The win doesn’t hide some glaring issues in black and white
It’s easy to be romanced by Premier League and all of its pomp. It is a multi-billion pound industry, the media coverage is endless and those involved are paid like superstars, even the ones who just talk about it on TV.
When AFC Bournemouth turned up at SJP on Saturday, what I perceived was a progressive club with a settled and talented squad managed by a top level coach. Callum Wilson up front, worth £50million and courted by Chelsea, Fraser and Wilson on the wings, one already a Liverpool player and the other seemingly going to be and Ake at the back, always linked with a return to a top six side.
All managed by a man permanently linked with big roles, next up for Arsenal, Spurs or even England. The envy of a lot of the Premier League then, so you’d think. I thought it.
I thought that Bournemouth would be a really tough game for an inconsistent Newcastle team over-reliant on a strong defence who can also score goals and a couple of eye-catching but wasteful forwards. Well, the second bit was true.
The problem with all of what we are told is true is that it is just opinion by people who are paid by the soundbite. It’s a constant drip of pundit tripe which filters into our subconscious.
I rarely watch MOTD except the Toon bit and hardly ever get to watch a full, live game on TV except when Newcastle are playing, but I still get to hear and see snippets which can help form my opinion until I actually see something in person. When the Daily Mirror says Callum Wilson is the new Didier Drogba, Jermaine Jenas says Eddie Howe is a tactical genius and Mark Lawrenson says Bournemouth are a strong team on a good run and will beat Newcastle then why wouldn’t I believe them?
What Bournemouth are is a settled unit with decent attackers with a “goal threat” and who were well on top at a freezing cold SJP on Saturday. Eddie Howe pushed Treebeard Billings back to aerially complete with Joelinton leaving his two centre backs free to cover the wings along with those speedy wide players.
The Cherries plundered the space behind our attacking wing backs and to the side of our three-man defence. They exploited Clark’s lack of pace, Shelvey’s lack of pace, effort and fitness. They exploited Hayden’s love of a lunge. After 35 minutes they had scored from a beautifully worked corner, hit the bar, had one cleared off the line, one stopped on the line by Dubravka and countless other possibilities which failed to materialise due to some solid last-minute defending. It had also cost United their much-hounded skipper, Jamaal Lascelles being unable to continue much past a second minute collision with Martin Dubravka after chasing down a striker through on goal. Not only was he the only defender making the effort, he was the only one who could have caught him. We would have been 1-0 down after two minutes if he hadn’t chased someone else’s man down and made that challenge. Unless of course they didn’t show it on MOTD, so it didn’t happen. If a tree falls in a forest and all that…..
‘Played a vital part in our win, for two minutes’
But you know what, during all of this carnage, there were still signs that United could get into the game. Although Bournemouth doubled up on ASM and Almiron, well aware that no one else was going to cause them any bother, every now and again there was a slip here, a bad pass there and there was a glimmer of a chance.
Midfielder Cook looked ropey, Billing looked like a Rolls Royce but we know he isn’t, he’s more of a Qashqai. When the going is good, so is he. In bad weather you can forget it. In the 35th minute came the chance. The other Cook messed up and ASM ran through to score his first NUFC goal. Only he didn’t, he hopelessly smashed against the bar from six yards but it proved the old adage that too many Cooks do spoil the broth. United had a sniff. Momentum had changed and that brought a slice of luck. An ASM shot destined for the Bournemouth fans in the upper tier was deflected into the path of the on-rushing Yedlin who scored with a diving header. Well, there was a dive and it was a header.
For two minutes we waited to celebrate as the referee pointed to his ear. For all the talk about VAR the one thing it undeniably does, it takes the fun out of celebrating a goal. Most people in the ground knew that Yedlin was close to being offside so we waited. And waited. The players lined up for the kick off and still we waiting. It was a goal, a second later Bournemouth kicked off. No time to celebrate then.
VAR may make some things right in the game of football but if putting things right spoils it for the fans then someone has to ask if it is really worth it. The campaign for VARXIT starts here.
