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Match Reports

Champions League winning manager in charge of team with proper investment…where would I find one?

10 months ago

In life you generally get what you pay for and football is usually no different.

Occasionally there is a surprise, a success story on the cheap, but generally the teams with the best managers who spend the most money, win the most games.

A few weeks ago Everton sacked their underperforming manager after investing a huge amount of money in a talented but misfiring squad.

They took their time about replacing the departing Marco Silva but in the end they had the ambition to convince a proven winner across multiple leagues and competitions that they had the ambition to match his record. On Saturday, they started to get their rewards.

Playing a solid 4-4-2, Ancelotti pushed Walcott, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin and Kean onto a Newcastle back five. Willems and Yedlin had to face attackers one on one with no support, something which Willems in particular looked unable to do, it isolated a completely knackered Lejeune and meant Shelvey and Almiron were chasing shadows in midfield.

I have read reports which said United lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation but such was Everton’s early dominance that it never got off the paper, this was 5-3-2 all over.

It might have been different after 45 seconds had Almiron scored when put through by Joelinton, who had his best 45 seconds of the season. The Paraguayan scuffed a shot from twelve yards under “pressure” from an Everton defender, pressure which on another day might have brought a penalty, a red card, or both. “If only he’d gone down,” shouted the Chronicle, though I don’t think Almiron needs too much encouragement in that department.

Joelinton got through in a similar position a few minutes later but his finish was worse.

Apart from those brief forays, NUFC had to contend with watching Everton largely playing through an over-run United back eight. With Hayden and Almiron pushed wide to cover the floundering Willems and Yedlin, Shelvey simply had too much ground to cover and was soon chasing his tail like a 15-year-old Labrador on Longsands. Lejeune, struggling to stand up for much of the first half, became increasingly agitated and fraught. A quality double save from Dubravka after ten minutes from Holgate and then Calvert-Lewin just postponed the inevitable.

‘Florian Lejeune: Absolutely knackered’

Much has been made of the referee’s decision making and although Everton’s first goal stemmed from a previous corner which was a goal kick, the decision to punish Almiron for clattering Leighton Baines on the edge of our penalty area seemed correct to me. Sigurdsson’s free kick wasn’t cleared and after a bit of pinball, Calvert-Lewin side-footed past Dubravka from eight yards to put Everton ahead. Slightly fortunate yes but also more than slightly predictable.

After 28 minutes, Steve Bruce woke up to the fact that his team were being efficiently dismantled by a decent but hardly world-beating Everton side completely comfortable in walking to a 1-0 win. NUFC returned to a favoured 4-5-1 with Joelinton pushing onto the right wing. This immediately changed the game and for half an hour United were at least a match for their scouse rivals. Everton were pushed back, Shelvey got on the ball, United had possession and territorial advantage. Willems set up Almiron whose shot hit the inside of the post and rolled across the six-yard box. Andy Carroll pounced and buried it but was offside. Schar’s shot stung Pickford’s hands, half time came and United were back in the game, if not level.

Little had seemed to change early in the second half with Newcastle again attacking the home Gallowgate end. Kean had a couple of half chances but largely it was United who dominated. After 56 minutes Willems was almost fouled just outside Everton’s penalty area and referee Mason continued his consistent mediocrity by awarding a free kick. Willems’ floated ball was perfectly aimed at a back post Carroll, crucially far enough away from Pickford to discourage a challenge. Carroll’s knockdown was belted in by Schar, 1-1.

Ancelotti once again showed why he has won titles everywhere he has been and gave United no chance to build momentum. He removed Kean who had been growing into the game and brought on an extra midfielder. Two minutes later that move paid off, the extra man in midfield leading a sweeping move which Calvert-Lewin fortuitously bundled in at the back post, unmarked as Schar switched off, ball-watching as Richarlison crossed across United’s back three. Much had been made of Andy Carroll losing the ball on the left wing for Richarlison to scamper off, an article on The Mag even saying Big Andy went from “Hero to Villain”. Harsh on the lanky striker for a number of reasons.

Perhaps it was the “new” 10,000 season ticket holders who had roared United into a high press or just the goal going to their collective heads, but high press they did. Completely out of shape, Everton passed around them and when Carroll lost possession, ridiculously standing on the left wing on the halfway line with United’s entire midfield ahead of him, Everton took advantage. Let’s leave the high press to the tacticians in future lads.

