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

Goals:

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

Newcastle United:

Elliot, Yedlin, Clark, Lejeune, Manquillo, Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame (Merino 69), Murphy (Perez 77), Joselu (Mitrovic 69), Gayle

Unused Subs:

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

To feature like Jamie Smith submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here


  • Paul9

    More alarmed at people turning on Rafa

    • anyobrien

      Same here its a f.. Ikin disgrace.

    • Clarko

      There is a difference between “turning on Rafa” and criticising his decisions.

      • Damon Horner

        I did see two “Rafa out” comments and two more suggesting previous managers would have had the fans on their backs last night on this page.

        I agree there is a difference but there is a growing disillusionment.

        • Clarko

          Previous managers would absolutley have had fans on their backs if they had produced the same results that we have witnessed this season.

          People are beginning to criticise Benitez, and so they should (providing they are informed), I have always been critical of Benitez since his arrival, I think he has done a poor job overall, he failed in his objective in keeping Newcastle in the Premier League, failing to win games against Aston Villa, Norwich and Sunderland. And since then he has spent €106.05m and we find ourselves with players like Elliot, Diame, Manquillo, Hayden, Joselu, Perez, Manquillo and Murphy starting in the Premier League.

          Benitez is persisting with a system that isn’t working, a system that requires a number 10 which we don’t have, a system that includes a striker that isn’t scoring goals, all while we have a goal scoring international striker just sitting on the bench.

          Benitez doesn’t get a pass just because he’s Benitez, he has, is and will continue to make mistakes that he will/should be criticised for. Does that mean he should be sacked? No. Does that mean fans want him sacked? No.

          The “Benitez can do no wrong” is finally wearing off.

          • Damon Horner

            Manager out because of a four game losing streak? That’s why we have our reputation as a fanbase.
            Rafa can always do wrong, everyone can but let’s be a little realistic here and consider the future direction before demanding never ending changes.
            If a manager has a history of success, engages with the fanbase and usually is extremely honest then he has not really warranted no support.
            West Brom took a run of 2 wins in 21 games as an established PL team. We want a manager sacked and he is 14th with a newly promoted side.
            If Rafa goes, who comes in? Best for us is to persevere and see what the takeover brings.

          • Clarko

            I don’t know what you’re getting at, nowhere did I say that Benitez should be sacked:

            “Does that mean he should be sacked? No. Does that mean fans want him sacked? No.”

            Fans don’t want Benitez to be sacked.

          • Damon Horner

            if you say so. Watch this space.

          • Clarko

            They don’t want him sacked right now.

          • Mike

            why persist with players who are getting worse not better. Joselu Diame Elliot to name 3 and theres more? Just dont get that..not sure what the tactics are at all

          • Damon Horner

            couple of games coming up. Let’s see how these go. Judging by Sels last season hr will persevere with out of form players but it does hit a point.
            We had no choice but to play Diame against Watford and even though I agree with you about Joselu and Elliot, I don’t think the quality is there to replace them with noticeable impact.

  • Leazes Ender

    Drab defensive football is acceptable if you’re picking up points…. we either need a premiership striker and some quality players around him…. or a bigger bus.

    Ashley will give Rafa a left back… its the cheaper option.

    • Blackburn1066

      No he will not!

    • Rich Lawson

      Watford parked the bus on Saturday then brought on taxi’s, cheaper option !

  • Shipcote Willy

    Of course I am alarmed but have been all season despite a few promising results early on because Rafa has a Championship squad trying to survive in the Premier League. Add a couple of injuries and a drop in form and it’s backs against the wall time. The squad was totally under funded by the owner who is now trying to sell the club without spending anything more. If he is still here in January, which seems likely, then his choice is spend a significant sum or watch it all blow up in his face. I am equally alarmed by the criticism of Rafa by many fans. He can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Everyone is disappointed by the recent downturn but having a go at the manager achieves nothing.

  • Danimal

    Slightly?

  • Andy Mac

    Are all those Newcastle United players, pictured above, practicing for the annual Christmas limbo dance competition ? If so I wouldnt put money on Elliot tbh ?

  • Michael Pattison

    Whilst I hate to see the toon lose, the threat of relegation will place more urgency on Ashley to sell. He will not want to face relegation again plus risk of losing Rafa, that will reduce price of Newcastle. Now is the time for him to cash in, if the Toon are in safer ground he may hold out negotiations and not feel the need to sell. In my eyes this was a great result because we need rid of the Fat controller once and for all!!!

    • TheFatController

      I made your point on here Saturday and somebody told me the value of clubs is not sensitive to a few results, but in a tight PL with regular managerial changes of course it is.

      Why? Because confidence in football is everything. Some clubs know they are a good well run operation, so when on a poor run, they stick together and come through. Bournemouth do this once a season it seems.

      However, we are always a few bad results from real self doubt creeping in. It’s why we get relegated or nose dive to last day survival as regularly as Bournemouth turn it around.

      So I’d say a few bad results and yes, even Ashley would admit it usually ends in a relegation battle or £50-70m knee jerk spend in Jan. Both devalue the club massively …

      • mactoon

        The closer we get to the relegation zone, the more I fear the deal will be at risk of not going through with Staveley wanting to ensure she is not paying £300 million plus for a club which will end up in the Championship and Ashley not wanting to agree to any relegation clauses. This is probably why Ashley is reportedly wanting a quick sale while we are in a comfortable league position.

        A bit of investment in the summer transfer window doesn’t look so daft now eh Mike?

  • Peter Stabler

    If you want to go in for alarm, I would just wait a bit if I was you, you might not need to.

  • Peaky Magpie

    My alarm bells always ring when I see SloMo,Manquillo,Elliot & of course Hoth in the starting eleven.

  • S.G.M.

    We started this season with a “lets just survive” attitude we’ve had a few injury’s and the wheels have fallen off.
    I don’t think its time to panic yet the squad will return to full strength and the confidence will return along with a few points.
    are we worse than, Palace, West Ham, Swansea, Everton?

  • Rich Lawson

    If an alarm starts ringing,it must surely be in the last 2 mins of regular time and then time added ? Why do we concede so many goals in this period ? Wish I had a quid for every game this has happened.What are the stat’s on this Clarko ?