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Match Reports

Newcastle United need to seriously invest this summer just to keep up with the likes of West Ham

6 months ago
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For the second year in a row Newcastle United have hit good form at just the right stage of the season. The past six games, and in particular the last two games against Huddersfield and Burnley, have seen us pull away from the relegation zone. It means, in my opinion, that we would pretty much have to not win a game between now and the end of the season for us to go down. Very, very unlikely, but never say never!

This was a day when we never got near our opposition. The stats may suggest that Newcastle had a bit of a go but in truth we were never in the game from the word go. We were up against a side who had paid £7 million for a 33-year-old goalkeeper earlier in the season, a young £20 million centre half in Issa Diop, a £40 million Brazilian international on the wing, and a £15 million proven top-level centre forward leading the line. Oh, and that is without mentioning the £22 million star centre forward who was sitting on their bench.

I don’t want to be one of those fans that says after every time Newcastle don’t win a game, ‘well look at how much their squad cost compared to ours’, but Saturday was a fine example of what a bit of investment in your squad can do to your team.

A 5.30 kick off anywhere is always a bit of a kick in the teeth for anyone travelling from the North East. Luckily, I don’t have that problem in London, but something has to be done about the timings for Newcastle fans. London isn’t the complete end of the world for many, but when you take into context the sheer amount of long distance away games we have had changed over the past few seasons, and throw in the fact that games away to Leicester and Brighton coming up have been changed to impossible times, it really has got beyond a joke. What are the club doing about it? Sod all I imagine.

The only positive I can think from this particular 5.30 is that results went our away again in the three o’clock kick offs, meaning the fans could go into the game knowing that a defeat wouldn’t send us back into any sort of trouble.

The Game

We were of course 1-0 down after five minutes. Declan Rice headed home after easily evading Fabian Schar. It was as bad a start as you could have wished for, and was celebrated in a strange manner by Rice who ‘shush’d’ the away fans.

A ridiculous end to a ridiculous debate about who is ‘better’ between him and Sean Longstaff. Only in England, and only in the Premier League, would fans genuinely have a debate over something so silly.

There wasn’t much of a response from Newcastle to the opening goal, West Ham playing a flat three up top which penned back our wing backs in their own half for most of the first 45 minutes.

We may have had 17 shots in the match but I can’t think of one that even came close to threatening the goal. The closest we did come in the game were two blocked attempts from Rondon which were saved by two moments of good West Ham defending.

Just before half-time, a ridiculous tackle from Lejeune resulted in a penalty for West Ham and that was effectively game over. A pretty impressive penalty from Mark Noble who gave Sean Longstaff a bit of a lesson in the first half. If Longstaff goes on to have even half the career for Newcastle that Noble has had for West Ham, then he will have done alright for himself.

Newcastle made one change at half time with Diame coming on for Longstaff, who it seems could be out now for a while with an injury. It didn’t really change much as West Ham looked comfortable throughout the second half.

Schar was eventually replaced after a disastrous performance, as Dummett came on, which meant that Newcastle reverted to four at the back. This meant that Perez switched to no.10 and Almiron was pushed out wide, which I was very disappointed with. Give the lad a go in his position at least!

It was a poor showing from both Perez and Almiron. Perez spent most of the game rolling around on the floor, throwing his arms in the air and feigning injuries. Whereas Almiron struggled with the fast paced physical nature of the game, and when the ball did come to him, more often than not he let himself down with a poor touch or final ball.

He won’t be seriously judged on what he does between now and the end of the season, so I think a spell in and out of the side could do him well. The same can be said for Ayoze Perez… but with only Atsu waiting in the wings, and a formation change not on the horizon, it seems unlikely.

It finished 2-0, and quite frankly, that will be as routine a win as West Ham will get this season.

Rafa Benitez

Of course, it is easy to say in hindsight, but I was disappointed that Rafa chose to play the same team again (a stupid thing to say maybe given we had won two in a row and are in great form) but I thought this was a team that even against Burnley, looked tired. The likes of Matt Ritchie, Sean Longstaff, Schar/Lejeune and Ayoze Perez have played an abundance of games lately and it is not as if there aren’t players there to come in and maybe put in a performance such as Atsu, Diame, Ki, Fernandez, Dummett.

It was this fixture last year that was the making of Diame being a regular player in the side.

In the real world though, this is a team that compared to last season wasn’t that far away from West Ham. Now they are a million miles ahead.

We would have to seriously invest this summer just to keep up with the likes of West Ham, never mind anything else.

The Fans

A sold out away end was rather quiet if I am being honest, but that is to be expected, when you consider a combination of an early goal for West Ham, cold weather and the fact that the stadium itself is inhospitable towards any sort of atmosphere.

If there is one criticism I would make, it is the way that young kids at games seem to be going on at the moment. By young kids I think I mean 16-20 on their first day out following Newcastle United, acting like complete idiots (that is me being kind)… or maybe I should put it down to them growing up watching too much green street/mean machine and then coming to their first West Ham away.

Finally, those idiots were summed up coming out of the game with a decent contingent, I would estimate between 250-300, of Newcastle fans singing pro- Tommy Robinson chants from the away end to the tube station. I hope I never hear sh.. like that at a Newcastle game ever again.

Last bit…

I always like trips to London stadiums for a multitude of reasons. Many of them are the same reasons I like going to SJP such as the central location of grounds, easy access to pubs, and good transport routes make the day a whole lot easier. The less time you spend getting from A-B the better the away day for me.

West Ham though is a different story. For an away fan it kills the match day experience. The atmosphere in the ground is terrible, the stadium itself is terrible, and after the game the police force away fans to go in the strangest route possible. It takes 45 minutes just to get back to where you want to be. For ‘proper’ football fans (and by that I mean no hospitality and using public transport etc), the Olympic Stadium ruins the match day experience.

As for us, we obviously need another win to really be sure we are safe in the Premier League for next season. It might not come next week against Everton but it will come at some point, I am sure of that.

Stats from BBC Sport:

West Ham 2 Newcastle 0

Goals:

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

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar (Dummett 65), Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie,  Hayden (Atsu 79), Longstaff (Diame 45), Almiron, Perez, Rondon

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Ki, Yedlin, Muto

(3 positives and 3 negatives from West Ham 2 Newcastle 0 – Read HERE)

(Alan Shearer verdict on the defeat HERE)

(Match ratings of all NUFC players HERE)

(David Pleat analyses the match but dodgy Mike Ashley comment – HERE)

(Instant NUFC fan/write response to the defeat at West Ham – Read HERE)

(Sean Longstaff leaves London Stadium on crutches – Read HERE)

You can follow the author on Twitter @_jonathandc

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