Newcastle United: Mugs or Mugged?
So then, what is it, are Newcastle United mugs or do we keep getting mugged?
When Daryl Janmaat was sent off at Swansea, it was the fifth red card in the last six away games at theat point.
On Saturday at St James Park, Aleksandar Mitrovic was the latest Newcastle player to get his marching orders after only 15 minutes.
Against Manchester United, once he was named in the starting line-up the money poured in on him being the first to get a card in that game, the final price I saw was a ridiculously low 6/1.
However, he then confounded those expectations by putting in not only a very good performance, but also a pretty much totally incident free one, in terms of the referee being involved.
That all changed against Arsenal though, from the very start I sensed trouble.
Arsene Wenger left out Olivier Giroud, which was a massive call considering his 8 goals in 5 starts v Newcastle, especially risky though considering that on set-pieces they would only have two players of 6ft or more (two centre-backs) to help deal with the threat of Mitrovic.
Leaving out Giroud left them with five agile small(er) players who left Newcastle chasing shadows in that opening 15 minutes.
United hardly got a ‘kick’ as the Gunners moved the ball around expertly, with the only real time Newcastle got clsoe to them being a harsh yellow card for Moussa Sissoko as early as the third minute.
This start to the game took the wind out of the crowd’s sails to an extent and as Arsenal dominated and pressed ever further, Aleksandar Mitrovic became ever more isolated up front.
When the ball was knocked up to him, he had at least two or three players instantly surrounding him and Koscielny in particular was letting him know he was there.
Predictably the Serbian striker struggled to keep possession and when he did briefly succeed it was short-lived as support was very slow to arrive.
At both ends of the pitch Arsene Wenger had planned things perfectly, in terms of both controlling the game and dealing with Mitrovic. Maybe of he had stayed on the pitch the game would have opened up for both Mitrovic and Newcastle, it certainly couldn’t have got any worse.
For me the turning point was after having already being denied one or two possible free-kicks, Mitrovic was then clearly barged from behnd by Koscielny, the referee showing no interest as the Newcastle striker looked at him, as if to say surely you have to give me this one.
Not long after and the moment came, the ball dropping and Mitrovic negligently/maliciously fouls Coquelin, clearly a free-kick and even Steve McClaren accepted it was a yellow card.
Whether he deserved to be sent off or not, Arsene Wenger must have been rubbing his hands together and muttering in a French accent ‘Isn’t it great when a plan comes together’.
So were Newcastle, and especially Mitrovic, mugs or mugged?
I would say both, but the simple fact is that the problem has to be dealt with.
The naivety and petulance needs to be stamped out…
All of the recent red cards and indeed many of the yellows, have not been in situations where it has been a goal or match saving situation.
Janmaat against both Swansea and Leicester was just a combination of frustration and unprofessionalism, Coloccini’s against Everton last season was the same – in an area of the field where there was danger he put in a ridiculous frustrated challenge.
As for Mike Williamson against Leicester…halfway line at the side of the pitch, he tried to launch the player into the crowd, all a bit pathetic when the game was already lost.
When you see creative players like Florian Thauvin going to ground and putting in daft challenges then you know that you have to calm it all down.
Steve McClaren talked of Newcastle players being ‘young and innocent’ yesterday, a reference to them staying on their feet and not trying to get the opposition booked/sent off.
Maybe unwittingly he has pointed to an extra problem with Newcastle’s transfer policy, by bringing in young players who aren’t used to the Premier League then there are many aspects to get used to, including discipline.
Newcastle needed all the help they could get to turn around last season’s near disaster but at the minute we are simply shooting ourselves in the foot on an all too regular basis.
Maybe time for Steve Black to sit them down and talk about how to deal with getting their heads right before games.
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