Right! An easy starting point for the reaction to the near debacle that was West Brom 2 Newcastle 2.
Let’s get the positives out of the way first: a good away point was secured with a decent fightback and two goals were scored away from home. That unfortunately is where the positives end.
Hearing what the side was at 7pm last night, I was in a mixed frame of mind.
I was pleased that Karl Darlow was back in (not because Rob Elliot had done anything wrong) as he didn’t deserve to be bombed out and I like him a lot as a keeper.
I was pleased that Mbemba was restored to the side as he gives us a bit more physicality and craft than Manquillo.
I was pleased that Merino was fit enough to start as he gives us a lot more than Diame will ever give.
My eyebrows were raised though when I noticed that not only was Shelvey on the bench, but Gayle too, Rafa again persisting with the permaflop that is Joselu.
I expected that Mitrovic wouldn’t start and that was that, however I didn’t expect Gayle to be left out as recently he is our best bet for a goal. Still, at least Diame wasn’t starting . .
This is where I have to take the manager to task. It has now gone beyond the point of being funny, amusing and quite frankly annoying when the side that is picked to start the game, is so far from being good enough, that the side that ends the game is in so much better shape than the one that was playing for most of the match.
As soon as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Jonjo Shelvey were on the pitch, things looked they were going to happen, and West Brom were on the back foot. Leaving that amount of talent (Gayle, Shelvey and Mitrovic) on the bench isn’t doing the side any favours.
I get that the manager doesn’t like Mitrovic (I haven’t a clue why and nor do I care) but persisting with Joselu is tantamount to throwing away the amount of time he is on the pitch to the opposition. The team is literally playing with ten men, start Diame as well and the opposition have a field day.
In a nutshell, we got away with murder against West Brom. I couldn’t believe what I was watching, ANOTHER goal conceded from our right hand side and AGAIN in the last couple of minutes in the first half (Do we ever learn?).
However, the one thing that can be improved upon is the team selection. If we had started with the side that finished the game, I’m confident that we would have won the game last night.
At 0-2 down I was furious. Furious that a better side was available to the manager but not being used. That is criminal!
There have been many examples of players that have been a risk to the team/manager in the history of the Premier League, hotheads if you like. But the reason they play is that they are more likely to do something that any other player available to the manager. Did Alex Ferguson ever really trust Roy Keane not to blow a fuse?
It’s time Rafa went with either 4-4-2 or the usual 4-2-3-1 with Mitrovic involved, either with Dwight Gayle, or on his own, just to allow the guy to prove him ‘right’ and get himself sent off. Surely that’s the issue here? A lack of trust? Well I’ll tell you what, I’d take the risk on Mitrovic getting sent off against the risk of Joselu fluffing his lines (again) for the next few games. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the latter.
In the meantime, the away point can’t be knocked. We’ve stopped the rot and held off a rival. The objective for the season is still what is was in August- Survival.
My argument is, it may be difficult, but it should be a little less difficult than it is being made out to be…