Saturday’s match ended Newcastle 1 Watford 1.
Ahead of each match we ask one of our writers to come up with 3 positives and 3 negatives following the game.
A match where Newcastle United found their attacking edge but in an open game, had serious issues when it came to defending.
This time it is Billy Miller:
It shows the somewhat fickle nature of football that I went from having a host of positives (out of the relegation zone, second clean sheet of the season, Trippier’s performance, Joelinton’s performance, ASM’s wonder goal) and was struggling with negatives.
Then in the 88th minute we found ourselves level and I was suddenly abundant with negatives and scrabbling for positives.
Here’s what I came up with.
A World Class Player At St James Park
We have seen plenty of world class quality rock up at St James Park in recent years…but it has been a while since they’ve worn black and white. Kieran Trippier may well fall into that category.
He was a level or two above anyone else on the pitch on Saturday. Playing behind Fraser, on the right, it looked like we’d accidentally left a couple of mascots on the pitch when the game kicked off, but don’t his stature fool you.
I had the joy of watching on from Level 7 so I could see everything that was going on and our right back was outstanding. He was about half a foot smaller than some of the players he was challenging but he won nearly every header. He knew when to compete with his head and when to roll his body and allow the ball to go out for a throw in. He could play the ball first time, spot intricate passes, make clever flicks. He read the game excellently and was constantly guiding others. He generally gave us a huge boost in quality.
We need another three or four (or more???) of his ilk to start turning these draws into wins though.
Left back has been a problem area for us. It’s a position we probably want to improve.
However, I would argue our priority should be two centre backs, a central midfielder and another striker. It may end up being a case of making do with what we have at left back. If this happens, having a no-nonsense option such as Dummett could be invaluable. Ritchie simply can’t do a job there. Lewis still has a lot to prove but, between he and Dummett, I would have some confidence (albeit limited) in that position.
We’re Only Halfway Through The Transfer Window (and season as it happens)
Trippier is a brilliant signing. Wood didn’t have the best debut but is a shrewd addition and weakens Burnley.
It looks like three of the bottom four are likely to be the ones to go. All four look atrocious but we have a massive advantage in our ability to continue to spend this window. Burnley are reported to be looking at Andy Carroll as their replacement for Wood. That’s the Andy Carroll that scored 1 goal in 2 seasons for us to replace a man that scored 26 in the same period.
The Burnley ownership change has left them in debt, so they won’t be spending much of the money they received for their top striker. Norwich and Watford don’t have the money to be splashing about either.
There are still eighteen games to go and seventeen of them are after the transfer window. This season still has legs. I won’t say we’re definitely down until we’re definitely down.
Another Lead Lost
We’ve dropped 21 points from winning positions and have relinquished leads in 9 games. We don’t have the ability to keep a clean sheet and we regularly fail to score more than one goal. Those two things combined have contributed to us still only achieving the one win this season.
Watford looked awful but we still let them find an equaliser. Another must win that we didn’t win. Fortunately, Watford along with Norwich and Burnley all look as bad as us. As mentioned above, we have more of an opportunity than them to improve our squad and fortunes.
An Extreme Lack Of Athleticism
It’s unbelievable how slow and clunky half of our team look. Shelvey illustrated this within minutes. He had a five-yard start to a loose ball but seemed unable to release the clutch and get into second gear. He ended up having to lunge and foul just outside our box, picking up a yellow for his troubles.
Longstaff is not only slow but incapable of winning a header. Both he and his midfield partner were poor in midfield, misplacing passes and doing little to break up the play. Our reborn Brazilian doing more than the two of them combined.
Dummett has only just returned but has always struggled for mobility. He had a decent game yesterday but got caught out a couple of times when up against pace.
Our whole defence, Trippier aside, is slow and lethargic. We are desperate for pace and power to be injected. Lascelles was the most error prone of the lot. I really think we should move him on this window so we can not only improve on him but nominate a new captain.
As well as upgrading our defence. we need a midfielder that can carry the ball forward and create smooth defensive to attacking transitions. Aside from Joelinton, we have nobody capable of doing that in our central midfield. We either need to get back the Willock from last season or bring someone in.
The Treatment of ASM
I’ve seen today that I’ve been beaten to the punch on this one, with another contributor writing a full article on this.
However, this was one of my negatives early on in the game, so I wanted to add my voice to the argument.
I get that no one is above criticism and I get that he can be frustrating but, wow, this guy is one of our only quality players and pretty much our only threat with Wilson out.
Every time he was tackled or misplaced a pass, everyone around would be grumbling about him being a one trick pony, a waste of space, useless, a luxury we can’t afford etc etc etc. He seemed to get more bad things said about him than the rest of the team combined.
If he’s a one trick pony, then what is his one trick, as he seems to have about a million to me. If he’s a luxury we can’t afford then what’s the solution? Which one of our players will improve our team if he was taken out of it? I’d argue he’s a luxury we can’t afford NOT TO HAVE.
Towards the end of the game, ASM powered forward and managed to burst beyond Watford’s backline. I heard the bloke behind me say, “cut it back, man.” ASM did as instructed and attempted to find a teammate. One of the four players tracking him managed to block. That exact same voice bellowed, “what are you doing, man? Have a shot.”
Saint-Maximin can’t win sometimes. If he takes someone on and gets tackled, he’s questioned on why he didn’t pass. If he passes and doesn’t take on his man, then people wonder why he took that option. Look at this team and assess what each one of these players offers us. You’ll be hard pushed to find many that you place higher than our Gallic winger on your list.
He wasn’t great but he still scored our only goal, which came out of nothing.
This season he has scored 5 goals. Those goals are directly responsible for 5 of our 12 points. Twice he has equalised to earn us points (Leeds and Brentford) and three times he has given us leads that we couldn’t protect (Southampton, Man Utd and Watford).
He’s a confidence player so let’s support him and try and feed that confidence. He can’t do everything but that appears to be the expectation from his teammates. Now some of the fans are suffering from the same syndrome.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Watford 1 – Saturday 15 January 3pm
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Watford 48% Newcastle 52%
Total shots were Watford 12 Newcastle 18
Shots on target were Watford 1 Newcastle 5
Corners were Watford 4 Newcastle 6
Crowd: 52,223 (1,200 Watford)
Referee: Paul Tierney
Dubravka, Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Dummett, Shelvey, Sean Longstaff, Fraser (Murphy 74), Joelinton, Saint-Maximin (Almiron 86), Wood
Gillespie, Darlow, Anderson, Lewis, Krafth, Willock, Ritchie
(Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker discuss what went wrong for Newcastle United…for the 9th time – Read HERE)
(‘And the blame for this latest (Watford) failure is down to Allan Saint-Maximin???’ Read HERE)
(Newcastle 1 Watford 1 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(‘My faith in Eddie Howe is now being tested’ – Read HERE)
(Claudio Ranieri reacts to Newcastle 1 Watford 1 – “I am happy…but it’s half and half” Read HERE)
(Jeff Stelling and Paul Merson debate Chris Wood debut – Eventually get to the truth of it – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 1 Watford 1 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s draw – Read HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin