Well I’ll admit it, before the season started I fell into the trap. I started to believe again.
With Mike Ashley finally putting his hand in his pocked coupled with a new and improved coaching team (mind you, my Nan and her 101 year old neighbour could have done a better job than messrs Carver and Stone!), I actually thought this season might be different.
But this is Newcastle United isn’t it? We specialise in disappointment.
Now don’t worry, this isn’t another article designed to bore you with another premature ‘we’re going to get relegated’ rant.
Rather, I’d like to share some thoughts on our current plight because the chances are, like me, you’re probably struggling to understand what’s going wrong with us at the moment. While we’re all a bit confused, frustrated and pretty fed-up, I don’t think we can write off the season already.
So what’s going wrong at Newcastle United? In short, a lot. That’s always a given isn’t it?
So let’s narrow it down, what’s going wrong at the moment? As I’ve already mentioned, we should be doing a hell of a lot better than last season. Better players and better coaches, it’s simple right?
I understand that, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’ll take time for the players to gel. Equally, It’ll take time for McLaren to get the team functioning as he wants.
However, what really frightens me is that we haven’t shown any signs of footballing improvement. In fact, I’d argue that we’ve actually regressed in our playing ability since that opening game against Southampton.
At this point I think it’s important to point out that I don’t believe we’ll get relegated. Currently we’re completely justifying predictions that we might of course but I still have faith that we will eventually turn things around. Ah there’s my old friend optimism again…
While I may have some confidence, it’s abundantly clear that our players are desperately lacking it at the moment. They’re better than what we’re currently seeing, I’m sure of that at least.
However, I do think they’re the source of what’s going wrong at present. That’s not to say I’m discounting the years of neglect Mike Ashley has shown to the football club, I’m not, I recognise that as a huge factor.
What I’m focussing on here is the six league displays we’ve seen from our boys in black & white this season. On the pitch, with what we’ve got, things aren’t working.
The squad is better than it was last year, bolstered by the £50m spend on Mbemba, Thauvin, Wijnaldum and Mitrovic.
The coaching staff has been upgraded. McClaren may well be remembered as the ‘Wally with the Brolly’, although I challenge anyone to tell me that he’s worse than Carver.
He’s had a great apprenticeship at Manchester United, he’s won trophies on his own and as a coach, he’s held in such high regard by some of the finest in the game.
So for me, where it’s going wrong currently has to be with the players themselves. And I can’t subscribe to the ‘they don’t care’ vein of thought. I think it’s too easy an answer.
For many of them, this is a pivotal season with the European Championships beginning at the season’s close. On top of that it’ll be the last year in a Newcastle shirt for some. It’s a perfect opportunity to put themselves in the shop window, doing so by giving their all on the pitch.
Moussa Sissoko is a perfect example. He’s not guaranteed a place in the French squad and you know he is using our club as a stepping stone. It’s an absolute knocking bet that he won’t be here next season. So surely he’d be giving his all week in, week out to ensure such things can happen?
At the end of the day, Sissoko’s ambitions will only be realised through the performances he displays in the Premier League. Yet when I watch him, and in all fairness a good few others too, he’s so consistently ineffective!
Is it because he doesn’t care? Is it his attitude? If so then it’s crazy, he should be giving his all for what’s at stake, for himself personally if nothing else.
The onus really is on the players. Away at Man U and at home against Arsenal we looked resilient. Those displays really were made up of a lot of grit. Maybe after the Watford game a lot of our fans are forgetting this?
For me, the chief problem lies in our attacking approach. Quite frankly we look like a mess. And unlike a coach, I don’t have to operate under the constraint of ‘I don’t want to single out individuals’.
So with that in mind, here are three words for you: Papiss Demba Cisse. A finisher he might be, a footballer he is not. McClaren has got to try someone else there. He’s got to shake up the tactics. How we do it of course is open to interpretation!
Louise Taylor seemed convinced in The Guardian this week that switching Coloccini to a defensive midfield holding position would be an ideal solution. Make of it what you will but I can’t buy into that at all. It’s our play going forward that needs addressing.
Yes we are shipping goals, and yes we need defensive cover, but it’s not clicking upfront at all and at the end of the day, goals win games.
A prevailing problem in our attacking outlook is the fact we have too many number tens and not enough quality finishers. There’s an imbalance.
McClaren must now look at shaking things up. We aren’t expected to get anything from our next two Premier League games.
Let’s turn a negative situation into a positive one and experiment with some alternatives. And no Mr. Carver, we won’t be playing Williamson upfront! Pipe down!
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