So Newcastle United have now played everyone and we can see that we have – man for man – the best set of players in the Championship.
We have also seen that, when that set of players gel, we will beat anybody.
What we have also seen, are a number of times where the team has just been a shadow and we have lost to inferior, but harder working and more physical, teams. Last night against Sheff Wed being the latest example.
In games we have lost, it is typically in the midfield where we have a problem. We cannot just state the absence of Shelvey as the reason – because he played in the games against Wolves and Blackburn – it is about something more than that. We revert to square balls that never look like giving that killer pass to Gayle; and it seems players and supporters get equally frustrated.
There doesn’t seem to be a plan ‘B’ in these games – not necessarily hoofing up the middle, but being able to swap out ineffective midfielders.
Mo Diame has shown on a few occasions in November / December the talents he brings – but has certainly not been the physical force his frame suggests. The games mentioned above needed that physical presence – but it was lacking.
Ayoze Perez equally frustrates: capable of magic, but too frequently easily forced off the ball.
Up front I have willed Mitro to be the forward we all want him to be. We love the passion, and he loves the club, but he just hasn’t made the impression truly needed when brought on, to suggest he is the plan ‘B’.
I still think Newcastle United will get promoted but we need: a creative midfielder to have the option to swap out or in when it’s not working, and a goal scorer to push on to help or replace Gayle as a plan ‘B’.
Fabian Delph would be a great addition in midfield and maybe a chance for Daryl Murphy, or bring someone else in. We need to reinforce Plan B.