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Newcastle 0-1 Liverpool: Quick thoughts about... almost stopping an unstoppable team

Three rapid-fire reactions about Newcastle’s first loss at St James’ Park since December

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Newcastle United couldn’t win for the seventh consecutive time at home facing a top-of-the-division Liverpool squad that was just too much for the Mags. Pool exists this one on top of the Premier League awaiting for Manchester City’s result while the Toon will also be looking at Pep’s side already plotting a bounce next weekend going visiting the Etihad. It’s time to pour some quick reactions about what went down at St James’ Park earlier today.

Let’s get it poppin’.

Three Quick Thoughts

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

1. Howe was brave and made things tough for a nowadays-automatic Liverpool

I mentioned it in yesterday’s preview, but I just wasn’t brave enough to use it as my main/projected XI today. Howe could have deployed his usual 4-3-3 with Wood in the forward line waiting for crosses, ASM and Almirón on the wings, and the reborn trio of Joelinton, Bruno, and Jonjo Shelvey. He could also flip that on its head and play ASM at the top—when he probably screws the fewest amount of opportunities—with Joelinton to the left and one of Longstaff or Willock in the middle of the park. And that’s precisely what Howe did, going for it from the get-go instead of dropping every single soul on a low block and isolating Wood as the lone forward.

And my takeaway is: kudos to Howe. He got things right. If you watched Everton last weekend or Villarreal last Wednesday, they tried to stop Liverpool by packing their area on defense absolutely wanting nothing to do with the ball. Newcastle was forced back because Liverpool is a freaking powerhouse and that happens, but the Magpies played a solid game and the right system—which was excellent at times, mostly in the phases they went forward to press from higher positions up the field—that only a clear gap in talent ended swinging Liverpool’s way.

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

2. Allan Saint-Maximin is not the solution—anywhere on the pitch

I talked about ASM last week. I’m doing it again this weekend. None of these two little points about him are going to paint a nice picture of him, though. ASM was used as a lone striker today—which made sense given the whole tactical system and the ideas behind it—but it never worked. And it will never work. And most worryingly, it’s the full ASM package that comes faulty, not just his lone-forward version. Saint-Maximan is a talented player, but he’s so unique in what he does that he seems more apt for another totally different type of team than that Newcastle is—or should be—trying to become.

ASM can dribble anyone on Earth and has more than enough pace to find proper spaces into which he can run, but he lacks the vision to make the most of his skill set. One would hope Howe has it in him to turn Saint’ximin into a relatively good striker after turning a relatively good striker (Joelinton) into a legit weekly fixture at midfield with box-to-box prowess. That feels less and less possible each passing day with Saint-Maximin, I’m afraid. This squad has some needs all around the pitch, but it’s getting to the point where a true, top-of-the-order striker is getting higher and higher on the priority list for Newcastle this summer.

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League - St. James’ Park Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

3. No need to panic-spend on a goalkeeper nor a wing-back if Matt Targett is retained

I will have the player awards up tomorrow along with the game recap, but I am giving you a glimpse of them with this third quick thought. While some of the chances Liverpool wasted were more about the Reds totally misfiring and wrongly placing their shots, the truth is that at the end of the day Dubravka ended up saving nine shots and, most probably, being the real key for Newcastle to go down just 0-1 at home, including posting a key save over those nine total stops. There have been all sorts of rumors about who will be manning the Magpies nets come next season—honestly, an influx of youth is ultimately needed—but no one would bat an eye if Dubravka retains his starting role at least for a year if he can keep up his extraordinary levels of play.

On the left side of the defense, Aston Villa loanee Matt Targett was also key for the Magpies to keep heavy damage at bay all game long. Howe said yesterday that there will be no decision made on Targett until June and whether or not Newcastle will extend his loan or just straight acquire him for next year. At this point, given what we’ve seen, that should just be a respectful formality. Targett for the reportedly agreed-upon £15M is a bargain of an acquisition, even more knowing how vultures, agents, and all living breathing clubs out there will try to rip NUFC off. Gotta take advantage of Villa’s nonsensical move by adding that clause to the deal.

Game Recap and Top-3 Players coming tomorrow.

Howay the Lads!