This game was over by the 60-minute mark. Once again, the defense failed to show up in a big match, letting up way too many chances and inviting pressure too often.
As much as Karl Darlow can do to make up for the defensive breakdowns the team has had all year, he can only hold it together for so long.
That showed against Fulham on Saturday. Vurnon Anita struggled and seemed to be the one beaten for the third goal. A failed clearance from Ciaran Clark accounted for the second goal. It seemed like they were scrambling throughout much of the match.
It is clear that the absence of Deandre Yedlin was felt with the performance on Saturday. The fullback pairing of Anita and Paul Dummett is troubling. Anita should not be starting on defense. He is a midfielder, plain and simple. Dummett is not good enough to be a Premier League left back. He is arguably qualified to be a left back in the Championship.
Clark has been very up and down this season. He seems to be a good fit as a cover for the first team next year. Jamaal Lascelles is the leader of the back four. His play has been solid enough to indicate he should be starting next year, but his leadership gives him some added value.
While it is clear that this Newcastle team still has a lot of work to do to secure promotion, looking ahead to next season is important.
One of our other writers, Nicky Topping, tackled the issue of where Rafa Benitez and his staff should be looking to upgrade this team. Nicky’s article first focuses on defense, which is where Newcastle will need to improve most to ensure that relegation is not where the team returns after just one year.
Last year, Newcastle allowed more goals than just three teams. Two of those three teams were relegated with them. The other, Bournemouth, finished 16th only five points clear of the drop zone. Defense will be the difference in whether or not this Championship campaign will become a memory or a regular occurrence.