Newcastle 1-2 Watford – A game most Newcastle fans would have had down as a home banker, quickly turned into a shambles. Watford were everything Newcastle were not. Organised, tactically astute, with a game plan and the players to execute it.
As dreadful as Newcastle were, Watford (especially first half) were excellent. Here are a few talking points from Newcastle’s defeat:
Whether this is down to Papiss Cisse’s ineffectiveness (more on him later) or not, 4-2-3-1 does not seem to be working, yet McClaren is sticking with it. At present, this set of Newcastle players just cannot play using this formation. The past 18 months are testament to that.
McClaren opted to dabble between a 4-1-4-1 formation, and the aforementioned 4-2-3-1, against Watford, neither of which worked.
To play 4-2-3-1, you need a competent defensive midfielder (or two) to sweep up behind the front four, something Newcastle just do not have. Jack Colback has been a shadow of last season’s player and Vurnon Anita, whilst improved, is not physically strong enough for the Premier League.
Colback and Anita are very much the same player, whilst Cheick Tiote is not only out of favour, but lacking severely in match practice and quality.
Moving onto the ‘wingers’ either side of the Number 10, in Moussa Sissoko and Florian Thauvin, we have two players who do not like to track back, and are arguably lazy. This in turn is leaving the full backs exposed, contributing further to our defensive frailty.
So what formation should Newcastle be playing?
You hear a lot of fans screaming out for a traditional 4-4-2, but that is a system stuck in the past, too rigid and easily picked apart by more intelligent systems.
Whilst Watford played a version of 4-4-2 against Newcastle, it was not in the traditional sense, and was a more fluid, flexible take on the classic tactic.
With Etienne Capoue marshalling the midfield, tireless full backs in Anya and Nyom, and the power of Troy Deeney working just off goalscorer Ighalo, Watford have hit upon a flexible, but powerful way of playing. Accompanied by hard work, and working together as a team, Quique Flores has instilled the workmanship so sorely lacking at Newcastle United.
Newcastle’s recruitment, whilst good in terms of the calibre of player, seems to be carried out without the actual team in mind. We are burdened with too many Number 10s, a lack of strikers, poor centre halves and no depth at full back.
Looking at the players available to McClaren, a 4-3-3 might be his best bet. A midfield 3 of Colback, Sissoko and Wijnaldum at the tip would be effectual, but also reliant on reining in Sissoko’s need to wander wherever he sees fit on the pitch.
It should give protection, power, strength and guile, although Newcastle are crying out for a solid defensive midfielder.
How fluid the front 3 would be, depends on personnel. A front 2 of Perez and Mitrovic, supported by de Jong in behind, could prove too narrow. Mitrovic flanked by Perez and Thauvin is another option, with the latter two taking up the Ba and Ben Arfa roles to Mitovic’s Cisse (circa 2012).
One thing a 4-3-3 will do, is push Newcastle further up the pitch. The team sits far too deep at present, something very evident when you see the gap between the lone striker and the next bank of players.
Lets be frank, Papiss Cisse should not be allowed anywhere near the first team again. His performances against West Ham and Watford were an embarrassment and bring shame on the profession.
The complete lack of desire shown, is testament to a player who clearly wanted away in the summer, but didn’t get his move. Stick him in the reserves and let him rot until January. Newcastle would have been more effective playing 10 men in both games than trying to accommodate a lazy, work-shy player like Cisse.
Surely once Paul Dummett returns from injury, Haidara will be banished from the starting line-up. He has been given enough chances for it to be apparent he is not cut out for this level.
Yes, he was most probably signed as a back-up option, but even then I feel Haidara’s time at Newcastle is at an end. Whilst there was potential in Haidara’s attacking ability, this seems to have been eroded over time, and his defensive ability is non-existent.
Is this something picked up on during the recruitment process?
Whilst Newcastle have players with undoubted ability, psychologically, there have to be some questions raised.
There is an obvious crisis of confidence, stemming from the tragic football played over 2015. But when looking at the decision making of the players, independent thought and ideas seem to be lacking.
The amount of times Newcastle crossed the ball into Watford’s box, only for the ball to end up straight in Gomes’ hands, was bordering on the ridiculous. Surely someone on the pitch should be telling the others to try something different when plan A is clearly not working.
When do we ever see Newcastle try killer through balls, have intelligent passages of play, or great set-pieces? It just doesn’t happen. There is only so much McClaren/Cathro et al can do on the training pitch. If ever there was ever a time for Steve Black to earn his wage, then now is it.
Realistically, the shambles of the last 2 seasons was not going to be cleared up overnight.
Whoever took over the role from the Pardew/Carver charade was going to have a hell of a task on their hands, and McClaren is sharp finding that out. The new coaching team need time, but in the Premier League, that is a rare luxury.
Whilst we endured some awful football under Alan Pardew, something he was right about is the unprofessionalism and poor attitude of some of the players.
He is clearly enjoying working with a group of players at Crystal Palace who appear honest, hard-working and professional. This is something that should have been rectified in the summer.
Papiss Cisse, Moussa Sissoko, Fabricio Coloccini … all examples of a rotten undercurrent at the club.
But McClaren has to work with what he has. The return of Mitrovic can’t come quickly enough, and some new ideas around formations needs to be discussed as above.
The next two games against Chelsea and Man City are write-offs, but with McClaren’s own ‘judge me after 10 games’ landmark fast approaching, things need to improve, and quickly.
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