The only thing preventing Newcastle United from propping up the Premier League after six games is boasting a goal difference +1 better than fierce rivals Sunderland.
Yes, it’s been a torrid start for the north-east clubs in the top flight, thus far. If Newcastle chairman Mike Ashley thought spending record amounts of money would erase the memories of last season’s narrow escape from relegation, he should have considered the hands he put the money in.
For the Magpies to be winless after their opening six games, where they’ve only had to gel four players into their ranks, it points the finger directly at manager Steve McClaren.
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Newcastle has been awful. The point they picked up on the opening day of the season against Southampton was an adrenaline fuelled slice of luck, and the other point they secured was by virtue of a profligate Manchester United. They could have put Newcastle to bed in the opening 20 minutes - easy.
What has McClaren done to transform the side that almost suicidally marched towards the trap door last season? That’s not rhetorical. I would genuinely like to know what he’s tried to do.
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Worrying times for the Toon
All the alarming signs that littered a frustrating campaign on Tyneside last year remain abundantly apparent. The majority of the under-performing stars of last year remain in the match day squad and continue to exude the same style and attitude that created such a toxic cocktail last year.
Having attended on Saturday, there was a feeling of frustration meshed with inevitability in the stands that strangles a passionate fan base. They know things won’t change, but they’re shackled by their undying love for the club.
The side has zero identity. They appear insistent on building play from the back with players who aren’t overly comfortable on the ball (see Massadio Haidara’s mistake for Watford's first goal) and a midfield who, except for Georginio Wijnaldum, struggle to turn on the ball.
Many of the passes go back from whence they came, and it ends up going long; completely defeating the object and surrendering possession.
McClaren to blame?
McClaren looks intent on playing a formation and style he doesn’t have the personnel for. Whether one is like Tony Pulis during his time at Stoke or Arsene Wenger with Arsenal – play to your strengths. It’s like McClaren is giving a token gesture to the fans by implementing this style because it's idealistic football ethos, but not when it’s not conducive to the players at his disposal.
You can’t impose a system or formation over the players capabilities in your ranks. It simply won’t work.
McClaren shouldn’t need to be told Papiss Cisse cannot play as a lone striker at this point. His 45 minutes on Saturday were among the worst in his Newcastle United career to date.
Fabricio Coloccini was passed his best last season and has publicly been home sick for years. Why does the club insist on hanging onto a veteran high earner? Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, two of the least experienced strikers in the Premier League, tore him apart on Saturday. The Argentine looked frail in the face of the hungry Deeney.
A problem with the club’s transfer strategy is they seem to buy players who will inevitably use Newcastle as a stepping stone to a bigger move. They don’t care about the club enough when the going gets tough.
How many times in the last two years has Newcastle come from behind to win? Leicester have come from two goals down in two weeks to grab four points.
The club insists that players will be bought in January, but it might be too late by then. Compared to their Premier League peers, this is a very bad Newcastle side made to look even worse by McClaren’s selections and set-up.
It must be realised: as much as players need to come in, players need to go.
Do you think Newcastle could be genuine contenders for relegation this season? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below