in their home match against Southampton look relatively insignificant in comparison.
Ultimately, we won’t be the only team that will lose at the Liberty Stadium this season, and it would therefore be foolish to over-react and go into panic mode after a performance that was defined more by Janmaat’s errors that anything else.
But if we should learn anything from this performance, it’s that Newcastle remain very much a work in progress.
Meaning those who are willing to think aloud and constructively question the areas in which we might improve – rather than simply putting on the black-and-white glasses and praising the team to the hilt at every turn – shouldn’t be instantly slapped down and labelled negative nay-sayers.
(To feature like Liam, send in your articles for our website to [email protected])