Following the 2-1 loss to Liverpool over the weekend’s Premier League finale, pundits and fans alike lit up Cable TV and social media with a river of endless hot takes and pointed criticism for the Magpies that was painfully interchangeable with the condemnation and outrage usually reserved for the fanbases of Manchester United, Tottenham, and Arsenal.
I’ll admit, I was annoyed enough Sunday morning to turn off my phone and go on a long hike so I could ignore the noise for the rest of the afternoon. But when I opened again I realized my anger was a drop compared to the sea of vitriol circulating among the Newcastle fanbase clamoring to sell Miggy Almiron for $5 and sack Eddie Howe.
People, in the words of a wise athlete famous for throwing balls and drinking Ayahuasca, RELAX. R-E-L-A-X.
It would be easy for me to scour the internet and pull up stats to suggest that as a team, Newcastle were better than last year in enough categories to paint a picture in which everything is fine.
The reality is that we are last year’s squad with a few improvements, and we are destined to suffer from the same issues as we did last year, including rough stretches like last February.
But if that doesn’t convince you here are some simple facts:
- 4-0 victory vs. Aston Villa at home, 0-3 loss at Aston Villa last year. 5-1 victory at home this year.
- 3-3 tie vs. Man City at home, 0-2 loss at Man City last year. 0-1 loss at City this year.
- 1-2 loss at Liverpool, 0-2 loss at home, and a ridiculous red card for Nick Pope last year. 1-2 loss at home this year.
The addition of Sandro Tonali was meant to insert some creativity by replacing the defensive Sean Longstaff, who filled a valuable role on Newcastle’s own half while Kieran Trippier and Miggy traded overlaps along the right side all season creating constant corner kicks and scoring chances.
Instead, Tonali is spending time on the ball, and you have probably noticed a more central approach to the offensive build-up which has led to a lot of lateral passes and giveaways between himself and Bruno Guimaraes as they navigate their partnership.
What made Liverpool’s such a frustrating game to watch was that Tripper and Almiron were back to that pass-and-dash overlap style, which was creating numerous scoring chances while Tonali was filling in the space behind them neatly.
On the left side, all Dan Burn and Joelinton had to do was hoof the ball into space and Anthony Gordon was doing the rest, terrorizing their flank while being double-teamed by a 10-man squad.
Sadly, as we all know by now, Miggy is going to have patches of hot and cold. You can understand Eddie Howe’s hesitation to remove a player who is constantly finding himself in front of the goal with space to shoot, which is most likely why he pulled Tonali and Gordon off the pitch instead of Almiron.
Unfortunately, that resulted in a disjointed midfield where Bruno and Joelinton appeared to have no affinity to the offense, leaving Liverpool to intercept multiple passes in prime position to counter-attack.
I’m confident that Howe and the Magpies will be working on the midfield structure this week to ensure that we bounce back, and hopefully, that leads to Alexander Isak finding himself with more scoring opportunities. In the back, it’s crystal clear at this point that either Matt Targett has a lingering injury or his injury woes from last season have permanently affected his speed. Regardless, one thing this match illustrated is that we cannot compete with teams who have speed up front by equipping Dan Burn at LCB and Targett and LB. Can Fabian Schar play LCB? Will we see an appearance from Lewis Hall?
The sky is not falling.
We now know that players like Bruno see the criticism, and get frustrated just like we do. The team will continue to develop and as it stands, we have not lost any ground in comparison to last year’s magical season. Eddie will have a plan to counteract the squads who are hastily drawing up game plans to aggressively overload our left flank.
That being said, last year we defeated Brighton 2-1 away and 4-1 at home. To match last year, on Saturday, we must defeat a Seagull squad who were recently embarrassed 3-1 by West Ham at the AMEX Stadium.
Sven Botman is out with an ankle injury for multiple weeks, by the way. Who’s nervous?