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Opinion

Only one real villain at St James Park and it wasn’t DeAndre Yedlin or Mike Dean

2 years ago
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Amidst the heartbreak of falling to a 94th minute defeat against Wolves, it’s worth remembering that when that goal went in, the following Newcastle United players were on the St James Park pitch.

Their transfer fees are taken from transfermarkt.com:

Dubravka (5.4m, including loan fee)

Manquillo (4.5m)

Lascelles (4.5m)

Clark (5.4m)

Ritchie (10.8m)

Perez (1.8m)

Ki (Free)

Diame (4.8m)

Kenedy (Loan)

Joselu (4.9m)

By my sums – and admittedly this doesn’t include Kenedy’s two loan fees or Ki’s singing-on fee – that makes the combined transfer expenditure for the ten squad members that had managed to stay on the pitch c.£42.1m.

Wolves spent a comparable amount – £38m – on just the disappointing Adama Traore and their goalkeeper, Rui Patricio, in the summer. I know we’ve heard it a million times before but it’s a stark and infuriating contrast.

As that heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, largely undeserved goal went in, the only player that cost Newcastle United more than £5.4m(!) was playing out of position at left back because of Paul Dummett’s hamstring injury and the club’s stubborn refusal to provide Rafa Benitez with cover in that position in the summer.

Also out of position – covering for the relocated Ritchie – was Ayoze Perez, who clumsily lost possession on the right wing just before Wolves scored the winner. His lovely flicked header for Newcastle’s equaliser aside, he’s come in for a fair amount of stick lately, but perhaps if the club had invested as Benitez hoped they would, he wouldn’t have been playing on the right wing in the first place.

Also putting the team under unnecessary pressure, was the decision to replace a weary Rondon – who had seemingly run himself into the ground – with an enormously sub-par Joselu. To see how long balls stick to Rondon and provide the team with some relief is to re-emphasise the extent to which they simply do not stick to Joselu. With the latter alone up front, we are a visibly worse team, especially when under pressure.

If Rondon was genuinely exhausted, perhaps bringing Joselu on was justified, but in hindsight I can’t help wondering if Benitez’ decision to completely drop Murphy from the match day squad was sensible. After his solid performance on Wednesday night, maybe taking Perez off for a more natural winger in Murphy and leaving Rondon on to battle through five more minutes have salvaged a point?

Perhaps. But then again, had Mike Dean’s decision to dismiss DeAndre Yedlin been different – or DeAndre Yedlin’s decision to pull down Jota been different(!) – that may have salvaged a point too.

I must admit the red card surprised me at the time. I had expected a yellow card because from my seat in the Gallowgate it looked like there was the possibility that Jamaal Lascelles might have got across to cover. I haven’t seen a replay since, so I don’t know how contentious the decision really was.

What I do know is that neither Rafa Benitez nor Mike Dean – hell, maybe not even DeAndre Yedlin, whose name was sung by some fans as he trudged off the pitch – are the real villains of this piece.

We can leave that accolade to a man who shares the referee’s first name and whose chronic under-investment in our squad was sorely highlighted in the 94th minute of today’s game. As the injuries and suspensions that are an inevitable part of a Premier League season, bit hard, to leave us sorely exposed at full-back, improvising out wide, and without a competent outlet up front.
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