Joelinton was set up to fail at Newcastle United
It always serves up as an anxious period whenever one find themselves debating the merits and demerits of a Newcastle United draw.
Finding small wins in a point gained instead of two lost, can be nerve wrecking for some, with the lingering fear of relegation lurking in the air. However, Saturday’s performance was a breath of fresh air.
For a change, the football was positive with attacking intent, better shape and showed a side that was well prepared for a change.
Here are a few takeaways from the Brentford game
The Howe Factor – Eddie came as advertised
Front foot football and he’s only had less than two weeks with the boys but the changes were obvious. Even though starting out with a back three / five, the wing backs committed to pushing higher up and supporting the front line. The team were not sitting back and defending deep.
The throws were taken quicker, off the ball movements were more aggressive and it’s all cause and effect when you set all these parts in motion, as the team playing higher are able to press in advanced positions as well, which means they are more likely to nick possession off rival teams and generate more chances themselves.
Unlike previous games, the visiting team were not given free passage up to the centre circle. Worth noting they forced the Brentford GK to go long more than he would have liked to.
The Brazilian is in his third season and divides opinion across the board.
It must be stressed that he was set up to fail under the previous coaching group even before he pulled on the #9 shirt. Whoever scouted Joe never seemed to have slipped his scouting report into Bruce’s in tray.
Asking a skilled big man who is more comfortable with the ball at his feet to play as a target man, isolated with no source of link up, was always going to set him to fail. He’d shown glimpses but not consistent enough.
However, on this occasion, he seemed more comfortable on the right hand side dropping a bit deeper and linking up with Schar / Murphy. Some of his give and goes with Murphy were a delight to watch. Also proving to be effective on the high press given his length. There feels there is more to come from him with better utilisation and change in style of play.
Personally, I found it didn’t work out when Bruce had him stationed more central as a #10 and on some occasions as a second forward, where he was easily man-marked and not afforded space to turn.
His best moments have come on the left wing where he gets more space and freedom to run at defenders besides being able to open up his body to bend in some vicious curlers. Even his position on the equaliser makes a strong case as to where he should be starting.
I have loved and hated this player. When in the mood, he can run a midfield as good as any player in the league. He can effortlessly switch plays with the outside of his foot or crossfield passes. If only a good coach can get him playing to his strengths and this is where again, as in Joelinton’s case, I can see Howe maximising his potential. With more players pushing forward and outlets for passes, he will have more options to show his passing range.
I have already seen positives across the board but to be brutally honest, I can’t see anyone improving this defence.
The centre back pairing of Clark and Lascelles is the worst and the stats show. I have never really rated Lascelles. He doesn’t pick up anyone to mark when there is cross coming through any of the flanks, nor is he physical enough to be that intimidating force like a John Terry. The worst of his attributes is how far he chooses to back off on a counter attack, he either never trusts himself to close down or he’s just not capable enough. Either way, I will be very surprised if in the near future he’s still starting games for this club, let alone be Captain.
However, there is always hope to change things and it starts with the goalkeeper.
Dubravka has to start from here. He’s a better distributor, organiser of the back line and more vocal than Darlow will ever be. Move to a back four with the team playing higher up the pitch. It’s been excruciating to watch the team defend in extra numbers to only ever complicate their cause.
Opposition teams were always one step ahead when figuring this out. For example the Palace game, The usual three centre-backs with Lascelles playing in the middle. Benteke deliberately made his runs targeting Krafth on 3-4 times while Lascelles chose to hold his position defending absolutely no one. What use is having that extra man in defence if that’s the case?
Hopefully, Howe simplifies the formation, bringing in Fernandez, to pair with either of Clark or Lascelles. Removing the extra defender creates an additional spot that can be used to restore Almiron who offers the additional insurance of helping out Ritchie. Newcastle left hand side has been the weakest this season.
All in all, even though the records are against us, this feels different.
You have a good coach who knows what he is doing. Being bold is not an option but playing to the strength of this team is. I wouldn’t lose much sleep over not keeping clean sheets as long as this team fully utilises its strengths and score enough to win games.
A note of appreciation to the new owners who stuck to their guns and took a chance on a club despite the team being in the relegation zone. A returning coach staking his comeback fortunes with this club and hopefully it’s now up to the players to step up and to drag themselves to safety.
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