Category Archives: Newcastle

Small reactions don’t matter Andre – time for change?

After the Newcastle defeat Andre Villas-Boas had another defeat to go into an international break where many of his new players jetted off to represent their countries. That defeat put our season so far into perspective. A poor first half in which after a bright start we conceded and then couldn’t really get going followed by a second half in which we threw the kitchen sink at them only for the keeper to continue his fine first half ending up with 14 saves.

Krul was great there is no denying that but two of our best chances in that second half were struck straight at the keeper and one clearance from a free kick would be sliced into the net 8 out of 10 times. Sometimes games go like that and you could excuse it if we were scoring freely in the remainder of our fixtures. Unfortunately that is not the case and so when you hear interview comments like the “result was unfair on Spurs” you can be forgiven for thinking that we’re losing the plot.

The real issue that never seemed to be tackled was whether we would have played in the manner we did in the second half had we done better and gone in at 0-0 in the first? It was my opinion that we wouldn’t have done so and that this therefore points to the serious flaws in the Head Coaches tactics.

Our concession of the goal was pretty typical of our sloppiness. As I recall (and WindyCOYS will probably confirm) Dembele lost control of the ball and instead of letting the ball run out for a throw stopped it on the line conceded possession, we got it back, booted it into the centre circle where Paulinho gave up on a 50/50 ball allowing a ball to be played through the defence leaving Remy to sprint into the space provided by the high line round the keeper and score.

I was told as we left at the end that Lloris would have been out quicker but we should remember that he was sidelined after risking his life at Everton. So another disappointing afternoon left us looking at three uphill fixtures and little time to prepare for them.

So what do I think is wrong? When appointed I recall hearing about a high line and pressing game. I hate the high line and I don’t think it can work in an English style game because so many 50/50 balls exist. If I am defending I’m looking at the opponents goal and if I don’t win that ball there is space behind me for my opponent to run into while I turn around and give chase. 

We just don’t press. Teams press us and we can’t function. Well maybe apart from Sandro. We play the midfield deep and too many don’t participate when we haven’t got the ball. If we were to press Paulinho, an AVB favourite, would be seen in shot much more often. For me he is a problem. He arrives in the box too late to consider his attempt and often misses and doesn’t appear to have any change of pace. But he keeps getting picked. 

Then our lack of urgency is a massive problem. All season our build up play has been slow and laboured and most of the time it is like a practice match. We can’t keep this up and furthermore we have to ask our midfield to do more and our defenders to do less. Midfield players have to take responsibility and try and carve out opportunities rather than just push and move. That shouldn’t mean trying to do too much as Townsend has done but it also means being a bit more adventurous than the remainder currently are. 

We’ve played too many players out of position or used tactics that haven’t involved some of our players in games at all. As a consequence we end up not being fluent when we do go forward and it also allows our opponents to get the whole team back to defend our attempt when it comes. On top of that our substitutions rarely provide the desired effect with the replacement often not getting a kick.

Then we can’t score. But do you score if you don’t play tactics that help the type of strikers we have. 

So after a number of difficult performances the players look to have a level of anxiety about them and don’t want to try things in case it robs them of their place in the side. In many respects an unfortunate international injury might have proved a positive thing and Eriksen was the man who got it. If we recall when Modric got injured Kranjcar came in and played a run of games culminating in a great performance against Man City at the Lane when he scored twice. That was probably because he knew the chance to show was his and after Modric came back Niko was never the same. 

So as we came into today’s game against Manchester City Holtby had the shirt and possibly for a period of time whilst Eriksen recovers giving us the chance to see what he can do. Unfortunately he only lasted the half – though he wasn’t the worst – so we are no closer to knowing. Nothing learned there then.

The team itself saw Lennon return to the right – a big benefit in my mind – and Lamella come onto the left. I saw him play against Tromso and he looked awful though the club have said he does need time and he did little to tell me they were mistaken in this thought. The team was based upon those players who had been at the club during the break allowing those who had travelled some extra time. 

