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Opinion

3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Norwich 3 Newcastle 1

1 month ago
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Saturday finished Norwich 3 Newcastle 1.

Steve Bruce losing his first away game in charge of Newcastle United.

A dismal showing that makes it now zero points after two matches.

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:

POSITIVES

The only way is up! Or down!

While it’s difficult to see any positives in a pitiful defeat at the hands of a newly-promoted club, optimists and pessimists alike will have taken something away from our horror show at Carrow Road.

Fans unlucky enough to see the game ‘enjoyed’ a shambolic performance, eerily reminiscent of many displays witnessed in the John Carver and Steve McClaren eras but with Newcastle neither solid at the back nor incisive in attack, the silver lining has to be that Plan A (an insipid and disjointed 5-3-1-1) is surely already out the window.

Such a disastrous start to the Steve Bruce era will be music to the ears of those Newcastle fans who have already resigned themselves to the fact that a total implosion of the club is required before Mike Ashley will finally relinquish control, while simultaneously appealing to the sensitivities of those members of the Toon Army who wilfully choose to ignore the facts, blindly clinging to the mantra of “support the team, not the regime”, ignoring their fellow supporters’ calls to boycott St James’ Park for the good of the club .

Ineptitude should see ‘Ashley Out’ movement gather momentum

Only in the topsy-turvy world of Newcastle United could a woefully inept performance like that possibly be seen as a good thing but Saturday afternoon’s resounding defeat offered much for the more jaundice-eyed Magpies fans to cling to.

Steve Bruce had the chance to buy himself a bit of breathing space with a positive result and/or performance but his team failed him on both counts.

Despite the fact that the club endured its worst ever start to a league campaign last time out (failing to win until the eleventh attempt), Rafa had enough credit in the bank to ride the storm and, ultimately, turn things around.

Unfortunately for Steve Bruce, however, his honeymoon period is already drawing to a close and even the most ardent Mike Ashley apologist will have a hard time standing by our new head coach if we don’t see a drastic upsurge in results and performances soon.

A few more winless weeks and it won’t be long before an atmosphere of toxic mutiny sets in at St James’ Park – with calamity and catastrophe sure to follow. Such conditions can only help in the long-term battle to finally oust our vile, vindictive owner.

What a difference a year makes

Sent off in our painful stalemate at Cardiff this very weekend last season, Isaac Hayden looked for all the world an embarrassing liability, headed for the exit door and, truth be told, very few would have mourned his loss. Fast forward 12 months and what a turnaround it’s been for the former Arsenal man.

Brought in from the cold to make only his second league start of the season at Liverpool on Boxing Day, Hayden has been virtually ever-present ever since. From being an outcast on the fringes of the squad, he has battled back to become one of our most reliable performers and is now one of the first names on the teamsheet.

A lack of actual coaching ability notwithstanding, Hayden could scarcely have been happier (at least on a personal level, if not a professional one) when Steve Bruce was confirmed as our new ‘head coach’ in the wake of Rafa’s departure as it has provided him with an opportunity to cement his hard-earned place in the side, working alongside a man who placed trust in him during their time together at Hull.

We often forget that, deep down, footballers are just regular people thrown into the limelight from an early age, given copious amounts of free time and ludicrous wages and then left to fend for themselves. I’m often amazed that any of them stay on the straight and narrow and can manage to juggle their professional and personal responsibilities without making a show of themselves on a regular basis.

Kudos to Isaac Hayden for fighting his way back from a tough, emotionally-draining family situation to salvage his Newcastle United career.

NEGATIVES

Hero in the making?

While it would be ridiculously rash to dismiss our new record signing as a dud after just two games, Joelinton’s performance at Carrow Road was a serious cause for concern.

With the limited and one-paced former Newcastle employee Grant Hanley leading a Norwich defence not exactly renowned for its resilience, Saturday afternoon’s clash seemed to provide our new number nine with a glorious chance to open his account. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out that way…

Lacking the strength and presence that saw Salomón Rondón lead the line so successfully last season, Joelinton displayed an alarmingly poor touch at times and then, when presented with a gilt-edged chance to power home a routine header just before the half hour mark, the Brazilian fluffed his lines before ultimately seeing a torrid afternoon ended by injury after struggling to make any sort of impact as Norwich’s makeshift defence kept him quiet.

