Hardly a thriller against the Villa

By Lee Ryder on Aug 19, 07 05:15 PM

Just two games into the new season and I hate to say it but a little bit of uncertainty has already crept in for Newcastle United.

Let's not get too down in the dumps.

But United could not build on their superb start at Bolton and had it not been for Steve Harper, they could easily have lost to an average looking Aston Villa side.

If your glass is still half full, Newcastle's luck in front of goal deserted them on the day and with a little bit more time the goals will flow when Mark Viduka and Alan Smith get their feet under the table and Michael Owen shakes off the cobwebs and gets a good run in the team.

But the half empty brigade will point to the fact that United lacked creativity in midfield and fear that Sam Allardyce's tactics could end up denying them both points and entertainment.

The atmosphere ahead of kick-off could not have been better and not for the first time in Toon history the players could not match the superb black and white backdrop around them on a disappointing day.

True, Newcastle have two more points in the bag than the champions Man United at the moment and have played a game less but having used Oba Martins, Viduka and Owen to try to rip the Villa defence open and having the likes of Smith and Milner on the field - it never looked like happening for the Magpies.

And the fact that David Rozenhal came the closest to opening the scores tells its own sad story.

We all got excited by the opening day win at Bolton eight days ago but with the Trotters rooted to the bottom of the table, it's hardly looking like the result of the century is it?

Nevertheless after the short international interval, which basically consists of a night of keeping fingers, toes and anything else crossed in the hope that nobody gets injured, Newcastle will hopefully re-emerge unscathed for action on Teesside next week to take on Middlesbrough.

Boro, of course, picked up their first win of the season at Fulham yesterday but were counting their lucky stars that David Healy's goal was chalked out late on despite the ball being clearly over the line.

It's a game that Viduka will be looking forward to and after United failed to break down Villa before Owen arrived on the scene just after the hour mark, it's likely the England man will get a go right from the start against the Smoggies.

One noticeable change for United so far this season is the fact the ball is finding its way into the box on a more consistent basis and the pretty stuff that was usually built up from the Toon defensive third has now gone.

But unless United's strikers are going to do something with it, those longer than usual passes will be quickly cleared and Newcastle run the risk of getting caught on the counter like they did against Bolton when Nicolas Anelka scored and yesterday when Nigel Reo-Coker produced a top notch save to deny him.

Not the worst day we've ever had in the office but we're all hoping for plenty better than this.

*Chronicle columnist SuperMac and Joe Allon will be dissecting the action from Sunday's clash at the Riverside with Boro at Players Bar in the Gate at 3.15pm - admission is free.


Egbert J. Souse said:

Terrible game. You can blame Villa's tactics all you want, but we weren't very good. We miss Nobby, even if he's only going to be used for part of the game (though he's certainly better than Carr). We need to hang on to him and get Barton involved. Owen, naturally, is short of fitness, but I would've taken off Viduka before Martins.

There was some terrible central defending yesterday. No change there, then.

Andy Sole said:

I am staying in the half full camp at the moment. I think giving Milner license to roam where ever he wants is great, he is looking fantastic at the moment. Once the new players have afew more games under their belts, there will be plenty of goals. And when the Toon are playing, a clean sheet is something to be savoured.

Peter Harper said:

Whatever way you look at it, four points from 2 games is excellent.That cannot hide the fact that Newcastle United performance-as the home team-was poor.It is no use having great forwards if you cannot give them the ball.N'zogbia played very well but he's not a full back.That's why we bought Enrique and please don't tell me he needs time-he's 21 and naturally fit.
Unfortunately Carr is still at Newcastle.He will do a job in the Championship for a team but not in the Premiership.
Last but not least I hope Sam stops the defence from hoofing the ball airborne from defence when not under pressure.
Progress Report reads:- good start-must be a little more adventurous especially at home.Keep your feet (and the ball) on the ground.
The Geordie Nation expects.......

Ross said:

It wasn't an entertaining game, but it was a game which we would have lost last season and so it represents an improvement.

At home, I imagine the formation will change once Barton, Duff, Emre and Enrique all regain fitness. There are three top class midfielders there who will make a big difference if they can discover some form.