So was Capoue not available to partner Sandro and rule out the early City threat? Clearly not but overall it looked a decent side. But that wasn’t the case and once again we showed the Nation how bloody awful we can be. 15 seconds was all it took for us to get the ball into our net following a kick off with a goal as crass as the one at The Emirates when Fabregas scored from our kick off. 

Kaboul wasn’t ready, Lloris wasn’t ready none of us were ready. But to be fair we stuck to our task and created a chance which we maybe should have converted before asking Hugo to have another go with similarly farcical results. Then to cap it off we concede a third before half time to leave us all shell shocked and many of us pleased we didn’t try for tickets.

Andre is not the first manager who has conceded a number of goals in a period of play but he is the first one for some time that has absolutely no chance of getting a couple back so by half time the game was gone. If changes were needed then we needed to plug the defence so that the Norwich score wasn’t beaten. 

But no, Adebayor comes out for the second half taking the place of Holtby. We did this against West Ham replacing Eriksen with Soldado and that was a mistake. How do you create chances for two strikers when you haven’t done that for a sole striker when you are taking off the playmaker to get the second striker on? It just can’t work – well it doesn’t for us. Throughout AVB’s reign we have brought on another striker – normally JD – and often they haven’t had a kick at the goal for the 30 minutes they’ve been on. Bale covered this up with his goals but without him it’s there for all to see.     

The second half shouldn’t be dwelled on too much. Suffice it to say they missed as many good chances as they scored and we should have conceded more than the 8 at Derby in 1976 and I think big Pat was in goal for that one. But did we do any better? 

Andre thinks we had a reasonable period after the fifth goal and Dembele was OK when he came on. That’s as maybe but by then City were satisfied and allowed the pace to slow to our comfortable level but when they upped it again the sixth went in. 

There is no doubt that today was not good enough and as a result we have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider everything about our style of play to determine what we can salvage before the top 4 and maybe even the Europa League are too far away. I am not a great fan of AVB and I don’t think that he will be able to turn it around but I would love him to prove me wrong. 

Today’s defeat must make him realise that he is not only barking up the wrong tree but that the players will be starting to lose heart with tactics that are clearly not working. This is the second big side we have played away and no points no goals and seven conceded is where we thought we were getting away from. At Chelsea he didn’t recognise these signs and paid with his job. Has he learned his lesson? He may try to show he has but does he know any other way to play? I don’t think that he does and that’s a big elephant in the room.

Business issues also exist. West Ham started development work on the Olympic Stadium last week. Sainsburys is now open in Tottenham and our own development needs to start taking place. We need someone to sponsor the Stadium and they won’t rush in whilst we are in disarray, not winning or playing attractive football. That’s  a problem as the board will not want our capacity to be third highest in our area. 

So my message to Andre tonight is to seriously think about changing his tactics to improve our play and give us more chances to score. Without that I think we will be looking for a new manager quite soon. If he concedes to such demands and fails at least he will be giving it a go and the result is no worse than what awaits by continuing as he is.

In any case we need at least a draw against Man Utd and Liverpool in our upcoming games. Both are home games and we should be looking for 6 points. Without Ferguson I thought we could beat United but from what I’ve seen this season I’m no longer sure. As I said earlier Andre, prove me wrong.  

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It gets better and better: Watford, Wigan, Liverpool and Newcastle

After enduring games against Watford and Wigan when the team, rather than the Manager, played like it had a prison sentence hanging over its head we regained our composure with an excellent defensive display at Anfield and a stupendous first half performance against Newcastle at Whit Hart Lane last night. As we appreciate sport at the very top level is all about confidence and having a clear head and that really shone through against Newcastle. Maybe it was the manner of the loss at Man City but it seemed more of a “got something on my mind” situation.

What’s more deadline day eyebrow raiser Louis Saha took 20 minutes to equal his haul for Everton this season with two well taken goals as we ran though a Newcastle team that took two mandatory counts in the first six minutes. You have to feel sorry for Defoe sitting on the bench looking on but for me Saha showed all that Pav didn’t for the majority of his stay at the Lane and certainly increased our options for the remainder of the season.

