One of the more worrying aspects of the Newcastle United performance against Crystal Palace, was the sudden evaporation of any belief, determination and positivity to build on what was looking to be a promising performance.

When Palace stepped up their game, Newcastle United did not respond. There didn’t seem to be any enthusiasm to match Palace’s sudden burst of energy.

When The Eagles came out all guns blazing, the Magpies looked as if they couldn’t quite understand why they might have to play another 45 minutes.

It was dispiriting. We looked pretty good in the first half and deserved the goal. So why couldn’t we maintain the physical and mental levels required to build on a lead and see a game out?

A Premier League team must display football intelligence at all times, right to the very last second. Very often our lot don’t.

It felt a little like going to see a band at a gig. The first three numbers are pretty good. The band is tight. The crowd is humming along. Great guitar solo; nice. Then the drum kit explodes and the guitarist wanders off for a cig.

When faced with a sudden surge of energy and drive by the opposition, there are a number of options a team can adopt.

  1. Disruption – break up the play with substitutions, fouls, and the like.
  2. Press – push on the players in possession to prevent movement.
  3. Possession – use the ball carefully by passing to feet and slow the game.
  4. Attack – match the opposition’s energy man for man.

None of this happened, really.

The defence began to look nervous and did not keep the ball. Darlow began flapping around. The midfield stopped pressing. And we resorted to clumsy tactics from set-pieces.

So it made for pretty depressing viewing after such an encouraging start.

Surely the coaching team is drilling the players with the right mental attitude?

Surely the manager is inspiring his men to push themselves to the limit, to always be at their best and to constantly look for ways to manipulate the game?

Well, if he’s telling them and they’re not listening, we have a problem.  And the next ‘gig’ this particular band play won’t be in London or Manchester. It’ll be in Barnsley or Bolton.

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  • Rich Lawson

    We rode our luck a few times and Darlow did well,but we have looked really exposed on the counter attack recently,to many players don’t track back fast enough to deal with the threat.

  • steveS100

    Newcastle’s problem seems to be that we can’t keep possession. Possession disrupts the opposition’s momentum (generally they can’t score without the ball) and takes the pressure off the defence. Too often we give the ball straight back with poor decision making and end up deeper and deeper in our own half.

    • Wor Lass

      On average, our players just aren`t good enough.

      • Kneebotherm8

        On average our players are just………average…

  • Leazes.

    There is another option that Wimbledon FC and the crazy gang did to neutralise good teams….

    5. Play 4-2-4 and keep the ball in the air missing out midfield completely with the long ball.

    It requires a tad of surreptitious thuggery and tall quick players…. and compliant referees and linesmen.

    • Paul Patterson

      Can’t get away with that these days . .

    • Mxpx

      Agreed its a valid tactic but with our defenders passing range we’d struggle and then you have to look at who our front 4 were gayle perez murphy and atsu i would not fancy any getting on a long ball

    • Rich Lawson

      And sadly The Tardis for the squad and officials required to pull it off.

      • Leazes.

        I’m looking forward to all the penalties that are now going to be given for shirt tugging….

        • Rich Lawson

          And pushing and shoving in the box before a corner/free kick,it’s all illegal,if the’re going to clamp down on diving this needs to be addressed as well ?

          • Leazes.

            Did you see Deli Ali win that last gasp penalty…. I saw it as a cheat… he deliberately launched himself sideways in front of the liverpool player to achieve the foul…. its cheating!

            Players are very good at it now, its hard to distinguish even with camera evidence…. the pundits saw the same thing and said penalty!

          • Rich Lawson

            They might call it ”gamesmanship” but a cheat is a cheat and we know !

          • Peaky Magpie

            Spurs 2 golden boys are the masters of cheating…..they are also the untouchables.

        • grantham mag

          We have to get in box in the first pace Leases or its just a free kick if we are lucky..

    • Peaky Magpie

      “Surreptitious thuggery” ….love it….sounds like the old press gangs.

  • TheNutJob

    we haven`t got the quality to retain the ball or make use of it when we do have it

  • Michael Clements

    Was at match and agree with Mark. Individual ratings aside we often seem to wilt and panic a little when the opposition fights back. The early composure went in the face of Palace upping the tempo.

  • Paul Patterson

    Or, if we had a decent striker we would have been 3-0 up at half time and the second half would have been moot.

  • Anita kick up the Hoop

    The team were under instruction to set up differently at the start of the second half .. central midfield dropped off, wide men covered full backs and full backs stayed level with central defenders…just as against Burnley Rafa handed the opposition the initiative and allowed them to load balls into the box and build pressure… we started limping balls out of defence that had nowhere to stick upfront and only initiated wave after wave of Palace attacks … the sad thing is that playing positive football in the first half was working ….

  • NUFCDan

    Disruption – we aren’t very good at defending set pieces, and giving free kicks away against a team like Palace is asking for trouble.
    Press – don’t have the legs in midfield
    Possession – not enough quality to do this, no target man capable of holding the ball up, centre back not great with ball at feet so tend to punt it long under pressure
    Attack – no legs in midfield or pace at centreback, asking to get hit on the counter

    • Desree

      This post reminds me of when McLaren was boss. He kept insisting the players looked great in training, they were playing each other.

      Palace have a very decent squad, a stronger squad than when we went down.

      We have a far weaker squad.

  • mentalman

    the biggest difference in the second half was zaha started to play and we did nothing to counter act this, murphy should have came on to pay on the right to at least give yedlin a bit of help

    Shelvey plays well when we are on the front foot but then when we are pegged back is anonymous and when he does do something it’s something stupid which could either get himself sent off or give away needless penatlies.

    • Kneebotherm8

      When we don’t have possession he does disappear,tackling isn’t his thing.
      Merino should be ahead of him for low possession games.

      • mentalman

        Totally agree he can provide the creativity shelvey does but can do it in tight situations

  • Mrkgw

    As I said yesterday, following a decent start, Darlow began to look like Steven Taylor but with goves on. He flapped like a seal. Time to try the newbie as lets face it, nothing to lose.

  • ghostrider

    Very well summed up article.
    All I can say is, I agree with it all.

  • 1957

    We contributed to the pressure Palace were able to exert.

    We made no effort to keep possession in the second half, (Shelvey especially) simply launching long balls forward for Gayle to compete against two CB’s. On the rare occasions he won it there was no one else within 20yds and sometimes he went missing and was so deep we had no players anywhere near where the ball landed.

    Could Benitez not see it?…were the players following his instructions?…we’re they not following his instructions?

    When Slimani is fit enough to play let’s hope he stays forward and doesn’t drop back to make an extra midfielder

    • mentalman

      they have to be rafa’s instructions, if not then none of the players are listening to him and he’s obviously lost the control of the team.

      Also certain players can’t get near the first team because they apparently can’t follow rafa’s instructions

  • thewildchimp

    This problem we have, excellently summed up above, is here from the early Championship stages. We simply don’t have the adequate players for Benitez’ tactics. That is: hit, park the bus, disrupt/waste time. But we also don’t have the money and influence to replace them. Who could stay: a number of our defenders, Merino, Perez, maybe Gayle. Latter two as squad players. Even with Ashley doing the 180 degree turn and being the owner he should be – we’d still need years to do it.

  • Philippines

    The long ball tactic in the second half was awful. I don’t think a single ball led to an attacking situation.