04 January 2012
Crap, tits, balls. We slip to a second defeat in a row and I'm gonna see if I can analyse why.
In brief, the goals were scored by Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Phil Jones. Ba's was a route-one punt from Krul which was flicked on, Cabaye was a free-kick, in off the bar and Jones' own goal was a similar punt from the back.
More than that, Newcastle "worked so hard", as my commentators liked to point out and I've got to agree with them. There was more about Newcastle tonight, they looked really up for it.
Do we really have such obvious deficiencies?
It's the second game in a row that we've conceded 3. The only difference in this game was that they never gave us a chance to get back into it. Newcastle's performance tonight is much improved from their performance against Liverpool (which I watched). Somehow, they manage to react to that by smashing us.
Instead of blaming our players (which I'm known to do in blind rage), I think credit has to be given to Newcastle. They exploited their strengths and exposed some of our weaknesses, which allowed them to capitalise with an impressive 3 goal victory against the Champions of England.
I like to work in threes, and lately I've been looking at everything from three angles. In continuance with this, I think I've got three angles for Newcastle's performance:
1. They played a high tempo, high pressing game. This works to their favour (obviously). Whenever they lost the ball, they were chasing it down like madmen. And they weren't afraid to get stuck in. In contrast, we set up with Carrick and Giggs in the center – the kind of players who like to slow it down and control the tempo. Further to this, we had Park and Rooney roaming with Nani also sometimes joining in with the running into space.
This kind of tactic requires one person to sit on the ball and assess the options. You play it to your playmaker, who needs time to pick out a pass. So Newcastle did their homework and closed us down, not allowing us to utilise those options. Simple enough.
2. They played the big boys up front. If you read my treatise on Man City's success, you'll understand where I'm coming from with this. Newcastle had Ba and Shola Ameobi up front. Ba's been on fire and Ameobi isn't a pushover. They're also great target men because they're effective in the air, but strong with the ball at their feet.
Where I put forward that City have these so-called "donkeys" at the back, Newcastle have them up front. Krul often booted it forward and more often than not, one of their two frontmen got there ahead of Jones and Ferdinand who we had at CB. Jones isn't the biggest, and it showed against Ba and Ameobi. We can even look to the first goal, which came about as a result of an Ameobi flick-on, in which he contested with Jones. (Ameobi obviously won the challenge because it led to the goal.)
They had Cabaye, Gutierrez and Ryan Taylor operating around them, to lay the ball off to for them to hold while runs were being made. You could even say that, had we pressed as much as them, it could have been less comfortable for them. But then again, the free-kick which they scored to make it 2-0 was conceded by Jones as he tried to halt Ba around 25 yards out, which goes to show that when we did press and get stuck in, they forced us to concede fouls which just gave them an opportunity to lump it into the box.
3. Cheik Tiote. Everyone raves about Ba, but Tiote is equally pivotal in my book. The defensive midfielder was instrumental in breaking up any plays that we had tried to build to get back into it. I mentioned earlier that we were looking to get on the ball in the middle and needed time to pick out passes. Where the other guys pressed and shepherded us wide, when the ball did break for us through the middle, Tiote was more often than not on hand to tackle/disrupt the play.
Putting the squeeze on Giggs, our primary playmaker tonight, meant that we had to rely on our wide options. Nani, who's had a good campaign so far, isn't a bad option, but he had trouble picking out the crosses/passes to our strikers. By the end of the game, we'd used all 4 strikers we had in our 15-man squad and none of them had anything on target, other than Rooney, who had turned a Nani cross straight down the middle, only for old boy Danny Simpson to clear it off the line (as he did at Old Trafford).
It's not all that bad, is it?
Well no... but the pressure is on us now. Unluckily for us, Jones had a shocker. He lost out to Ameobi for the first goal, gave away the freekick for the second goal and scored the third. I'm sorry Amer, but he was pretty Melbourne. But to be fair, he was forced to be. I don't think we performed terribly, we were just outplayed by Newcastle who were there to do a job and did it.
For that, I begrudgingly have to admit that the whole Newcastle team were pretty Luscious, especially Ba and Tiote. Too bad the African Cup of Nations couldn't have happened before this game, because they'd both have been unavailable and the complexion would have been very very different.
We'll forget about the league for now as we prepare to face the chin-music against City on Sunday in the Cup. I'm not feeling extremely confident, because we've just been so lacklustre of late. I've even grown out of being frustrated, only disappointment awaits me.
Oh well, I guess I'll be avoiding everything football related for the next few days until I watch our first involvement in the FA Cup for this season. Here's hoping I can rediscover some footballing jooy after that match.
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