There is no real need to dissect the Chelsea game; the failings that led to yet another embarrassing defeat were plain and obvious for all to see.
For once I felt glad to be nice and warm at home and able to change the channel as soon as the fourth goal went in, but in truth the ‘contest’ was over within the first 10 minutes.
There has been a lot of attention regarding our failure to secure the services of a proven and potent goalscorer in the January transfer window; but perhaps the root of our impotence lies in our constant willingness to give the opposing team a sizeable headstart first.
We had lost the game on Saturday before we could give ourselves the chance to try and win it, unfortunately this isn’t an isolated occurrence…. The odd mistake, or lapse in concentration, is to be expected and can be forgiven, but the frequency of these clangers is too high to be written off as coincidence and surely indicates that a deep problem lies at the heart of the Newcastle defence.
It is now time to stop being sentimental and address the defensive issue that has plagued NUFC for as long as I have supported them. Our back four is in desperate need of refurbishment and has been for some time.
With the exception of Daryl Janmaat and Chancel Mbemba, none of our current options seem to have the ability or potential to be any good in the Premier League (in fact, I think some of them would struggle in the Championship).
While I suppose it is nice that Coloccini can now be considered a long-standing servant of our club, let’s not forget that he tried very hard to bugger off not too long ago.
That in itself is no big crime in an era of questionable loyalty among footballers, but has he ever looked truly convincing in this division?
He can do some impressive looking things with a football sometimes but, as a captain and leader of the back line, he has presided over a Newcastle team that ALWAYS concedes too many goals and some of the worst defending I’ve ever seen at any level.
It is probably unfair to drag Steven Taylor into this discussion as his appearances recently have been as cover for injuries to the first team, but both he and Coloccini are the two common denominators in a number of years of bad defending.
Despite him being a local lad and all, he has never been good enough for the Premiership and now that he’s getting old, he certainly isn’t getting any better.
The longevity of these two is probably as much down to nobody else wanting them as it is any love for the club, yet neither have ever been replaced with better models. What that says about Taylor keeping Lascelles out of the first team I’m not sure, but it doesn’t look good.
The inability of the scouting team at St James Park to acquire quality defenders that actually do their job and make us harder to beat, is not a new problem though.
It prevented us from winning the league under Keegan and possibly too during the Robson era. It has seen us struggle at the wrong end of the table too many times to count, has had us relegated once already in recent years, and perhaps is on its way to doing it again.
Until now I have tried to stay positive about the manager, but the complete lack of evidence that anything is improving defensively is an increasing cause of worry. Even with sub-standard players at his disposal, a good coach should at least be able to show good results in organisation and positional awareness.
If McLaren had come to Newcastle with a reputation for eye-catching attacking flair then this could be understandable, but the one thing I did expect was that he would make us more solid and compact at the back. I guess I was wrong there.
Ironically, I am happy with some of the progress McClaren has made in the attacking and middle thirds of the pitch, and given time and a more solid defensive base, I don’t think scoring goals will be a problem.
However, instead of wasting time chasing after an overweight mutineer, that twenty odd million could and should have been spent on bolstering the Newcastle defence; a fact that was made painfully obvious on Saturday.
Whichever division we end up in next season I am prepared to give McClaren the benefit of the doubt, partly because despite everything this season there have been some positive signs on the pitch, and partly because I don’t think swapping head coaches every couple of seasons is conducive to any sort of success.
That is assuming of course though, that both he and Mr Ashley are aware that the search for competent defenders deserves as much time and investment as finding a solution to the drought at the other end.
If they are happy to stick with what we’ve got come the summer, then they are both idiots that know nothing about football and we had better start planning away days to Sheffield Wednesday.
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