You can have all the tactics and formations you like but if you do not have fight, determination and some effort, there is no point setting foot on a football pitch. Steve Bruce will undoubtedly be ridiculed for his team selection, however, it is not the fifty-nine year old on the pitch constantly misplacing the simplest of passes.
Newcastle United were without a number of key men for their trip to the Etihad, the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin, Isaac Hayden and Jamaal Lascelles did not travel with the squad, while Miguel Almiron was an unused substitute on a night where Newcastle’s fringe players simply failed to impress. This was a perfect opportunity for players such as Valentino Lazaro, DeAndre Yedlin and Nabil Bentaleb to step up to the mark. Instead Newcastle’s regulars were gravely missed.
Manchester City opened the scoring through Gabriel Jesus, who had struggled in front of goal before this game. In fact Jesus, was the only City player in the box. That didn’t matter one jot as Newcastle gifted him the space he needed to slot past a helpless Martin Dubravka. Riyad Mahrez made it 2-0 eleven minutes later with almost a carbon copy of City’s opener. Newcastle missed Lascelles’ leadership and organisation, the Magpies were all at sea at the back.
If any goal summed up a game it was City’s third, Matt Ritchie in his attempts to clear the danger smashed the ball off Federico Fernandez and into the back of the net. It was 4-0 seven minutes later when Man of the Match, David Silva, converted a sublime free-kick. Sadly for Newcastle the punishment didn’t end there, Raheem Sterling put the cherry on the top for City with their fifth in stoppage time.
The most frustrating part about the performance is that Newcastle had learnt nothing from the game against City, just 10 short days ago. There were half hearted attempts to put pressure on Pep Guardiola’s men, pressure that would last a few seconds before regressing very quickly and allowing City the freedom of Manchester. If the FA Cup tie was a training session for City, this was like playing against a bunch of school boys.
With Newcastle safe from relegation, the players could go out and play with freedom and no pressure. It looked like many of the players out there already had their flip flops on, in particular Fabian Schar, who quite simply wanted to be somewhere else. Bruce’s men have four games left, away trips to Watford and Brighton and home games against Tottenham and Liverpool.
There are times as a supporter where you fear the worst, from the moment the first goal went in, the Magpies simply caved and downed tools for the evening. Bruce rightly pointed out the number of important players missing, though he must be seething with the distinct lack of effort shown by the players.
Should Newcastle play like that in their final four fixtures, they will thank their lucky stars they are already safe from the relegation trap door.