I personally can’t remember a worse start for Newcastle in a Premier League season, this start has even eclipsed the start made by Steve McClaren’s high spending squad. Questions really need to be asked as to how this slump can turn itself around, and whether lack of investment is to play, and I am playing devil’s advocate here, considering we on paper had a weaker side last season and finished 10th.
The deserved animosity towards owner Mike Ashley in my opinion must be having an effect on the managerial and playing staff, even if in front of the camera they will tell you otherwise. The displeasure from the crowd towards the ownership is there for all to hear, and in recent games that negativity has started to move towards Rafa and the players. The last home game against Brighton, which again ended in defeat saw boos aimed at Rafa’s substitution of bringing Muto off for Joselu, and boo’s probably more at the performance rang out from sections of St James’ at full time.
The main question is how can it be changed, especially with a massive game against Southampton this weekend. Do you drop Perez and Diame, who for me have been the weak links in recent weeks. The other option is to promote players from the under-23’s, who have been the bright spark in an otherwise dour season for the toon. I know Rafa has been quoted in the past saying that he prefers experience in fights like the one we find ourselves in, and lets not sugar coat this, we are looking at our third relegation under Mike Ashley, dead in the face. But why not give the young lads a chance, when that different sort of spark is needed.
When goals at the minute seem to be the main sticking point, the first player I would look at is Elias Sorensen, who has been scoring for fun for the Under-23’s this season. After scoring another hat-trick the other night against Aston Villa, should he be considered to make the jump to the first team, with Rondon injured (although back training) and Joselu is well Joselu. I’m not saying start the lad, but a place on the bench could be deserved, and that one chance could be all he needs.
I would also look at Cal Roberts, Sean Longstaff and Jamie Sterry. All for me seem ready to make the jump up, and after the earlier cup exit to Nottingham Forest, Longstaff and Sterry were the only bright sparks on that night. Roberts as well can always pop up with the odd goal, but alongside Adam Wilson (who I think it may be too soon for) seem to be setting up goals for fun.
They may not make an instant impact, or it could be that at their current level, they have found theirs, and will consistently perform at that level. But what is the harm in giving them a chance. As it stands, we are bottom, have 2 points, what have we got to lose. In a round about way it could have a good effect on the first team, if they truly want what’s best for the club, the inclusion of the young lads, who could be a legitimate threat to their first team place may get them to perform better. I’m not saying this is going to be a quick fix, but could this be putting the proverbial plaster over a deep wound?
Could it mean a change in tactics could be the way to go? By moving away from Rafa’s 4-4-1-1 formation, going for a more traditional 4-4-2, or completely changing it up. I am in no doubt that first win will eventually come, but it’s a matter of when, and against who?
Could a change up in midfield be on the cards, Diame for me just hasn’t performed to level he had in the second half of last season, so why not give Ki a chance alongside Shelvey. Ki must be fit, he has regularly been putting in 90 mins for South Korea. Could a Muto and Joselu partnership work until Rondon is 100% fit. Again with Perez I’m not seeing it this season, at the minute feels like the lad would be pushed of the ball by a strong wind. We all know there must be changes at boardroom level, but performances on the pitch need to go hand in hand with the support we give. I am not questioning Rafa’s credentials as a manager, I honestly don’t think we will get better, but maybe a change in tactics and starting personnel, will not only confuse the opponent, but could give us that kick start to the season.