Newcastle United completed their slate of preseason matches today at St. James' Park with a 1-0 loss to 3rd place Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach. One would have been forgiven for thinking that Steve McClaren would have started his preferred XI and played them for an appreciable length of time. We can speculate whether that is in fact what we saw or not, but Chancel Mbemba's second half introduction at right back perhaps shows that McClaren is still in "get folks minutes and see where things fall" mode.
Not knowing exactly what our new coach's mindset is makes drawing hard conclusions difficult, but there were some things that were easy to tell:
- The sharp edges are coming off of the passing game McClaren is installing. The first half in particular saw Newcastle keep control of the ball and move it comfortably and smartly. Questions can be raised about Mönchengladbach's motivation in the first 45 minutes, but it also bears noting that Gladbach do like a wait-and-counter type of play. it is likely more of an encouraging thing for Newcastle than an indictment of Gladbach that we were able to do what we did on the ball today.
- It is worrying to go into the season without further reinforcement at CB. Steven Taylor was directly culpable for the Gladbach goal as he gave the ball away cheaply in the box leading to an easy pass to and nice finish from Thorgen Hazard.
- We may actually give people some difficulty from corner kicks. We have scored twice from them this preseason and today we showed a couple of different looks that led to good chances. This is much better than where we have been for the last number of years.
- Newcastle hit the woodwork twice. Moussa Sissoko smashed the crossbar early in the second half off a brilliantly played ball over the top by Vurnon Anita while Aleksandar Mitrovic would take a turn to hit the post later in the half when he really should have done better. Yes, it's discouraging to lose again, but in reality we're 6 inches from a 2-1 scoreline and feeling pretty good today.
- Aleksandar Mitrovic is going to excite a lot of people this year. He manages to get himself into dangerous positions and gets stuck in on the defensive side of things. Who knows what we've got in Chancel Mbemba, our new CB who came on for Daryl Janmaat at.... RB.
- The progress that you can see on the pitch is massive. We're going to be OK long-term. There is evident need for more reinforcements to come in. If they do, we could even be better than OK. I'm not ready to jump off a cliff here yet.