Ok, no overreaction, no need to panic at Newcastle United…yet.
For me, a few things arose from the Arsenal defeat yesterday.
Firstly, the good points.
We were decent in the first half and we could have been a goal or two up. The common consensus before the game was that the Arsenal back line can be got at. We did that, but sadly, whilst he is our current top goal scorer, Joselu is very limited, had little impact and should have came off at some stage yesterday. The same sort of criticism can be levelled at Perez. Looks decent at times but the majority of the time looks distinctly poor.
Moving forward, we’ve got another of the top six out of the way, games that we generally ‘shouldn’t do well against’ in theory. I know we beat a few of them at home last season, but that was then, this is now. It could have been said that Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United were ‘On the beach’ when we played them last season and whilst that might be a trifle unfair, it’s reality and a valid point.
We haven’t shipped any more injuries. Fair enough, Lascelles supposedly turned his ankle in the warm up and Yedlin looked like he’d been in the wars, but both should be ok to face Crystal Palace in a week’s time, as should the benched Shelvey, Rondon and Kenedy. Down London, all three must start.
That’s where the positives end I’m afraid, a defeat is a defeat, no points come our way for any of the positives in the game.
That bring us onto the negatives and there are a few. What the hell is wrong with Kenedy? In his sub role against Arsenal, he didn’t look like a player that was bothered about chasing the game. I would have accused him of being a big time Charlie, but surely those sort of players are supposed to step up in the big games? He seems to be a player that if everything is going well, then the player turns up, if the chips are down then he can’t bothered.
Next we have Isaac Hayden. If ever there was a limited footballer then he is it personified. Championship player at best and the second he stated he didn’t want to be here, that should have been that. Train with the kids if you have to but keep well away from the first team. Going through the motions against Arsenal would have summed his day up in a nutshell and with the emphasis on work ethic being high due to our lack of quality, shirkers are not needed. The likes of Kenedy and Hayden are currently a waste of a shirt or two and that we simply can’t afford. The former has quality, the latter doesn’t, and should be jettisoned asap.
Critically, the second that club captain Jamaal Lascelles failed to appear after half time, we were on a downer. Put simply, without his influence on the back line, the defence swings open like a barn door in the wind. Ciaran Clark’s a decent defender but only when he has Jamaal alongside him. My personal preference is a Lascelles/Lejeune partnership or Lascelles/Fernandez while Lejeune is out, but the overriding factor is that Lascelles is vital to any defence working effectively.
Then we have the substitutions, or rather lack of them. The second we went two down yesterday, we were crying out for two subs. The creativity of Shelvey and the power and thrust of Rondon, yet neither came. Going like for like with Kenedy coming on for Murphy did the side little good.
As I remarked on the train back home to fellow supporters, that was arguably the poorest Arsenal side I’ve seen play at St James’ for ten years or more and they were there to be beaten. If Newcastle can cause Arsenal some problems then there’s every reason that other teams can, and they will. They won’t finish top four, that’s all but certain. We just didn’t have enough to turn our chances into goals, Arsenal on the other hand, had no such problems.
For a side that ‘won’t finish in the top four’ to have spent what they spent in relation to Newcastle is staggering. The difference between the two sides is one has gone out in the summer and strengthened by buying quality and that cost money. Torreira for example came on yesterday and was instantly in the game causing us problems. He cost Arsenal over £25m whereas we signed Ki Sung-yeung for free. What Arsenal have spent on one player, we’ve made back in profit, in other words- we’re worlds apart.
Another question to arise from yesterday was that of why didn’t Rafa bring on subs sooner. From the moment captain Lascelles went off, there was always the worry about the whole thing crumbling once Arsenal got wind of our defensive frailties and so it transpired, at one stage they threatened to run away with the game.
The only thing I can see as a positive from the lack of subs coming on was that Rafa was saving them for games that are in theory more winnable. I see the logic in that, but that relies on the team actually beating the teams we have a better chance of beating, which is not a certainty and quite a gamble.
So, like I said at the start, no panic yet, but it’s a long way to 40 points and safety. I for one don’t think it will take 40 points, but if we don’t have 15 by the start of December, or 20 by the time Santa’s coming down the chimney, we are going to be in dire trouble.
We can rightly point out that the owner having no interest in the club is the biggest problem the club faces and as his reputation took (another) dent this week at the annual S****s D****t AGM, quotes attributed to him are a worrying eye opener for anyone who defends his running of the club. In case you missed it-
“The people within the Sports Direct group, including House of Fraser, are and will continue to be my number one priority.” – Mike Ashley, 14th September 2018.
So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.
Then again, since when were Newcastle United and it’s supporters interests ever part of Ashley’s thinking? He has caused the malaise at the club, which manifests itself on the pitch, which Rafa is doing his utmost to stem.
Until the owner checks out for good, it’s going to be a long uphill battle for the manager saving this club from being in the Championship a second time in three years. He has been warned for the umpteenth time and for the umpteenth time he ain’t listening …