Glass: Well and truly half full

jackie w said:

Keeping clean sheets is all well and good , and yes they do contribute to winning games BUT with the likes of Owen, Martins, Milner,Shola, Smith and the Duke playing a part in this game we needed to be scoring goals . Like Lee says not our worst day but instantly forgettable.Stephen Carr ? dont start me off . One plus for me was Geremi , the lad is brand new and exactly what we need , chuck him in at right back when Emre and Joey are fit and (depending on Enrique) we have a team capable of breaking in to the european slots....Glass nearly full Jackie

gav said:

saturday evening was somewhat of an anti climax for me but to be honest i expected it a lot was put on the team expecting to get a win just because of the way we played last week and the fact we were at home . and to be honest it wasnt a bad result , yes fair enough we didnt create enough chances yes maybe the formation was wrong but this is all very much a work in pogress we have a whole team that are still gelling together, pre season is a totally different to premireship action . It was a clean sheet and knowing our defense in the pass is not too bad so lets not get too hasty we will score more goals and we will play better games ... how can we not when we have the players we have on our side ?

Steve K said:

In all honesty, that wasn't a great deal worse than the Bolton performance- the only difference being at Bolton we got the rub of the green in the first half and afterwards just had a containing job, whereas on Saturday the lack of urgency as the second half wore on was beyond frustrating, as we invited Villa to play themselves into a match they kicked off looking for a point in. Never mind keeping a clean sheet and being able to capitalise on a mistake, as the half wore on we looked more likely to make the mistake by inviting pressure on ourselves.

Allardyce is right to prioritise defensive improvements, but this does not excuse the lack of any sort of gameplan going forwards. Often the best form of defence is attack, especially at St James' Park. If you keep the opposition hemmed in their half, they aren't going to put much pressure on your back four are they?

Big Sam correctly states that ignoring the defensive side of the team has cost a lot previous managers their jobs, but in ignoring the need for any attacking organisation (punting it high in the air does not count) he is being both hypocritical and making a rod for his own back. 4-3-3/4-5-1 will work well away from home, but at home 4-4-2 offers more width, and a door-opener such as Emre or Nobby needs to start.

In short, 4 points is not a bad start at all and a great job has been done revamping the defence, especially if Faye and/or Belletti join this week. Attack-wise Sam has the tools already at his disposal- he just needs to spend a bit of time working with them in training.



JC said:

Poor game. Villa intent on making things difficult, sat in waiting to counter attack. In truth Newcastle were just as disappointing. We were crying out for some width, something to stretch Villa. All in all though, encouraging start. Something to build on, I'm sure most of us would have taken 4 points from the first 2 games before the season started. Get rid of Carr and bring in Belleti and Deco. That would be the dream deadline transfers

Ronnie ( Busker ) Lambert said:

Loved the effort from the crowd, I sang my lungs out and my throat was like a piece of raw steak. But as the game deteriorated, so did the singing as that old bad feeling crept into the magnificent Mag support. It was a bit like David v Goliath out there, Villa were giants in defence and at corners. We looked tiny in comparison and that realization seemed to panic our lot into hoofing the ball away at every opportunity, unless of course they were told to do that. A 4X4X2 in my humble opinion would have scared Villa to death with our pace. Midfield creativity wasn't there, I hope Joey doesn't go down or we're in queer street. Our strikers didn't get a chance with that, dare I say ' system ?', and don't blame Owen's ringrust. Without slide-rule passes from midfield, our pace won't count. I can only blame Sam's home debut nerves for that dodgy 4x3x3, but how it showed on the forward's faces from 3 rows from front, behind the Gallowgate goal. On a plus, Milner,Zog and Rozy were great, the rest need a bit more bedding in time and Taylor needs to remember he's no Gazza. Glass half full though.

brainwashed said:

Far, far too soon to be critical though I must admit I was expecting more on Saturday - reminded me of the Jackie Charlton era when his priority was 'not to concede '. I didn't enjoy watching many matches then, either!

Paul Patterson said:

Well my glass is currently, er, well, empty, I’ll just go and get a fresh one, hang on a minute!!

