3 Positives and 3 Negatives from West Ham 2 Newcastle 0
Saturday finished West Ham 2 Newcastle 0.
Rafa’s players picking up only their second defeat in seven Premier League matches.
Although it is now 11 weeks since the last PL away win, when beating Huddersfield on 15 December 2018.
Ahead of each match we ask one of our writers to come up with 3 positives and 3 negatives after the final whistle.
This time it is Kevin Christie:
Not a disaster
Newcastle were poor at the London Stadium on Saturday evening and fully deserved to lose.
Despite falling behind to an early goal, they never showed any urgency or energy and were completely nullified by a West Ham side that didn’t need to work particularly hard for the three points.
However, that such a tepid and toothless performance hasn’t set alarm bells ringing can only be seen as a positive.
Rafa and the lads have worked wonders in recent weeks to secure some vital wins and our impressive form has seen us pull away from the relegation dogfight and into the relative security of 14th place – meaning that we have the luxury of a bit of breathing space and can afford to have a few bad days between now and the end of the season without causing too much panic.
Useful lesson for Almiron
So lacklustre were Newcastle in Saturday’s defeat to West Ham, that picking out a man of the match is all but impossible. One player who will learn a lot from the experience, however, is Miguel Almiron.
West Ham’s midfield completely nullified our Paraguayan playmaker and he struggled to make an impact as he was afforded very little time or space all evening. Some bright performances so far mean that Newcastle fans are quietly optimistic about Almiron’s chances of enjoying a glittering career on Tyneside and hopes will remain high despite our new record signing enduring a tough day at the London Stadium.
Moving from MLS to the Premier League was never likely to be a seamless transition and Almiron will take time to acclimatise to the hustle and bustle of English football – but a few chastening experiences like Saturday’s limp defeat will serve our new talisman well in the long run.
I’ll happily admit that I’m clutching at straws with this one but at least our second half performance was a big improvement on our dismal showing in the first 45 minutes.
Mo Diame had a positive impact after coming on at half time and he helped instill a bit more bite into our midfield after a very insipid and flat first half display. The tactical re-jig towards the end saw us improve further and it was nice to see Paul Dummett back in the side – Rafa’s move to a back five resulting in him being marginalised through no fault of his own.
We were poor in the final third all evening but we still created enough in the second half to possibly have come away with a point. Perez fluffed a great opportunity, while Rondon had a couple of half chances blocked and was also unlucky not to see his late free kick hit the back of the net.
Realistically, we didn’t deserve anything from the game having shot ourselves in the foot in the first half, but the half-time team talk did at least stop the rot, and prevent a bad day at the office becoming a disastrous one.
While Newcastle may have one of the best defences in the league – only five sides have conceded fewer – the amount of goals that come from set-pieces remains a worry. Undone yet again on Saturday evening by a goal from a corner, Newcastle have now conceded 11 goals direct from set-pieces (placing them joint third along with four other teams) and a further 4 from the penalty spot.
Newcastle’s set-piece misery isn’t just confined to the defensive side of their game either. Only Crystal Palace and Fulham have scored fewer goals from set pieces (4) than Rafa’s boys (5). To put that into context, Liverpool have scored a league high of 17 goals from set-pieces, with a further 5 coming from the penalty spot. To date, Matt Ritchie’s winner at home to Man City remains our only penalty conversion.
Lack of width
With Almiron, Perez and Longstaff all being harried and hassled by West Ham’s industrious midfield, we were in desperate need of some creativity from the flanks. Sadly, it wasn’t forthcoming.
DeAndre Yedlin’s pace and energy were sorely missed today as Javier Manquillo struggled to get into the game and didn’t make any impact on the rare occasions he managed to get past the halfway line. Similarly, Matt Ritchie endured a tough afternoon on the opposite flank and only managed to whip a decent cross in for Rondon late on, after Rafa re-jigged our formation and used the Scottish international as an out-and-out winger.
It’s vital that we address the poverty of our wide options in the summertime and invest in players who can walk straight into our first team, rather than padding out the squad with more second rate back-ups like Atsu and Manquillo.
Saturday’s defeat at West Ham was actually the first time this season that Newcastle have travelled away to a side outside the Top 6 and not come home with at least a point to show for their efforts.
Sadly, despite going into the game in good form ourselves and West Ham having failed to win eight of their 14 home games so far this season, we never looked like getting back into the game once we fell behind and our impressive away record fell by the wayside.
Newcastle still have to travel to Bournemouth, Leicester, Brighton and Fulham before the season’s out, so let’s hope that our defeat at the London Stadium is just a blip and not a sign of further away day miseries ahead.
Stats from BBC Sport:
West Ham 2 Newcastle 0
Rice 7, Noble 42 pen
Possession was West Ham 56% Newcastle 44%
Total shots were West Ham 10 Newcastle 17
Shots on target were West Ham 4 Newcastle 2
Corners were West Ham 1 Newcastle 6
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar (Dummett 65), Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie, Hayden (Atsu 79), Longstaff (Diame 45), Almiron, Perez, Rondon
Darlow, Ki, Yedlin, Muto
(Alan Shearer verdict on the defeat HERE)
(Match ratings of all NUFC players HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/write response to the defeat at West Ham – Read HERE)
(Sean Longstaff leaves London Stadium on crutches – Read HERE)
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