Embarrassing. Shambolic. Unacceptable. These are the words likely running through manager Rafa Benitez’s mind after another poor Newcastle performance at home to Everton.
The match had started very brightly for Newcastle, with the Magpies looking the more dangerous of the two sides.
That lasted until the 27th minute when Karl Darlow inexplicably fumbled Aaron Lennon’s header and Wayne Rooney scrambled in the loose ball.
Matt Ritchie had previously thundered a strike against the woodwork, while Mikel Merino crashed an effort from distance against the opposite post later on the first half.
Beyond that the game lacked any real creativity or excitement, and Newcastle saw out another poor home defeat, compounded by a Jonjo Shelvey dismissal seconds before the final whistle.
It spells really worrying times on Tyneside as St. James’ Park watched another embarrassingly sub-par performance from Newcastle.
We know our team lacks Premier League talent, but we’re starting to realise just how out of our depth the makeshift, Championship-quality side we have really is.
Everton weren’t great today, they’ve been poor this season, and yet they still walked away with three points and Newcastle left empty-handed.
We seem to suffer from this strange phenomenon at Newcastle whereby we are a fantastic team for the open 10 minutes or so.
We come out of the gates flying, catch teams off guard and really get the crowd up and going. Joselu even got a goal during this period at the weekend against Leicester.
The problem is, once it’s ticked past those ten, occasionally fifteen, minutes we seem to give up and plummet back down to Earth.
We drift a few yards off the opposition players and we let the opponents come into the game again, and they punish us. It has happened consistently in the last five or six games, and we’ve been punished nearly every time.
That can’t happen at a Premier League club.
At least, not at a one that has ambitions to grace the top flight for more than a single season.
It’s a problem that isn’t easily fixed either, because I can’t tell if its an attitude problem, or a tactical one.
There is no question that Rafa Benitez is a fantastic tactician, but I worry that he is perhaps burning out our players by asking for this huge intensity immediately, which invariably leads to this following lull – a lull in which teams often punish us.
And that is the biggest problem with Newcastle right now. We get punished during this lax period and we’re forced to chase the game.
The Magpies do not have the quality of player to chase the game and turn a result around. Even when we think we do, like against Leicester, we end up throwing it all away at the end.
This game against Everton was similar. We showed real fight at the start, lured the crowd into a false sense of hope and passion, then a shocking mistake by Darlow – I honestly hope Rob Elliot reclaims his place in the starting lineup next week – led to us being behind.
Yet, the problems had already sprung ten minutes or so before Everton’s goal, because we’d all of a sudden past that 10-15 minute mark and our intensity vanished.
Everton began to work the ball around and took control. One glimmer of energy from Matt Ritchie led to us driving the ball against the woodwork, just moments before Rooney’s opening goal, but that was the only Newcastle attack for a 20 minute period.
After the intensity and passion of the starting few minutes, to drop into that poor of an attacking form so suddenly is not acceptable. It’s what costs us points.
It’s what could cost us our Premier League status.
The goal itself that Rooney scored, honestly, there aren’t words to describe it.
I was surprised Karl Darlow kept his place in the team after recent results, but he did make a couple of saves against Leicester – even if he should have had a stronger hand for Mahrez’s goal.
Either way, I hope he’s not in net against Arsenal.
Darlow was susceptible to making goal-costing mistakes last season in the Championship – a howler against Norwich springs first to mind – and it was said then that if he did it in the Premier League we’d be punished.
Well enter from stage right Wayne Rooney, because that is exactly what happened.
He shouldn’t have had any problems clutching hold of Aaron Lennon’s header, and yet the ball squirmed its way out of his hands and along the goal line, to be stabbed home by a 32-year-old striker who, as much as he is an experienced goalscorer, has no real pace left in his legs and yet still reacted fastest.
Mikel Merino was unlucky not to get a wonder goal for Newcastle shortly after when he struck a thunderous effort from around 30 yards out that cannoned off the inside of Jordan Pickford’s goal, but that was around the end of Newcastle’s real attacking intent – just 35 minutes into the game.
Neither side offered too much in a relatively dull second half.
Darlow made a save to keep out Ashley Williams in the second half after a nice Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick delivery, while Mo Diame inexplicably failed to stretch out and prod home a towering knockdown from Florian Lejeune.
Finally, with seconds left to go of the four additional minutes, Shelvey – already booked – went in with a late challenge on an Everton player and was promptly dismissed.
It was the perfect summary of how Newcastle’s match and season was going – started kind of brightly, and skyrocketed downwards from there on out.
Shelvey’s suspension is just another unnecessary issue ahead of the away trip to Arsenal, a journey Newcastle fans go to with about as much optimism as could be expected given the current form – absolutely none.
The loss also meant that no side has won fewer points in Europe’s big five leagues since the start of November than Newcastle – which is made even worse when you remember Italy’s Benevento play in one of those five leagues, a side whose only point of the season came from a 94th minute header by their goalkeeper.