THREE lessons for Newcastle to learn

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Newcastle’s latest loss against Manchester United saw them produce a poor display, despite having regular spells of possession. The most disappointing thing about losing 3-0 was the fact that we conceded from two corners (and a fluke goal), and the issue that those two goals came so early on within the match! The wind was knocked out of us before we had the chance to really start playing.

People may be criticising us for not winning as we produced a golden-like-performance against Man Utd last season at home. But let’s be honest, we had far too much momentum behind us to be stopped, we were flying high up the table, and we had our key men on the pitch. Whereas so far, we have had an “ok” start. But that ok start seems more like a great start when you think of the injures we’ve had. And let’s not forget that Manchester United are one of the best teams in the world and they have millions worth of talent on the pitch. (But of course we will always give it a good go!)
However, watching the match I couldn’t help but identify some problems that may have lessened the harshness of the score line.

First of all, Shane Ferguson. Shane has performed well for the past few matches or so. Three appearances equalled by three assists. He is personally a favourite of mine, it’s always great to see a kid emerge into the first team. And I credit Pardew for giving him a well-deserved start. However, how wise was it of him to hand this lad his first Premier League start against a side like Man Utd? Shane didn’t have that much opportunity to get forward and get those left-footed crosses into the box. And you cannot fault him for that, even the best, most experienced players would have a struggle in doing so against a team like Man United.

Shane supported Man United as a boy, with Ryan Giggs being the main man in his eyes. And that excitement certainly showed as Shane gave off glimpses of being dumb struck. If you watch back the highlights of the match you will see that the first goal we conceded was from a corner. Shane was on the line to hopefully stop any balls from going in. However, he just watched the ball go by into the back of the net! Something that you feel a more experienced player would not of done.

Secondly, our very loyal man of 19 years, Steve Harper. The keeper of 37 years of age certainly had one of those games where his age started to show. It’s really hard to get over the guilt when criticising Harper when he has been with us for so long. But his performance certainly needs to be talked about.

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There was an incident in the match when Harper received a back pass and instead of simply passing it back to another player, he decided to take an extra few touches to try and get more length on his kick. However, Harper was put under immediate pressure from Danny Welbeck and he decided to take the young 21-year-old Man United player on. But did he really think he could out run or outpace a player nearly half his age? Welbeck dispossessed our ‘keeper, but with Harper out of position, no defenders for back up and more importantly an open net, Welbeck still couldn’t put the ball away. But the 37-year-old did manage to pull out some good saves including a great save from a Rooney free kick. So maybe he can go unpunished, especially as even the best ‘keepers have a sudden rush of blood to the head and act more like an outfield player from time to time.

And finally the choice of players. Pardew decided to leave out Simpson and move Santon over to the right and place Ferguson in the left back position. Santon has not played in that position since he came on as a sub in his first match for us. And although he is a right-footed player and that position should suit him better (it did in many ways – he got forward well) it must have been a slight challenge to play in an unfamiliar position. And surely this was too much of a big game to experiment with the use of players?

Danny Simpson played well mid-week, and Pardew says that Simpson breaks play up well. So surely it would have made more sense to play Simpson on the right, Santon on the left and drop Gutierrez and play Ferguson on the left of midfield? He does seem much more comfortable attacking than defending. Let’s not forget that his natural position is in midfield – it was Pardew who has started repositioning him. But given that Simpson is only just coming back from injury we will let this problem slide. But I really thought that we should of dropped Gutierrez, and played Fergie in his position. Jonas does have a fantastic work-rate in running to attack and running back to defend, but he doesn’t provide enough assists or goals.

And was Pardew right to play Cisse and Ba together… again? I do not think so. Time and time again we hear that the two cannot score in the same game together – evidence and poor games are starting to show that. Granted the two strikers did move the ball around well together but we do expect more out of our Newcastle strikers. So when will Pardew learn? Surely he has to start dropping Cisse to the bench now if he plays Ba? How many chances can he give him – it’s pressure for everyone especially as he wears the legendary number 9 shirt. We want Cisse to do well more than anyone else.

But as always there are things to be learnt from this game…

Cast your mind back to the 21st of July 2012, when Newcastle entered their third game of pre-season football against a good Fenerbahce side. We took the lead through the young Mehdi Abeid, who shrugged off a defender to score from close range. And despite our scrambled positioning we were holding the lead. That was the case until the last minute where the opposition scored at the death. But we learnt from that. Pardew said “I’m disappointed we should have won that game. But this gives us a lesson what it’s like in Europe you can’t take your eye off the ball for one second”. And touch wood, means we learnt that lesson the hard way – conceding late has been cut down on, especially if you compare that horrible stat to our games last season.

Man United caught us off guard early on within the match. Then this is just another way for us to learn that we have to be focused and aware for the whole 90 minutes. Not only that but us going behind taught us that we cannot keep relying on Ba to provide goals to get us a draw. The whole team has to provide and make chances, not only for each other but themselves too.

And these lessons certainly couldn’t be taught at a better time. Given now that we have ten days to get educated on the training ground before our exam at Sunderland! Come on the Toon!

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