Newcastle United: 5 Takeaways from the Magpies' Gutting Loss at Wigan
Bad luck has never and will never be a good excuse for poor results in the Premier League.
But in the case of Newcastle today, it certainly played a part.
Two injuries in 10 minutes to full-backs (one of which was on a horrendous challenge from Wigan's Callum McManaman) and a blatant handball on a stoppage-time winner contributed to the Magpies' downfall.
Newcastle remains in 13th position, but a 2-1 loss against a team like Wigan has to be a blow to the confidence of a team riding a wave of Europa League-induced confidence.
After a week off, Alan Pardew and co. head to the Etihad to take on a reeling Manchester City side that will surely be tougher to handle.
Despite playing without team leader Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle shouldn't be happy with their performance.
DW Stadium Is Still Geordie Kryptonite
Newcastle now have just one win in seven matches at DW Stadium.
A record like that against a team like Wigan is jarring.
Yet somehow, some way, Roberto Martinez has the Magpies' number on a consistent basis at home.
Last season, Wigan drubbed a high-flying Newcastle team 4-0 in a match crucial to the club's success in their relegation battle.
This year, through slightly less convincing means, Wigan eked out a last-minute victory over a Newcastle club with all the momentum in the world.
They may have gotten lucky with a bit of a hometown call. On a corner kick in the 90th minute, Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa clearly handled the ball, creating a chance in the Newcastle box that pinballed around several players before Arouna Kone was able to find the back of the net.
However, it's hard to argue with results as consistent as Wigan's, and if Martinez's men can pull off another survival miracle, Alan Pardew best figure out how to solve the Latic puzzle.
Newcastle Are Forever Doomed to Have a Man on the Physio's Table
Murphy's Law has been proven true in the legs and backs of anyone wearing a Newcastle jersey.
Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Dan Gosling, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor and Haris Vuckic are all significant players who have missed significant portions of the season due to injury.
Now, Mathieu Debuchy and Massadio Haïdara may be added to the list.
Debuchy, the starting right-back, was forced to come off after suffering a hamstring strain in the 14th minute. While it may just be a strain, Newcastle fans need only look to Hatem Ben Arfa to see just how devastating harmless-looking hamstring injuries can be.
His replacement, Massadio Haïdara, wasn't on the pitch long.
In the 23rd minute, Wigan striker Callum McManaman's ridiculous knee-high tackle knocked Haïdara out of commission. He was unable to even get on his feet and had to be stretchered off.
This had some obvious game ramifications. With Danny Simpson left off the bench, Jonas Gutierrez was forced to move into an unnatural left-back position. Alan Pardew was left with just one substitution for the final hour of the game. And the lack of even a yellow card on McManaman put Wigan in a much stronger position than was deserved.
However, if either injury proves to be serious, the Magpies will lose the depth that has made them so potent over the past two months and leave themselves open to falling back into the dreaded relegation battle.
Davide Santon Caught Napping on Defense
It was a rough first half for Newcastle full-backs, and Davide Santon was no exception.
When Mathieu Debuchy was forced off the pitch with a hamstring injury and Massadio Haïdara came on, Santon moved from left- to right-back, and he never had much time to adjust before Wigan struck.
In the 18th minute, Geordie villain of the day Callum McManaman put a cross in the box past Haïdara that should have been dealt with by Santon.
However, the Italian international lost track of where he was and found himself entirely unable to get into a defensive position before Jean Beausejour entered the scene and shot the ball under Rob Elliot.
Santon has been quite an asset for Alan Pardew, being the only member of the squad to feature in every Premier League match in a season full of injuries. With Jonas Gutierrez typically featuring on the left wing, Santon's defensive issues have frequently been nullified by the Argentine's ability to cover his runs.
But when left all alone in a position to make a play, Santon let himself and the club down.
On the Other End of the Pitch, However...
What he lacked in defensive efficiency in the first half, Santon made up for with striking accuracy in the second.
In the 72nd minute, Santon was picked out with a beautiful pass just outside the box from an unlikely source, striker Papiss Cisse. He took one touch and calmly pounded the ball past Wigan keeper Joel Robles.
Santon's offensive efforts have been invaluable during a season in which creative players like Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye have frequently been absent, and his consistent presence in the first XI alone made his goal a well-deserved one.
Interestingly enough, that goal was the first for a Newcastle defender on the season, highlighting among other things the weakness of the club's corner kicks.
The Club Deserves Next Weekend Off
Alan Pardew has used Newcastle's place in the Europa League as an excuse on many occasions for his squad's poor play.
Rarely has it been more than talk, but at this point, players like Moussa Sissoko and Cheick Tiote seem to be justifiably exhausted.
After playing an incredibly tough Anzhi Makhachkala side on Thursday in a match that truly went down to the final whistle, there wasn't much time for a rest.
Playing without Yohan Cabaye (and playing the second half without Mathieu Debuchy and Massadio Haïdara) took its toll, and Arouna Kone's controversial goal left the team mentally and physically defeated.
After a tough match against Wigan in which nothing went their way, the Magpies will have a well-earned rest before heading to Manchester to take on Roberto Mancini's beleaguered Citizens.
It will be the toughest challenge yet for Pardew's new French signings and will go a long way in determining whether this Newcastle season has been a mild disappointment or a true nerve-wracking disaster.