Newcastle United: 5 Lessons Learned from Pathetic Effort Against Liverpool
Newcastle United just suffered their worst loss at home since 1925.
Saturday's 6-0 defeat to Liverpool was an embarrassment. For a club with the third-best attendance in English football (to Manchester United and Arsenal), such a lackluster, effortless home performance was a shameful sight for fans.
The back line, in particular, looked utterly clueless all day, making Luis Suarez's absence entirely unnoticeable.
Relegation is a real possibility now for the Magpies, who sit at 10-18 for 16th place. Something must be done—and quickly—before Newcastle fall into the Championship for the second time in five seasons.
Moussa Sissoko Is Not a Winger
Alan Pardew seems to think that anyone with any offensive ability is able to be a winger.
He's stuck both Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba on the wing this year, not to mention the old warhorse Shola Ameobi. Now, he thinks a box-to-box midfielder makes sense as a winger.
Moussa Sissoko is a fine player, but Franck Ribery he is not.
It makes no sense to force a player into an uncomfortable position when excellent options (that I will address later) remain on the bench. Why Sissoko was on the wing when he could have easily replaced Cheick Tiote or James Perch in the midfield is a mystery to everyone but Alan Pardew.
And even he may have no idea why.
Just imagine the uproar that would come about in Manchester if Roberto Mancini ever played Yaya Toure as a winger. People would lose their minds.
This move is just as confusing.
Ben Arfa and Gouffran Needed More Than 45 Minutes
Yoan Gouffran was arguably the best player on the pitch against West Brom last week. Hatem Ben Arfa is the most creative playmaker the club possesses.
So for a match in which Newcastle was supposed to make amends to their fans for the poor showing in the Tyne-Wear derby, why were neither in the starting XI?
Brought on at the beginning of the second half with the Magpies down 2-0, both players made an immediate impact and the club enjoyed their only positive eight minutes.
Of course, things fell apart in the 54th minute when Ben Arfa was dispossessed by Philippe Coutinho who easily picked apart the Newcastle defense on his way to assist Daniel Sturridge.
But what exactly did Pardew expect? A consistent theme of his tactics is to fall behind, then throw on substitutes and ask them to perform miracles. Ben Arfa and Gouffran would have been much more comfortable and pressed much less in a game where they didn't enter down two goals.
As it panned out, Newcastle would fail to score or even to truly threaten, and the streak of low-scoring performances continues. Newcastle haven't scored more than one goal since March 10 and more than two goals since February 24.
There's no reason to expect those numbers to change with the club's current offensive mindset.
The Back Line Was a Disaster
Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are excellent players.
That doesn't mean they should walk all over a back line like they did Saturday.
The defensive combination of Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, and Massadio Haidara failed to do anything to slow down Liverpool's attack.
There is an obvious lack of cohesion between Taylor and the three January transfers. At no point has Fabricio Coloccini's absence been more noticeable than during Saturday's match. Taylor was consistently attempting to play Liverpool attackers offsides with no support or pressure to make his ideas plausible.
As much blame as players like Danny Simpson and Mike Williamson have taken this season, do you really think it's possible that they would have been worse today than what was already on the pitch?
Debuchy in particular looked dreadful, and his sending off in the 75th minute did little other than allow him to avoid the chorus of boos that rained down throughout St James' Park at the end of the match.
The only possible defense is the lack of matches the players have played together, but a decent group of strangers should have held Liverpool to less than six goals.
Gutless and Heartless Finish
The most disturbing thing about the performance wasn't the defensive mistakes, the poor tactics or the end result.
What will bother Newcastle supporters the most was the complete lack of heart and desire shown by the club over the course of the last half hour. It was clear from that point on that the club had given up entirely and were only playing for the final whistle.
There were points near the very end where Massadio Haidara would push forward running with the ball, but the rest of the club would only lazily shuffle to help him out.
For a club hovering just above the relegation zone, the lack of effort and desire was extremely disappointing. Both old and new players seemed resigned to their fate, and if such behavior continues over the next three weeks, results won't improve in the slightest.
Time to Sort It out
After such a disorganized and underwhelming performance, things must look different next week against West Ham.
Some believe Alan Pardew has enjoyed his last game patrolling the touchline for Newcastle, and at this point a managerial change seems nearly inevitable, but Mike Ashley will more than likely wait until the end of the season to make a change.
However, if the manager isn't changing, the starting XI needs to.
Gouffran and Ben Arfa need a full 90 minutes on the pitch, Sissoko needs to be in a position that makes sense, and the back four needs to be a Premier League back four.
The last three matches of the season will be incredibly nerve-wracking for Newcastle fans, and if Alan Pardew doesn't finally wake up and make some changes, they might be heartbreaking.