The last half an hour was uneventful and dour. United quickly changed formation, then again, and again as Atsu and Gayle came on to go to 4-4-2 and then we ended up with Shelvey and Atsu at the back, our centre halves on the wings crossing the ball badly for an increasingly frustrated Andy Carroll to lob himself at. Everton brought on the Boston Celtics to combat Carroll’s aerial presence and the game skulked to its inevitable conclusion.

United absolutely never looked like scoring, the only glimmer of hope was when Everton full back Sidibe blatantly pushed Andy Carroll in the back in the penalty area. Referee Mason saw it and deemed it to be a fair two-handed push in the back by a defender not looking at the ball but looking straight at the back of the player he was pushing, a player who was trying to win the ball. Ah well, it’s a game of opinions is football. VAR decided that it didn’t want to get involved and started to work on its plans to change its name to SkyNet and build a Terminator to referee games from now on.

‘Next week’s ref’

In some ways this was tough on United and Steve Bruce. There is no denying that in this match, as in most matches, the players gave it all. The players who were on the pitch are really the only fit and effective ones, bringing Gayle and Sean Longstaff on as subs the only possible changes to make. Gayle, starved of game time, looks like a player waiting to be moved on in January to a club which believes in him. That may not be a bad thing for NUFC if the £15million they get for him is spent on a striker. Unlike the £40million spent in the summer on a striker, who has now cemented his place as our third-choice winger.

Bringing Atsu on was simply to save someone else’s legs, not something we should be doing at 2-1 down at home with twenty minutes to go. It’s not as if United have a massive amount of injuries to attacking players but the two players missing, ASM and Ritchie, are a big miss. The ongoing absence of Ritchie is especially crucial in nip and tuck, combative games like this.

‘A better performance from our third choice winger’

Bruce himself did his best to change the game by reverting to 5-4-1 at the right time and I don’t particularly blame him for the organisational chaos at the end. That is probably what we will get when the team finally moves towards more attacking football in the future.

There is still a ghost at SJP though. Against opponents who have pushed the boat out to attract a World Class manager, the spectre of ours that got away still haunts the ground. For those who say turn the record over and stop banging on about Benitez I will say that as yet, there is nothing on the other side of the record. It is a single A-side, there is no B-side. This is a team which for three years has been assembled and coached in a single way of playing.

Only someone with expertise and strategic knowledge can change that, Bruce by his own admission is not that man. The team look comfortable, solid and capable when playing a compact 5-4-1. Our best period in the game against Everton was when Joelinton pushed right, until Ancelotti, a world class manager, changed the game. This was Ancelotti’s 50th win in his 78th Premier League match, the fifth fastest manager to reach this milestone in the competition. You get what you pay for in this game. As Jurgen Klopp said at the weekend, some games are played between the coaches, not the players, and this was one of them.

So United move to a second defeat on the trot but all is nowhere near lost. The team play with enough belief and commitment to stay well clear of the relegation places and are just as likely to win against Leicester as lose against Everton.

No one really played well on Saturday but equally no one hid and what they did was almost enough for a point. They just need to pull together and keep doing well what they are capable of doing well, which for the moment is defending without the ball and scraping results playing 5-4-1.

The crowd need to stick with the team and accept that they are not 1970 Brazil, can’t press the ball and can’t play expansive attacking football. There is no point asking for a change of formation or playing with two strikers, most of these players can’t do that and neither yet can the manager with the players he has. The team is doing what it can, I accept that and I thank them for their efforts.

I’d rather support a club with a Champions League winning manager in charge of a team with proper investment playing to move towards the top of the league but you know, where would I find one of those?

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Everton 2 – Saturday 28 December 3pm



Schar 56


Calvert-Lewin 13. 64

Possession was Everton 58%, Newcastle 42%

Total shots were Everton 22 , Newcastle 20

Shots on target were Everton 9, Newcastle 5

Corners were Everton 8, Newcastle 5

Crowd: 52,211 (10,000 free NUFC season ticket holders and 3,000 Everton)

Referee: Lee Mason

Newcastle team v Everton:

Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lejeune (Atsu 74), Fernandez, Willems (Sean Longstaff 84), Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Carroll, Joelinton (Gayle 74)

Unused Subs

Darlow, M Longstaff, Manquillo, Krafth

(Newcastle 1 Everton 2 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s defeat – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Everton 2 – Watch official match highlights and all three goals here – Watch HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Everton 2 – Third defeat in four games as Andy Carroll is hero then villain – Read HERE)

(The Magpie Group official response to ‘sold out’ Newcastle 1 Everton 2 match – Read HERE)


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