To be truthful I didn’t see all of the Watford game but in the second half action I saw we looked like the Championship side and without Kaboul could have been out. I had heard Rafa’s goal on radio commentary whilst driving and was shocked when I saw how far out he had been when he hit it. Thankfully we progress to the next round but if we don’t play better it could be interesting.

Next up was Wigan in a game which we took all of 20 minutes to get going in. Yes, a comfortable win but Wigan were so bad in the first half that they should have been lucky to get nil yet ended the game looking for a second. Having said that the goals when they came were wonderful. 

Modric’s deep chip across the box to Bale was delightful and Gareth took it brilliantly and despatched it for 1-0. Modric then got in on the act with a well hit shot from the edge of the box to give us a 2 goal lead at half time. In the second half Bale scored another excellent effort but to be honest the Wigan men were like subbuteo men sitting off him and allowing him to strike his now trademark left edge to right corner shot. 

Wigan’s consolation came from a looping deflection but at a time when we should have been inflicting further goal difference improvement upon them and as I said earlier they then pressed for a second. To be fair we did introduce all three subs including a debut for Cameron Lancaster who worked hard to get into the game so the team ended a little disjointed with Livermore having to drop to right back in place of Walker. He himself had been a sub coming on in the first half to replace Rafa who had ended up sitting down on the half way line and throwing his shin pads away in frustration.

This time it was a calf injury for Rafa rather than the usual hamstring and he didn’t make the Liverpool or Newcastle games. That could have presented a problem as Anfield has always proved a difficult place to get a result and our bench on the night showed how stretched the squad had become. Saha and Rose, who got on, plus new boy Nelsen, Khumalo, Luongo and Lancaster.

However, a stirring display gave us a creditable point with Dawson and Parker being outstanding. We also had a chance on the break during the second half which Bale unfortunately scuffed straight to Riena when he maybe had a little more time. 

Suarez was available but despite not being called upon to practice his handshakes got on after an hour and within minutes had planted a kick into Parker’s midriff. After the Manchester City game I suggested that Ballatelli might have been unlucky when standing on Parker but for me this Suarez incident was similar to the Lescott one. Is it important to make it look as bad as possible so that you get away with it? I suppose it is as that is how Stoke have got used to going about their work. 

Some years ago Drogba fell down for fun but then for no apparent reason stayed on his feet more and earned more respect for showing the player he is. Suarez certainly needs to take that wise counsel as he looks a good player who is too keen to win at whatever the cost rather than by exercising his skills. 

And so to Newcastle, with Lennon and Defoe returning to the bench, and a first start for Saha. Newcastle’s error may have been to try and give us a game for their early attack was cleared and suddenly Benny turned up on the far post to turn in Adebayor’s cross to light the blue touch paper with his opener. 

We’d hardly sat down before Adebayor crossed from the right for Saha to arrive perfectly and prod it home past Tim Krull sending us into raptures. Newcastle weren’t done and tried to come back at us but Dawson and King were solid at the back setting Luka back into possession from where he orchestrated further damage with a second for Saha and then Kranjcar making it four before the break. 

An early goal in the second and it could have been 10 but to Newcastle’s credit they battened down the hatches and did well in closing the game down. We still had plenty of second half possession and missed a couple of chances before Adebayor turned home a Saha header in spectacular fashion to add a goal to his 4 first half assists. 

In many ways this result is what could have happened in a number of games had we put away our chances and what looked good was the way Saha and Adebayor worked together. Defoe did get onto the field and had a few runs but nothing opened up for him to remind Harry of his talents. 

Both Wigan and Newcastle were a big reminder to Harry of the affection with which is currently held at White Hart lane. Last night he was bombarded with a continual outpouring of emotion from all sides of the stadium asking him to stay and continue managing this team. 