Anyone can have a bad day at the office but Steve Bruce desperately needs our new talisman to hit the ground running if we are to have any hope of avoiding a relegation dogfight. Unfortunately, the early signs don’t look overly promising.

Defensive frailties creeping back in

While it often came at the expense of creativity and any semblance of a sense of adventure in the opposition’s half, it’s fair to say that Rafa Benítez worked extremely hard to shore up Newcastle’s famously leaky defence – so much so that our new-found defensive solidity became our defining characteristic under the Spaniard.

With our new-look forward line struggling to gel, it’s a cause for serious concern that our backline is already looking so frail and error-prone just a couple of weeks into the new season. Conceding just 48 goals last time out, Newcastle had the 7th best defence in the league (better than both Man United and Arsenal) and the eleven clean sheets that we ground out provided us with a platform to amass a very respectable 45 points and to steer clear of the relegation battle.

With a tactical mix-up responsible for Arsenal’s winner last weekend and a variety of different players at fault for Teemu Pukki’s three goals on Saturday afternoon, the signs are not looking good and it would be a foolish man who’d bet on Newcastle emulating the fact that only six times in their 17 league defeats last year did they lose by more than one clear goal (their two heaviest defeats being a 3-0 loss at home to West Ham and a 4-0 Boxing Day surrender at Anfield).

My own personal guess is that the vast majority of our defeats this campaign will be by at least a two goal margin.

Poor recruitment likely to prove costly

A club that does things right invests to improve areas of weakness in the team and does so by signing a player that is an obvious upgrade on what they already have available in that position.

Well, we all know that Newcastle don’t do things right, so, while it would be grossly unjust to write Emil Krafth off altogether after enduring a difficult debut, I think it would be fair to say that he looks unlikely to be a significant upgrade on Javier Manquillo or DeAndre Yedlin – which begs the question of just why he was recruited at all?

Similarly, the vastly inflated club record fee paid out for Joelinton means that our new Brazilian frontman is already hampered by the weight of expectation just when he could most do with some patience and understanding as he attempts to adapt to the demands of the Premier League. Again, the wisdom of making such a significant investment must be called into question – especially when the tried-and-trusted Salomon Rondon was eager to return and available for just a fraction of the cost.

Ask any Newcastle fan at the end of last season and they would have told you that our glaring need was to upgrade each of our wing backs, bring in a playmaker and reinforce our frontline by signing Rondon and another top class striker, while, of course tying Rafa Benitez down to a new contract – simples!

Well, sadly, we all know what happened. Regardless of the lies and half-truths spouted by Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley, we all know that our squad is significantly weaker than it was in May and for our stellar coaching staff to depart and be replaced by The Three Steves is nothing short of scandalous.

I’m far past caring what happens to ‘Newcastle United’ as we currently know it and would take great pleasure in seeing Mike Ashley’s arrogance and incompetence come back to haunt him.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Norwich 3 Newcastle 1 – Saturday 17 August 3pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Shelvey 90+3

Norwich:

Pukki 32, 63, 75

Possession was Norwich 63% Newcastle 37%

Total shots were Norwich 15 Newcastle 10

Shots on target were Norwich 8 Newcastle 3

Corners were Norwich 7 Newcastle 5

Referee: Stuart Attwell

Newcastle team v Norwich:

Dubravka, Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett,  Hayden, Ki (Longstaff 74), Shelvey, Ritchie, Almiron, Joelinton (Muto 67)

Unused Subs

Darlow, Clark, Fernandez, Manquillo, Willems

Crowd: 27,059  (2,000 NUFC)

(Watch official match highlights HERE)

(Steve Bruce comments after match are more worrying than the scoreline – Read HERE)

(Daniel Farke says ‘Only one team in it’ – Read HERE)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Norwich 3 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)

(Norwich 3 Newcastle 1 – Make no mistake this was shambolic and major problems ahead – Read HERE)

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