Post Game Thread: Everton 2, Newcastle United 1

Not a good day.

Any loss hurts; that's a given.  This one stings pretty bad, mostly for two reasons: (1) Newcastle dominated possession, even before Everton went ahead.  The lack of finishing is frustrating, and this time I don't believe you can lay it all at the foot of the strikers. (2) Most of the other results around the Premier League today were not favorable to Newcastle's position in the table.  Two teams in the drop zone won today, pushing the relegation threshold up, while the squads all around NUFC in the table earned points, save for Stoke City, which has had a run of poor form lately.  While I still don't fear relegation like I did when the season started, this team is not safe yet and until they are, losses against other mid-table teams will continue to give me an ulcer. At the very least, this game should push qualifying for European competition out of the conversation for all but the most delusional factions of the Toon Army, especially with that 7th spot gone.

But let's talk about the game.  It felt like NUFC were playing against themselves today, in part because injury kept Joey Barton out again.  I liked Pardew's idea to put Danny Simpson in at the right wing; in fact, I think he could end up sticking there eventually.  However, when Jose Enrique Sanchez went down with an apparent hamstring injury, Pardew was forced to shuffle the formation again, resulting in at least 3 players playing in space that they're not used to occupying.  The team as a whole did do well in possession, led of course by Cheik Tiote, and while much of the second half was spent in the attacking third, Tim Howard went mostly untested.  You've got to credit Everton's defense for that, but with 60% possession you expect to see more than 13 shots on goal and certainly more than 3 shots on target.

Defensively, they were a mess.  It seems obvious to say so when the opposition scores twice in 5 minutes, but watching the game it was clear that the back four was continually abused, especially by Louis Saha.  I'd like to blame it on the shuffled deck, but not one of the defenders had what you can consider a good showing. 

The big picture takeaway, in my opinion, is that this team needs to get healthy.  They've got two weeks to do so, but right now, they're struggling to put 11 players on the field.  That's no excuse for what happened today; it's not too much to expect better attacking in the final third.  However, Newcastle will desperately need to get the maximum number of points from the next three fixtures before being tested down the stretch.  Otherwise, we may be talking about an epic collapse.

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