Newcastle United’s hopes in thin air with Steve McClaren not helping either

The manager has failed to stop the slide and, despite having some good players, a fighting spirit to avoid relegation has gone missing, writes Greg Lea.

Steve McClaren has been left scratching his head after failing to revive the fortunes of Newcastle United this season. Clive Rose / Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Most Newcastle United fans would not be in favour of their club copying arch-rivals Sunderland's way of doing things too often.

When Sam Allardyce’s charges provided the perfect blueprint for beating Crystal Palace away from home last week, however, the best course of action for Newcastle was not to simply ignore it.

Indeed, just five days after Sunderland produced a defensive masterclass to pick up all three points at Selhurst Park, Steve McClaren’s men were thrashed 5-1 by Palace and booed off the pitch by their travelling supporters, who chanted that they were “sick” of their team being so poor.

It was a truly dismal performance from Newcastle, who failed to demonstrate anything that even remotely resembled a coherent game plan.

Palace’s tricky winger Wilfried Zaha was able to isolate full-back Paul Dummett one-on-one far too often, while Yannick Bolasie was afforded plenty of space to carry the ball through the centre of the pitch on the counter-attack.

James McArthur continually made untracked runs through midfield to get on the end of crosses and cut-backs.

Striker Connor Wickham got the better of centre-halves Chancel Mbemba and Fabricio Coloccini with his physicality and astute movement.

Even when Newcastle took the lead through Papiss Cisse early on, it was obvious that Palace would ultimately have too much for their opponents going forward.

Failing to reorganise his side into a deep and compact defensive shape to protect that one-goal lead was a major mistake by McClaren.

The manager now finds himself under a lot of pressure after his side slipped to 19th place in the Premier League table.

The former England manager has hardly covered himself in success this term, but the problems run deeper than the man on the touchline.

ALSO

Newcastle are a club stuck in a rut. Alan Pardew departed St James’s Park in January with the team in ninth place. Two wins, four draws and 12 defeats followed under interim manager John Carver, before relegation was narrowly avoided with victory over West Ham United on the final day of the 2014/15 campaign.

Pardew was never a popular figure among Newcastle followers, but it now seems as if he was the glue that was holding a difficult situation together.

Owner Mike Ashley remains as unpopular as ever, with much of the recent criticism sent in his direction.

The players, too, have rightly been condemned after another inept display on Saturday.

It was notable that Newcastle fans dished out abuse to everyone but goalkeeper Rob Elliot when the XI that finished the match went over to applaud those who had made the long journey to London at the final whistle.

Individually, Newcastle have some fine players: Ayoze Perez, Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Daryl Janmaat have all been linked with top-four clubs at various points in the last 12 months.

Their recruitment policy in the summer was widely praised at the time, moreover, with Wijnaldum, Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic all seen as positive acquisitions.

But there is a real lack of fight and spirit within the ranks, qualities that are desperately needed when it comes to battling against the drop.

The damning statistic that Newcastle have rescued just two points from losing positions in the whole of 2015 sums up the sense of lifelessness currently engulfing the club.

When coupled with some strange tactical decisions – or the complete lack of them at Selhurst Park at the weekend – it is easy to see why McClaren’s side are struggling near the foot of the table.

McClaren said after the game that it is far too early in the campaign to be panicking, but given that many of the features of their malaise have gone unresolved for some time now, the situation at Newcastle appears far bleaker from the outside than their manager is letting on.

sports@thenational.ae

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @NatSportUAE