Right I’m back, FULL pint of Guinness in tow, for I’m currently holed up in the Centurion station bar, toiling away with my glorified typewriter, but the match (Although I wasn’t present for) on T.V came across pretty much like everyone’s being saying, A Snorefest!!

I share the common opinion that 4-3-3 at home doesn’t work (Although it really is 4-5-1 with width) but on the strength of the two games we’ve played, we really have nothing to worry about as we have a game in hand which will propel us into the top three if (IF!!) we beat the unclean from Smogside.

This side will get goals, don’t you worry about that, it’s just a blip really, the time when this result will be felt hardest, will be in May 2008, for if we are two points off our target, UEFA Cup or Champions League (How high are your sights) then it will look a painful result.

This season shapes up to be a strange one for the league in general, my tip of Arsenal struggling, whilst I still think they will finish below Newcastle United, looks a bit contrasting with regards to Manchester United’s start.

I think we can take it as a positive that Manchester’s second club City, have shot into a lead, as they undoubtedly WONT stay there, leaving another gap for a Newcastle or Spurs to replace come Summer next year, and I’m sure were all happier with our start than our opposite numbers at White Hart Lane.

In Summary, Good Start, as we would have lost both games last season, improvement needed.

And to answer your question Lee? Bugger Me!! Empty again, I’m sorry about this, Hang On a Minute.



Mark in Washington DC said:

Well I have to say I dont disagree with the coments about a better start to the season, but sorry I can already see shades Bolton and the roeder factor which knocked us out of euro last season. Loads of pace so what do we do play narrow 4-3-3 and so don't create any gaps for the pace boys to exploite...tell you what lets surprise them plan 'B' the long ball. Sorry Sam you got it wrong if you make a change, then make a change..especially at home, like for like when your getting nothing ain't gonna work in anyones book. A couple of the guys have mentioned Geremi...can someone tell me where he was supposed to be playing as he spent half if not more running around taking free kicks and throw-in's, how about he pays on the right and stays there to do his job and not try to do everything (and he ain't no captain). To be honest I can't understand why HE is not covering left back (as he is supposed to be a good defender) and Milner is not playing on the right (were he has been brilliant for us) this will let Enzob loose on the left. In a match that seemed to have lots of fuel and there where no matchs, honestly the sparks I saw were harps fantastic save and Smithy appearing everywhere to make solid challenges. As I have said a good start to the season points wise but at present I think we have taken a step back from the promise of the pre-season and are looking at clash between the same old Big Sam tactics (Long Ball) and the all to familiar state on the pitch of players not knowing what they should be doing and as a result not playing as a unit.

RESULT: Mutli-million pound attack force and one shot on target (from a defender) at home..No chances created at home...defensive formation at home. If this stays the same its gonna be the same old long season.

Genghiz said:

I think if the defense can play like that all year, except for the one fumble Taylor had when he was pushed around, boring defensive games can win many points. I do agree with the glass half empty in that nobody was able to create. United was missing 1 player that was able to create by passing players and catching the attention of the opposing defense. Still very early in the season. Can't wait for the January 2008 standings.

Andy Charles said:

Duff a top class midfielder? Milner's far better on the left than Duff. He never gives up; saome games, Duff barely gets started. Yes, let's give them time, but this the type of game we ought to be winning at fortress St James. I was disapointed in Smith, Viduka and Carr on Saturday. When Smith's good, he's very good, when he's not, he gets frustrated and his game goes to pot and he becomes a liability. I wonder if he might have done a better job up front instead of Viduka who looked completely off the pace (although I'm sure getting on the end of high balls from the defence isn't his game). Shola looked good when he came on and that's something I find hard to admit.

Markus said:

I believe this was a point won rather than 2 lost. Could see at half time that this was one of those days we were never going to score. I had kittens everytime Butt had the ball because his control was terrible. Thought that Milner was MOM and Oba was more threatening in first half, his pace really upset their defence. I feel Smith was not in the game enough and I was expecting more of those dangerous set piece runs. Still Villa are a very good team and we haven't gelled yet. 4-4-2 with a proper left back and winger with Barton (providing he is not in stir) should provide the weapons. I think Ameobi should have been brought on before Owen because only Villa were going to win the game when MO came on.


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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