Newcastle United were poor today. Daryl Janmaat was over-matched by Jefferson Montero and ended up forcing his way into a second-yellow sending off. The rest of the squad had already lost their nerve. Garry Monk's Swansea are a possession-based team, which is what Steve McClaren aspires to. Unfortunately, we were unable to pressure the ball and disrupt Swansea to any way shape or form.. Swansea were able to establish where their matchup advantage was early on and they exploited it all day long. (Oh, and both goalscorers were long-term NUFC transfer targets, so that was fun.)
What did we honestly learn from this match? Our defense is still desperate for reinforcement. The lack of a viable backup to Daryl Janmaat handcuffed McClaren into hoping he could nurse a very bad matchup to half-time. We paid the price and on the day, we were never going to be able to recover. Moreover, we're still dire defending crosses. In the short term, the assertion is that the fullbacks must stop those crosses from coming, but the fact is that your center backs have got to be able to deal with crosses when they do come in. Andre Ayew scored from a header right at the heart of the defense and frankly should have had another as he exploited the ever-present pocket in the center of Newcastle's defense. These were both between Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini... players who should have some degree of knowledge of each other and be able to communicate on a meaningful level.
Papiss Cissé was not the man for us today. When you can't keep any sort of possession, you can't afford a single striker who a) is not providing anything through his movement, b) is turning the ball over when he does get it and c) is making a token effort to pressure the opposition when they're controlling everything. Aleksandar Mitrovic has been Steve's first striker off the bench and earned another quick yellow card (which again could have been red) which is not helpful - but suggests that maybe we ought to be looking to Ayoze Perez and a slight shift in formation (4-4-1-1?) as we move forward.
Steve McClaren was always going to have an uphill battle to be prepared for this season. He was not helped with the timing of the transfers in. Getting Mbemba in so late in the window when it was clear he was going directly into the lineup was a symptom of the larger problem. Yes, the club have spent and yes we have upgraded talent. There is still a lack of urgency that is hindering on-pitch progress. Not having RB cover is inexcusable and is not Steve's fault (if we are to believe his limited influence on player acquisition).
It feels bad, and this match was bad. Not one player was exempt from criticism in this match. This doesn't change who or what players are. Daryl Janmaat was poor today, but over the course of last season, he proved he is Premier League quality. We'll miss him next week for sure. There is also concern that Moussa Sissoko could join him as he was taken off at halftime with a possible injury. He would be a big miss, especially if he were to be at his imperious best. Today was discouraging, but no team is relegated two matches into the season. The test now is to see if Steve McClaren can pick the team up after an awful performance and get them prepared for a difficult next match with a makeshift back line.