“Why are Newcastle going down?” We could answer this question in one “They’re simply not good enough to stay up”, but let’s take the time to examine how Newcastle booked themselves a one-way trip to the Championship.
Burnt Out Players – A few seasons ago Cheick Tiote was to Newcastle what N’golo Kante is to Leicester. Everything good about Newcastle in the 2012/3 season could (and should) be attributed to Tiote’s outstanding performances. However, the Cheick Tiote of 2016 isn’t the same force he once was and as a result… neither are Newcastle. The Ivorian just doesn’t make Newcastle tick the same way he used to. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exact reason for his sharp decline (persistent injury problems, inconsistent form, lack of desire, etc), the outcome is all the same, Burn Out.
Having ONE burnt player in your starting 11 is an issue, having TWO burnt out players in your starting 11 is a relegation battle waiting to happen. And that’s exactly what Newcastle have!
It sounds almost criminal to say this given how much Fabricio Coloccini has given to the club, but his departure is overdue. Age has caught up to the Argentinian and through no fault of his own he just can’t keep pace with the Premier League anymore. Rather than offload him or reduce his match time Newcastle decided to place him right at the heart of their defence. Although the club’s loyalty to Tiote and Coloccini must be commended, their reliance on both players is something that can only hamper the side’s fight to stay in the League.
Lack of Depth – In a country as demanding as England, where teams are expected to compete in a minimum of 3 competitions (with no Winter break), a team is only as good as the players on it’s bench – Newcastle have none.
Well, ‘none’ may come across as a major dig at Newcastle’s current crop of benchwarmers, so I’ll rephrase it. When it comes to players on Newcastle’s bench players who can change a game and make a difference… there are none.
The likes of Vernon Anita, Kevin Mbabu and Rolando Aarons (to name random players off of Newcastle’s bench), just aren’t the players that Newcastle can call up to fill in for their more experienced stars in cup competitions or during an injury crisis. This lack of depth has forced Newcastle to come to terms with a difficult reality this season; either they risk using (and losing) their strongest 11 every game or accept that they’re probably going to lose whenever they make any changes.
A lack of depth and a lack of competition are two sides of the same coin in footballing terms and Newcastle have suffered the brunt of both of them. Without players on the bench of the quality to challenge those on the pitch, many of Newcastle’s best performers have fallen by the wayside. Without the threat of losing their position in the starting line up, Jack Colback, Yoan Gouffran and Daryl Janmaat aren’t the same players they once were, furthermore they aren’t performing at a level where they can be relied on to keep Newcastle in the league.
Too many young players signed – Florian Thauvin (age 23), Ivan Toney (age 19), Chancel Mbemba (age 21), Aleksander Mitrović (age 21), all signings who will be of great service to Newcastle in the future, but Newcastle need players who will be of great service to them now and none of those players tick that box.
With a combined total of 0 Premier League appearances prior to signing to the toon, and only a few seasons under their belts at their previous clubs, these signings are Newcastle planning for a future ahead for a future in the premier league, a future that seems less and less likely with each passing game.
Take Florian Thauvin for example. Signed from Marseille for a reported 13 million and was being lauded by Newcastle manager Steve McClaren as “one of the best youngsters in Europe”, but rather than setting the league alight, he struggled to find his footing in his 14 outings for the Toon and was offloaded back to France a miserable 5 months in England. The potential was definitely there, but Newcastle just expected far too much from a player who’d never been asked to deliver performances at such a high level.
Signings this ‘green’ are only advisable when a club already has a team equipped for Premier League survival and looks to build for seasons ahead, but to revamp your whole squad with young players who haven’t experienced playing at this level is a mistake worthy of relegation in my book.
Refusal To Play Two Up Top -Newcastle’s Premier League survival has hinged on the balance of one very important question, Ayoze Perez or Alexander Mitrovic? The answer? USE BOTH! Apart from Georginio Wijnaldum, Mitrovic and Perez are Newcastle’s top goalscorers this season, and when your team has scored the fewest away goals in across the top four leagues in country, it makes sense to make use of all of your goalscoring options.
Perez’ versatility means that he can be deployed in a number of position, whilst Mitrovic has shown that he is well equipped to handling the physical challenges that come with playing in England. However, attempts to use either striker on their own this season has left Newcastle short in goalscoring department. Despite both players being inexperienced they also offer Newcastle a goalscoring threat that Papiss Cissé, Emmanuel Riviére and Yoan Gouffran just haven’t been able to provide this season.
Too Little Too Late – There really isn’t too much to say about the signings of Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend except that they’re just what Newcastle needed! In Shelvey and Townsend Newcastle have signed two players who are on the fringes of England’s Euro 2016 and desperate to prove a point to their doubters. With over 200 Premier League appearances between them and still on the right side of 25 they are guaranteed to make an impact at St James’ Park.
Everything above is what I would’ve have said if Newcastle signed both players at the beginning of the season, but they didn’t. They signed them in January, and are expecting them to make a big enough impact to keep the club in the Premier League. This has too little too late written all over it.
Like I said, there really isn’t much to say about the signings of Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend apart from, right signings at the wrong time…
Poor Management Choice – Probably the biggest error that has condemned Newcastle to life in the league below was the appointment of Steve McClaren.
His career has been dogged by a question mark that he just hasn’t been able to shake off, is he better suited to the role of ‘Coach or Manager? Manager or Coach?’, after this season the answer will probably be… COACH.
Prior to taking up the position of Newcastle manager, McClaren was manager at Derby County in the Championship where he was SACKED are failing to lead them to promotion. Prior to that he was manager of FC Twente in the Eredivisie where he was SACKED. Prior to that he was manager of Nottingham Forest and RESIGNED after winning just two of his ten games in charge. In fact the last time that Steve McClaren tasted any success as a manager was 6 years ago during his first spell in charge of FC Twente.
If McClaren’s recent ‘report card’ of managerial failings wasn’t enough to suggest that he may not have been the best appointment Newcastle have made, the fact that he hasn’t managed in the Premier League for almost 10 years should have been. The role of Newcastle manager at this current time is not for a manager needs time to find his feet.
This may seem like a harsh assessment of Steve McClaren, but he just hasn’t proven that he is cut out to deal with the demands of rebuilding this team’s confidence or ultimately the pressures of a relegation battle. I would be very surprised to see Steve McClaren still in charge at the end of the season and even more surprised to see Newcastle still in the league.