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Opinion

Newcastle United only have these two problems to solve

1 month ago
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Newcastle United didn’t play well on Sunday.

The scoreline was harsh but by the final whistle you couldn’t complain about the result, even though James Maddison ‘created’ the first goal with an incredible piece of cheating.

The kind of cheating that brings shame on the game and how VAR is being (mis)used into disrepute.

However, enough about cheats.

I want to talk about NUFC.

Newcastle United only have these two problems to solve.

Only two you shout…

Yes, only two, though they are two ‘quite’ big ones.

Firstly, Newcastle United have a Championship level defence.

Secondly, Newcastle United have a squad full of players who don’t score goals, with the exception of Callum Wilson.

Defence

What can you say?

2017/18

Averaging 1.24 goals conceded per game, conceded 47 in 38 PL matches.

2018/19

Averaging 1.26 goals conceded per game, conceded 48 in 38 PL matches.

2019/20

Averaging 1.53 goals conceded per game, conceded 58 in 38 PL matches.

2020/21

Averaging 1.63 goals conceded per game, conceded 62 in 38 PL matches.

2021/22

Averaging 2.12 goals conceded per game, conceded 34 in 16 PL matches so far and on track at that average, to concede 81 goals in total.

We have all seen the direction of travel.

Rafa Benitez, out of necessity due to Mike Ashley refusing to properly support him after promotion, basing Newcastle’s survival on having a tight defensive set up.

Rafa not only taking a very average group of players and drilling them into a tight disciplined back four / five, where it was far better than the individuals making up the defence, but also having the entire team set up in a way, so that those individuals would be exposed / isolated as little as possible.

Without Rafa to drill them. Without an overall set up based primarily on keeping it tight. With the exact same players pretty much. With the exact same average (at best!) individuals who are now getting on for five years older. With next to no investment in the defence (bar £15m Lewis and £5m Krafth).

Is it any wonder we are now in this mess?

Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley are responsible for this. These past five transfer windows needed a massive overhaul of the defence and instead we have countless not good enough players given new contracts! Six years for Murphy! Quite extraordinary to see new deals given to Clark, Darlow (new five year deal in 2020!), Ritchie, Schar, Manquillo, Fernandez…whilst Jamaal Lascelles was already on a six year contract that doesn’t end until 2024.

Not saying that every single one of these players should have been moved on…BUT…pretty much all of them should have been. Put it this way, hand on heart, which of those above do you think would be first choice at another Premier League club?

Goalscorers

Moving to the other end of the pitch…

7 goals in 84 Premier League appearances – Joelinton

2 PL goals in the last two years – Jonjo Shelvey

8 goals in 94 PL appearances and none in the last 10 months – Miguel Almiron

4 goals in 116 PL appearances in four and a half seasons – Isaac Hayden

3 goals in 65 PL appearances in three years – Sean Longstaff

18 goals in 40 PL appearances – Callum Wilson

1 PL goal in last 32 months – Ryan Fraser

7 goals in 146 PL appearances in four and a half years – Matt Ritchie

12 goals in 146 PL appearances in five and a half years (for NUFC and Burnley) – Jeff Hendrick

11 goals in 108 PL appearances – Dwight Gayle

9 goals in 67 PL appearances over two and a half years – Allan Saint-Maximin

4 goals in 73 PL appearances the last four and a half years – Jacob Murphy

1 goal in 54 PL appearances (when ignoring that hot streak of 8 goals in 14 PL appearances in the loan spell) – Joe Willock

Can you remember when Steve Bruce was quizzed on letting Andy Carroll go in the summer and not bringing in a single striker, he replied that he was very happy because Newcastle United already had so many goalscorers in the squad!

Can you honestly believe that Ashley and Bruce thought it a great idea to give Dwight Gayle (who Bruce had refused to play) a new three year deal that takes him to almost his 35th birthday…

What about Isaac Hayden given a new six (SIX!!!!) year deal last year. He tries his best but honestly, he is a Championship player who is terrible on the ball. Again, I would ask the question, which Premier League midfield would he be first choice for?

Hayden is one of countless NUFC players where because standards have fallen so low, you get fans wanting to believe they are better than they are and making excuses, especially when it comes to making and scoring goals.

You hear so often ‘that’s not his job’, the same getting said about the likes of Shelvey and Joelinton, amongst others.

I’m sorry, but if you honestly believe this, who exactly is supposed to score goals for Newcastle United, apart from Callum Wilson???

So many poor players recruited and retained by Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley.

Yes, I do obviously think that Eddie Howe can get more out of the existing squad than Steve Bruce, but in reality he and the new owners have been left with a massive initial challenge, needing to significantly improve a defence with new recruits AND sign some goalscorers.

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