Toothless and clueless is an apt description for what was witnessed from Newcastle United against West Ham. as the team huffed and puffed, seeing lots of the ball and not really doing much with it.
As the game wore on, our full backs and pair (yes pair!) of defensive midfield players sent more and more ‘hail Mary’ passes forward aimlessly, in the vain hope that Cisse had miraculously morphed into a target man, it didn’t work surprisingly…
The thought of building a team on a solid foundation is not without merit, I recall George Graham doing a similar thing during his time with Leeds when they were in a slump, but curtailing all attacking threat to do so is a recipe for disaster in today’s Premier League.
Thinking about what has been written about the performances so far this season, we have seen the team praised for their battling efforts against the odds (Man United away and Arsenal at home).
However, in these games we saw even our supposed attacking threat dropping further and further back to stifle play and harass the opposition, without offering much of anything going the other way.
It is indeed damning, as Alan Shearer pointed out, that the team has managed only one shot on target in the last month, a truly ridiculous statistic from a team which has seen £50m worth of ‘talent’ injected into it.
So where is it going wrong?
I come back to the point that the wrong positions were strengthened, and players were brought in with an eye on resale rather than improving the fortunes of the club on the field of play, when you do this you cannot expect dramatic improvement.
At the end of last season we heard that the club would look for Premier League experienced players of quality to be brought in and make an instant impact.
Obviously this thinking was superseded somewhere along the line during the summer, as the club upped the ante in terms of fees paid, but basically stuck with the same plan which has seen so little reward for the previous eight seasons.
I won’t get on the back of the coaching staff too much just yet, I maintain my reservations about McClaren due to his track record but he has talked a good game so far.
Also, I like the appointments of Cathro and Steve Black and have no real opinion on Paul Simpson, other than the manager obviously trusts him.
If I were to aim any criticism their way, it wouldn’t be due to what they have or haven’t done as coaches (other than the steadfast refusal to change formation so far).
Rather, it would be to question how complicit they have been in the policy of signing the wrong players on the recommendation of someone else, a bloke whose few successes hide a multitude of failures.
The thing is, I don’t believe that it would be impossible to make a competitive team from the players at our disposal, a team that could finish mid-table. The problem being that to do this you would have to seriously consider whether some of the club’s most saleable assets are worth a spot in the starting 11, along with the Captain.
The club has to ask itself some hard questions on team selection.
What has Sissoko done to deserve his spot?
Should Taylor start ahead of Colo to give us some aerial defence?
Can we please stop playing two defensive midfield players and focus a bit more on attacking the opposition?
There is no denying that the start of the season has seen some tricky fixtures, but the team has handled them poorly and got some basic things very wrong.
People have lauded the effort put in so far but much of that huff and puff has been self-inflicted, due to poor discipline and not giving the opposition anything to worry about. Is it any surprise that the other team always looks more threatening if we continually invite them to attack?
The £50m worth of new players has not done the trick, the club needs a total rethink and re-education on how exactly it wants to actually play football, because if we carry on like this it will be another long, hard season for all.
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