Ok, so in the overall scheme of things, a draw or a defeat on Saturday, doesn’t really make much difference at the moment. However, what effect will defeats against teams the likes of Bournemouth have come May 2018?
A home loss against a poor side is no big deal, it’s happened before and it will happen again. Every manager we’ve had (including Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby) have managed a Newcastle side that couldn’t break down a rank bad side and inevitably ended up on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat, that’s football I’m afraid.
However, the bit that sticks in my throat, the part that I will never see the good side of, or agree with, is not taking the game to the opposition and trying to win the game outright.
Setting yourselves up to be hard to beat against Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal is one thing, at very best you might keep the score down, if lady luck smiles on you, you may even nick a point, but against the likes of Huddersfield, Burnley, Brighton and Bournemouth it is an entirely different story and somewhat foolhardy, especially considering we’ve taken nothing from those fixtures, NOTHING.
We could have really had a go at those teams and lost two and drew the others, still a poor return but more profitable than what we have managed in reality.
The match against Bournemouth was just a re-run of the Crystal Palace match but with the opposite end result. Let’s not dress it up to be what it wasn’t, both games were dire and an insult to the term ‘football match’, as for a whole 180 odd minutes the entertainment on offer was minimal at best.
Now I’ve heard managers in the past bleat on about not being in the business to entertain, simply getting results is the aim of the game. But hold on, if the results don’t come and the margins are so fine that 0-0 draws are hung on to for dear life, then that’ll get the game done away with.
The feeling from me coming away from the ground after the Palace result was one of delight, that we’d beaten a side that will be playing in the Championship in ten months time, we had avoided one of those banana skins that this club seems to slip on all too often.
The feeling after the Bournemouth match was one of total disappointment. I said after the Burnley defeat that everything can be put right if we beat Bournemouth at home, three points every two games will be more than enough to keep us in this league – to take none is shameful.
And lets not start having a go at fans for booing at the end of the game. If you sit through a 90 minute snooze fest AND don’t get a result to show for it, people are entitled to voice their opinions on what was witnessed. Results can mask a multitude of sins, but when the game is there to be won against poor opposition, then not taking the initiative and going for it is negligent.
This brings me on to the curious case of Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Yes, he’s a hot-head.
Yes, he could be classed as a liability.
However, persisting with Joselu is just as much a liability in terms of the result, as having a player on the field that may (or may not) get a red card.
And this victimisation of the Serbian is quite frankly now ridiculous on the manager’s behalf. I get that Rafa doesn’t trust him but after eleven games the evidence for playing Joselu is simply not there.
To a lesser extent Perez has been largely poor, a couple of goals has aided his cause to start games and certainly he’ll do ok as a no10, but he needs a good centre-forward to play behind and Joselu isn’t that centre-forward.
Also, Dwight Gayle needs to be either started and given a few games to regain his mental strength, or he needs to be told that he’s going in the reserves for a month.
Back to the victimisation of Mitrovic – it needs to be highlighted that no manager should be immune to criticism. Rafa leaving him out of the squad and/or keeping him on the bench just to prove a point, is quite frankly, childish and preposterous.
You can point to the fact that we switched off at the end on Saturday and threw away a point, but we really weren’t going to win with the side that started, or finished, the game.
Mitrovic could have provided the spark to push us on to the win, Perez and Joselu simply won’t, and the last eleven games should have shown the manager that. It’s funny, the poor discipline from Mitrovic seems to have cost him in the eyes of Rafa and I understand it could be somewhat of a risk bringing him on – but the word I’m using in ‘victimisation’, doesn’t seem to stretch to Jonjo Shelvey who has a similar temperament, yet he starts. What gives?
I don’t care if he’s a world-class manager, and I don’t care if he doesn’t trust the player himself, eleven games is enough to spot a duck egg and in continuing to play the duck egg isn’t going to change things.
This is now costing us results and points and the second Perez came on yesterday, that was the end of the notion that three points were coming our way. It’s the manager’s job to spot what isn’t working and then change things accordingly. When Rafa repeats the same mistakes and fails to see what’s in front of him, it smacks of needless stubbornness.
Having said al that, we now go into an international break in a decent position and one that most would have snapped hands off for at the start of the season. After which we play Manchester United away, not an easy task, but made even more difficult when we don’t score goals.
Sitting back and absorbing pressure away at Old Trafford isn’t a prospect that warms the hearts mid-November, quite the opposite. Despite what I’ve said, I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see Mitrovic start against Manchester United, simply as an exercise in the manager proving a point, for a failure from the Serb against Man Utd would be Rafa proving himself right…and if that happens I’ll be furious.
I stated elsewhere this week that six more wins will be enough to see us safe for next season and I still stand by that, they will most likely come at home.
Sadly, winnable home games are starting to run down in numbers and sitting back against teams like Bournemouth, Palace, Burnley, Huddersfield and Brighton with a harvest of 3 points out of a possible 15 will see us in trouble come May.
The shackles need to come off and we need to have a go at teams, especially at St James Park. That’s the only way we will stay up this season, not sitting back and being ‘hard to beat’.
Scoring goals makes us even HARDER to beat.