Perfect finishing but not quite the perfect match
Steve McClaren would have been a very happy and relieved man on Sunday night.
A must win game was won, Newcastle moved off the bottom and to within two points of exiting the relegation zone, whilst the three different scorers saw United match the entire total of goals scored in the previous eight matches.
However, I bet on Monday morning he woke up, hangover or not, with his mind spinning about the same old problems that there are currently no answers for.
Having finally put Perez and Mitrovic up front together, the evidence has been there for all to see well before the goals frenzy on Sunday afternoon against Norwich.
With the talented two up top, United looked far more of a threat against both Chelsea and Manchester City, their partnership also helping Georginio Wijnaldum get into the game more, at least certainly in the first half of each game.
At the Etihad, Newcastle could and should have been two or three up at half-time, indeed a wrong decision by the linesman prevented a 2-0 scoreline which would very likely have produced a much different outcome in that game, such was the way Newcastle were playing.
Taking the positives from those two matches against last season’s top two, it shouldn’t then have been a surprise to see Newcastle capable of posing a goal threat against Norwich City.
Yesterday we saw short passages of play where Newcastle were excellent going forward, Norwich struggling to cope with the pace, power and purpose as Moussa Sissoko belatedly joined the other three most forward players in showing he has still got it, when roused.
The finishing was quite excellent and as you can see from the stats below, the six goals were scored from the only six efforts on target.
Which then brings us to looking at the match overall, not just the good bits.
Again looking at those stats, Norwich had more shots (18 v 11), more corners (7 v 3) and more possession (56% v 44%).
For Steve McClaren he has the dilemma of not having any central midfield players who are up to the standard needed, in desperation he threw Cheick Tiote in and we all hope it was just lack of fitness/matches that was/were the reason(s) for such a poor 45 minutes.
With United holding a very fragile 3-2 lead, Tiote was replaced at the break by Vurnon Anita as McClaren tried to prevent the control Norwich were exerting in midfield.
For the first 20 minutes of the second half it was one way traffic as Norwich continued to play the ball in and around the chasing black and white shadows, their patient build-up continually causing Newcastle problems.
A goal in this period and I don’t think anybody would have fancied Newcastle coming out of it with a win.
However, moments win matches and next thing you know Newcastle break and bang, Mitrovic makes it 4-2.
Two minutes later it is Wijnaldum’s hat-trick courtesy of another quick break.
Norwich boss Alex Neil conceded afterwards that taking off defensive midfielder Alexander Tettey in the 61st minute was a crucial decision he got wrong.
The Dutch midfielder later added a sixth but by then the visitors were traumatised and still not quite sure how they were on the receiving end of a four goal winning margin after having so much of the game.
At the moment the full-backs look incapable of stopping crosses coming in and the centre of defence is equally ill-equipped to deal with those crosses.
Add in the centre midfielders being not up to the job of stifling the opposition and you are always going to struggle against any team showing ambition.
Due to the deficiencies in the defence and those protecting them, Newcastle opening up to play football is like a game of Russian Roulette, if United don’t score then it looks as though the opposition are likely to score any time.
I don’t see any combination of players solving this in the short-term, only bringing in the right people to add quality to those back positions will give it a chance of properly working.
In the meantime Steve McClaren has little choice but to play a similar way to Sunday.
For Newcastle to have any goal threat he has to accept the opposition are going to score at least one or two.
Basing the formation and tactics on keeping a clean sheet is sheer folly, we don’t have any players who can give Newcastle a solid look so you have to rely on your attacking players and that clearly is where United have got their better players.
These are the key stats as provided by BBC Sport;
Possession was 44% Newcastle and 56% Norwich
Total shots was 11 for Newcastle and Norwich 18
Shots on target was Newcastle 6 and Norwich 6
While corners was Newcastle 3 and Norwich 7
Team: Elliot, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Dummett (Haidara 65), Colback, Tiote (Anita 46), Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Perez, Mitrovic (Cisse 88)
Unused Subs: Woodman, de Jong, Lascelles, Thauvin
Ref: Anthony Taylor
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