‘VAR: Spoiling the fun’
If goals change games then United got two at the right times either side of the break. Fernandez followed up his goal last week with another, though Ciaran Clark claimed it despite getting the sort of touch that wouldn’t even have got Boris Johnson into trouble. And that was almost that as far as any threat to United’s three points went.
The last forty minutes including faked injury time saw Bournemouth pass the ball in front of a compact black and white defence and get nowhere. Shelvey found his range and Almiron, ASM and Joelinton regularly got through on goal. ASM particularly was exciting the crowd with a couple of runs that came to chances but no goals. Andy Carroll came on and stood like a rock at the back but took some of the attacking momentum out of the team, Atsu came on and took away the rest of it.
Bournemouth had one chance, Josh King missing a header from a yard, looking more concerned about colliding with the post or Fernandez than bulleting one in at the back post. Modern footballers, more David Hasselhoff than David McCreery.
The win doesn’t hide some glaring issues in black and white.
The midfield two were very average on Saturday, Shelvey’s two or three great passes can’t hide his lack of mobility, commitment or pace, Hayden’s recent red cards seem to have encouraged him to dive in rather than the opposite. He escaped a red card this weekend, just, getting one yellow and getting away with another.
The three forward players are still a mystery. Joelinton was better on Saturday, he scraped a 6 out of 10 if I am being generous. His all round hold up play was better but he still gave away the ball more than he kept it against a central defensive pairing who are probably the least aggressive in the league. He missed three decent chances, none of which he looked like scoring, all tepid efforts. He may get better with time, it is early days for him, but nothing I have seen so far tells me he will.
For all the excitement that ASM brings, that was only once we were ahead and the game was stretched. He has great pace and trickery but Bournemouth successfully channelled him in the first half meaning he was stifled. Again, it is early days for him and he is exciting but sooner rather than later the front three need to win games rather than wait until the defence do it for them.
‘Everything in his feet but nothing in his head?’
Where United do not have many problems is at the back. Willems and Yedlin played further forward on Saturday, at times a genuine 3-4-3, and both were a threat when not rolling around pretending to be injured. The centre-backs all played their part and look intelligent and competent enough for any of our six centre backs to successfully make up a trio that knows what it is doing. Fernandez and Clark are great examples, they probably wouldn’t get a sniff of the team when Schar and Lejuene are fit but they were probably United’s best on Saturday. Dubravka too, no mistakes on Saturday, just the sound goalkeeper we know he is.
So after seeing the last five games at SJP a pattern seems to be emerging. Defend the slope, damage limitation, don’t worry about possession and then grow into the game in the second. If you get ahead, get the ball over the top for the legs up front. It is a plan that is working for Steve Bruce and the performances and points haul have improved gradually over the past few weeks, to the crowd’s satisfaction judging by another improved atmosphere on Saturday.
At the start of the season I was hoping that there would be three worse teams than United by May 2020. From what I have seen so far, there will be a lot more than that. Digging in, riding your luck and playing to your strengths doesn’t make you a good Premier League team, but it was too good for Bournemouth, who are. At least that is what I am told.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 Bournemouth 1 – Saturday 9 November 3pm
Yedlin 42, Clark 52
Harry Wilson 14
Possession was Bournemouth 67%, Newcastle 33%
Total shots were Bournemouth 16, Newcastle 20
Shots on target were Bournemouth 3, Newcastle 9
Corners were Bournemouth 4, Newcastle 5
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Newcastle team v Bournemouth:
Dubravka, Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles (Dummett 20), Clark, Willems, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin (Atsu 90), Almiron, Joelinton (Carroll 82)
Darlow, Krafth, Matty Longstaff, Gayle
(Eddie Howe can’t believe that Bournemouth got beat by Newcastle and says it will hurt for weeks – Read HERE)
(To watch all the goals and official match highlights go HERE)
(Newcastle 2 Bournemouth 1 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s win – Read HERE)
(Alan Shearer two word reaction at the final whistle – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 2 Bournemouth 1 – 8,000 empty seats but 44,000 roar NUFC to dramatic comeback win – Read HERE)
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