Time to revive an old standby - player ratings. I've rated each player's performance against Manchester City below, with an explanation for each. I look forward to reading your feedback. You may notice if you read this through in order that the scores seem awfully high, at least at first, and that's because I'm very bullish on the performance of the defense, despite the fact that they conceded 3 goals. Also, I don't really follow the convention of giving every player a grade between 6 and 8 - the way a lot of sites do it nowadays, the rating system might as well be 1 through 3.
Tell me what you would change in the comments.
Tim Krul - 7
Krul only made 2 saves Saturday, but one of those was brilliant, a quick reaction against a point-blank Mario Balotelli header. That Balotelli gloated after scoring his penalty makes him look even sillier after that, but I guess he wouldn't be Balotelli otherwise. Anyway, Krul didn't have his best game - he reverted to his ways of hoofing the ball down the field after controlling it, which was ill-advised because (A) Ba was clearly getting abused going for headers down there, (B) City controlled possession from the start, so why not try to take some back via short passes, and (C) Krul has never been that great at the long ball in the first place. However, if it weren't for Tim Krul, they would have scored at least 4 and possibly more.
Danny Simpson - 7
Simpson's missed passes chart is comical. It almost looks like someone lined up a bunch of balls and asked him to cross them into the box, one by one - and he missed all of them.
He had a game that was sort of opposite from what we're used to from him. He looked totally uncomfortable on the offensive side of the pitch, and on the other end, he was calm and collected. In the end, defending is his main job, so I'm happy with the performance.
Steven Taylor - 9
Saylor was my man of the match. His strong play in the middle allowed Coloccini to roam and take chances where he was needed - he often played wider than Raylor. Saylor had 5 blocks, all of them in the box, and that sums up his game perfectly.
Fabricio Coloccini - 8
As I mentioned above, Colo was all over the place - covering for Ryan Taylor, collecting passes in front of the back four, and generally forcing the City players to work hard to find an entry point into the box. There was that weird sequence with Colo and Krul that Steven Taylor bailed them out of, but the Captain hardly put a foot wrong all game otherwise.
Ryan Taylor - 4
There's no excuse for sticking your arm out like that (referring to the first goal). I'm struggling to figure out what he thought the upside of that move was. The shame of it is that Krul was in position to stop the shot. Of course, there was the howler that led to the only open-play goal City scored, and then let's factor in that Coloccini and Gutierrez were constantly in his area helping out. City attempted a total of 10 crosses from deep on their right side - it's clear they saw Taylor as a weakness and worked to exploit it. I'm with OSotP - let's not go on a witch hunt over one match - but there's no denying this was a poor performance.
Sammy Ameobi - 6 (79' OFF)
Sammy seemed uncomfortable Saturday, which is a first for this season, really. He was way too impatient when the ball fell at his feet in the defensive half, and he seemed a little too eager to take on his opponents when a better passing lane was available. Let's also make sure we work on crossing versus shooting in training, okay? I saw some flashes of brilliance, but he must learn to harness them.
Danny Guthrie - 6
Yohan Cabaye - 6 (85' OFF)
Guthrie was supposed to be Cheik Tiote's substitute, and in a way he was, but it turned out that he took Cabaye's place while Yohan slipped back into more of a holding position. I noticed a couple of times while watching the first time that Cabaye had slipped behind Guthrie, but wrote them off as isolated incidents. Turns out that wasn't the case at all. For all the talk about Guthrie's improved defensive skills, either he wasn't trustworthy enough to perform the duty of cleaning up in front of Coloccini and Taylor, or he wasn't comfortable with it. Regardless, both spent a lot of time chasing the City man with the ball rather than creating their own possession. Part of the problem is their apparent lack of chemistry with each other: each found the other only 4 times throughout the entire match. It's easy to say that Newcastle missed Tiote (and it's absolutely true), but it's not just because Guthrie can't do what Cheik does. It's because Cabaye can't do what Cabaye does without Tiote there to support him.
Jonas Gutierrez - 6
Jonas did what he has done all season - stayed at home and played fifth defender in support of Raylor. He's usually able to have some sort of impact offensively, but he was a no-show on that front this week. Part of that was due to Vincent Kompany doing his best Coloccini (I'm well aware of how backward that statement is; just let me indulge in some hero worship), but it was mostly that Jonas was doing a lot of walking and bending over grabbing his shorts. We said before the match that City are like a cat that plays with its food before finally killing and eating it, and Jonas was a definite casualty of that strategy.
Hatem Ben Arfa - 8 (76' OFF)
Ben Arfa was Newcastle's lone attacking threat while he was on the pitch. He was unafraid to take defenders on (though he did give Nigel De Jong a comically wide berth when he had the ball) and it looked like he might break through on a couple of different occasions. It looked like he had a good shot opportunity in the 65th minute, but unselfishly passed to Ba, who missed horribly, and he hit the post a few minutes before that. Basically, HBA was the creative force we know he can be, and as far as I'm concerned, I think he's earned a spot in the Starting XI.
Demba Ba - 5
HBA was supposed to be the withdrawn striker, but he spent more time challenging the defense than Ba did. Ba was rather invisible - he played all 90 minutes and had 18 touches on the ball, as far as I can tell, and 2 of those were missed shots that should have been converted. His aggressiveness was instrumental in setting up Gosling's goal, so give him credit for that. However, much like the Arsenal match, when Thomas Vermaelen shut him down, Ba had no answer for the aggressive man-marking of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott. I'm afraid of what Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are going to be able to do to him next week.
Peter Lovenkrands - INC (76' ON)
My unofficial offical policy is that I don't give grades to players who come on after 75 minutes, which is good for Lovenkrands, as he did absolutely nothing for 14 minutes.
Dan Gosling - INC (79' ON)
Good to see Gosling score a goal. He's had his share of bad breaks and has never really gotten his opportunity on Tyneside. I don't really see that he has a regular place in this squad right now, other than mop-up duty, but you could definitely do worse for a substitute.
James Perch - INC (85' ON)
No yellow card this time! Progress!