The team were fantastic last night so Harry had little to do. Unfortunately a problem with a plane prevented Harry from travelling to Liverpool but had he we might have played better in the second half. His work will be cut out from now till the end of the season in our games at White Hart Lane. 

Whilst Manchester United will come out and play Stoke, Swansea, Norwich, Blackburn and Fulham will no doubt have taken heed and unless we can open them up early doors we face further 10 men back games to avoid further goal fests. 

Before then its FA Cup and then that lot up the road. That promises to be some game.

Come On You Spurs    

Two points dropped? Newcastle 2 Spurs 2

Our last two games have had a consistent theme in the first half – an inability to hold onto the ball. Against an inferior Arsenal side it was like business as usual with them having lots of possession and us providing them with more by giving it straight back; today we were plain sloppy and far too narrow for most of the first period.

Bale began on the right wing to allow Modric room to drift in from the left and he did not look comfortable. Unfortunately neither did Modric and it took a switch to give them any sort of comfort. Once again we played two more defensive midfielders away from home with Livermore coming in for Sandro alongside Parker. 

Livermore is improving all the time but I don’t think he is quite ready to stamp his authority on a game yet. We played the two men together to subdue Newcastle’s advances and control the midfield but I didn’t think we got it done as we should have today. As the game wore on all too often it looked like previous years with Newcastle running at us and putting us under pressure.

For our part we attacked them too and surely should have scored more goals than we did. Krull made an excellent block from Defoe, Van Der Vaart was casual early in the second half and enterprising breaks came to nothing as the final pass either was delayed or went astray.    

The problem looked like our formation. Our difficulty is trying to fit in all the flair players when a little caution is required. You can’t push Luka out on the wing and expect him to control the game. After half time we improved because he took the ball and ran with it but such a free role leaves holes elsewhere. That left one of the full backs with two men bearing down on him. 

In the first half Obertans and Simpson got after Benny until Bale switched sides at which point Gutierrez was more able to cause us and Walker more trouble. With two DM’s playing it was clear we weren’t buckling through the middle so we presented them with chances to go round us once they realised. 

The two DM’s are right but the midfield also has to support on the flanks so it seems we need to go one up front and choose between Rafa and Luka. Easy choice? Not really; one is more likely than the other to score whilst the other really runs the team. 

As the game opened Kaboul and King were comfortable at the back until a groin injury struck and Bassong was called in to replace him. We tried to be comfortable on the ball but were all too bunched so all we really achieved was being on top of one another and easy to close down. 

Up front Adebayor had another decent game though I couldn’t understand why he was substituted on 89 minutes for Pav when a winner was sought. He was lively, mobile and won us the penalty that Rafa put away for a half time lead. In the second half he resumed his partnership with Defoe and we created a number of chances with JD taking his goal superbly with a quick turn and fine shot.

Unfortunately, Ameobi had similar ideas to Defoe despatching a shot across Friedel into the right corner of our net. Friedel made a number of good saves and tried sneakily to get the ball back across the line when they scored their first.  Had King continued would it have mattered? Maybe, maybe not but as the ball went in both centre backs were with the same man. Certainly Newcastle needed to be more dominant in the second half and they came out all guns blazing. 

What was disappointing was our lack of commitment in the tackle for the first equaliser – and for the second game running – with Modric replacing Rafa as the sleeper. Walker may get some stick for being the full back where the goals came from but I thought he had a decent game and got back when he had been beaten to good effect. 

Kaboul had a really good game alongside him winning nearly everything in the air and Parker after an ordinary opening was more active in his passing in the second half. Once again Bale had a disappointing afternoon seeming to find reasons not to push on and run at them. They acknowledged his danger and had men around him but he seemed a little reluctant.

And so a point won or two points lost? It has to be lost and whilst in previous years we could have lost the game if we want to be in the top four we needed to win this game from the position we were in. Krull’s save from Defoe might be the crucial moment and you might see Livermore and Adebayor waving frantically as the first shot was charged down. We still have a game in hand and if we win it the top four beckons.