After Newcastle 0 Watford 3 – Time to get slightly alarmed?
To be honest, I’d hoped I was done with this sort of thing.
For years under Pardew, Carver and McClaren it happened with depressing regularity: an abject performance at SJP can set up a miserable weekend. Anyone with any sense wants to put a bit of distance between it by sinking a few drinks, sticking a box set on instead of MOTD, or generally finding other means of cheering themselves up.
With a match report lined up, this is only a temporary escape until you sit down to dissect the whole miserable mess, a Groundhog Day in recent years, that was fading away as dignity has been regained in the Benitez era. Not today though, hell no.
I need to say from the off that Watford were an admirable opponent, hugely impressive in their Keegan-esque cavalier approach. They charged forward at every opportunity even when it meant leaving things a bit exposed at the back. Unfortunately, United proved woefully incapable of exploiting any of these opportunities on a thoroughly rotten day all round.
Chief underperformer for me was Yedlin, who has done well up to this point but alarm bells rang early on when Richarlison zipped away from him into an acre of space. Yedlin got back to block and Elliot was at full stretch to tip around the post, but this set the tone for a very fruitful afternoon for the Hornets down our right flank.
I should clarify that Yedlin was worst underperformer in that he was so below his usual expected level. It’s clearly utterly unanimous that Joselu was the worst player on the pitch, as our complete lack of potency up front was apparent in a 4-4-2 that surely won’t be seen again after today. Dwight Gayle showed some early flashes of his Championship form but soon dropped back to emulate Joselu in an impression of two blokes who’ve never previously met.
On 20 minutes Yedlin was caught out again and this time it cost him. Marvin Zeegelaar, looking a bit like the Green Hornet with his fetching face protector, found himself in an acre of space behind Yedlin. His cross could have been cleared but there was an air of historical inevitability about Will Hughes straightforward finish.
Moments later the exact same gap was exploited and the Hornets should have doubled their lead as Zeegelaar’s cross was watched by the whole United back four, only for the unmarked Andre Gray to finish woefully wide, potentially unsettled by the easy space he had and expecting an offside flag as a consequence.
At the other end, United offered little. Ritchie hit the side netting, Shelvey blasted over from inside the box, and Joselu dithered and allowed a defender to get in and block. I didn’t watch Match of the Day but they could have done a decent highlights package that featured no Newcastle attacks.
For the second week in a row, first half injury time brought a killer blow. Zeegelaar down the left again sent Yedlin into a flap and his driven ball was directed past the wrong-footed Elliot by the desperate American. Scuppered.
There was hope for a change at half time as something drastic had to happen but no subs were forthcoming. On the hour the same old goal occurred. Skinned down the left flank, Richarlison crossed, Gray managed to convert this time at the back post.
Mitrovic and Merino were subsequently introduced but it was too little too late. Mitrovic did seem keen to get involved, but when put in by Shelvey he could only prod weakly at Gomez, when squaring to Gayle would have surely brought a consolation.
Watford continued to go forward, with Gray wasteful. Appreciation was shown for Murphy’s effort when he was withdrawn for Perez, a marked contrast to the borderline seething felt around the ground as the appalling Diame and pedestrian Joselu were withdrawn.
One NUFC player to emerge from this with an enhanced reputation was without doubt Jamaal Lascelles. If his organisation and leadership is the difference between the usually capable backline and the bimbling chaos that was on display today, he is astoundingly good at captaincy and every game he misses is a potential disaster.
With an unpleasant looking fixture list in December and a slide to 14th place, it may be time to get slightly alarmed.
The fact remains that our transfer policy has been so inadequate that an injury or two, or underperforming in key areas, sees a scratch looking side that looks way undercooked for a Premier League campaign. The hope of a takeover burns brighter than ever, as addressing the blinding need for a capable front pairing in January could be a difference maker between steady progress and fear of the drop.
The remainder of 2017 is essential in more ways than one.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle United 0 Watford 3
Watford: Hughes 19, Yedlin (OG) 45+1, Gray 62
Possession was Watford 48% Newcastle 52%
Total shots were Watford 12 Newcastle 12
Shots on target were Watford 4 Newcastle 2
Corners were Watford 3 Newcastle 6
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Elliot, Yedlin, Clark, Lejeune, Manquillo, Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame (Merino 69), Murphy (Perez 77), Joselu (Mitrovic 69), Gayle
Darlow, Gamez, Perez, Mbemba
Crowd: 52,188 (Watford 2,200)
(Alan Shearer reacts to the Watford defeat HERE)
(To read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the game go HERE)
(Marco Silva thought Newcastle were lucky to only get beat 3-0 – read what he said HERE)
(Read what Rafa Benitez thought of this three goal defeat to Watford – Read it HERE)
(Read the player ratings from Newcastle fans HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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