Steve McClaren’s search for his first three points at the helm of Newcastle United goes on after a flattering 2-0 defeat at the hands of Swansea last Saturday.
The Magpies had barely touched the ball before Bafetimbi Gomis – who continues to erase the memory of Wilfried Bony - put the Welsh side ahead on nine minutes.
Daryl Janmaat would see red for Newcastle just before half-time after the rampant Jefferson Montero continuously embarrassed the Dutch international. The second yellow was a particularly petulant foul that wreaked of a selfish and defeated attitude.
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Summer acquisition Jordan Ayew then put the game to bed seven minutes into the second-half as he towered over Fabricio Coloccini to meet another Montero cross and make it 2-0.
The irony that both of Swansea’s goalscorers were both once heavily linked with moves to Tyneside wasn’t lost on the Toon faithful, who endured a nice 707 mile-round trip.
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So, what can Newcastle take from this encounter? Not a lot that everyone doesn’t already know.
Despite suggestions that McClaren has changed the way of thinking around the club with new rules and playing outlook, Saturday’s 2-0 reverse had some striking resemblances to the dire straits that were on display last season.
A lack of commitment and basic work ethic, two pre-requisites one might hope for from any top footballer, were hard to come by for the away side at the Liberty Stadium.
Moussa Sissoko’s effort – as it can be loosely called – to track Montero after another burst inside typified the lack of desire and intensity from United, but more importantly, the appetite for a fight.
A handful of eight figure signings can only do so much to replenish a toxic crowd.
Much work to do
Of the starting eleven, Chancel Mbemba and Gigi Winjaldum were the only new faces from last term with Aleksander Mitrovic on the bench. Siem de Jong, who thanks to countless injuries is still yet to truly debut from last season, is currently side-lined with a shin problem.
That’s not the overhaul the club requires. Newcastle need to land another four signings – starters at that – before the close of the window or risk another season long flirt with the bottom three.
McClaren made an auspicious start in many eyes last week, but conjured some curious decisions during his trip to Wales.
The front three of Sissoko, Gabriel Obertan and Papiss Cisse is just terribly imbalanced. Cisse doesn’t possess the presence to lead a line through the middle on his own; his best days were with Demba Ba at his side doing the physical work.
Sissoko is not a right-mid, either. It feels as though McClaren has opted to put him out there because of his obvious athletic ability, but his technical shortcomings and thus end product doesn’t mesh well for the role. He would be far better served marauding the middle of the park in front of Jack Colback.
As for Obertan? He’s just not good enough. It’s that simple. He works admirably hard and has a frightening amount of pace, however, in what’s now his fourth season on Tyneside, what has he done to justify his lowly £3m fee? That says it all.
A front three of Ayoze Perez (who appears to be frozen out for no apparent reason), Mitrovic and Rolando Aarons are far more conducive to that formation. That’s two wide men with pace and inventive minds flanking a tenacious (bordering crazy given his first two appearances) target man with a deft touch; does that not make more sense?
After Janmaat’s dismissal, McClaren also opted to play without a striker for the next 35 minutes before introducing Mitrovic for the final 10 minute stretch. Some might argue it was damage limitation, but it was the Swans who decided how many goals were scored on Saturday, the Newcastle formation or strategy did none of the dictating.
What do you make of McClaren’s start? Does the club need to be rebuilt on the pitch completely or are the current baby steps the best transition?
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