Derby-Day Debacle: What Went Wrong for Newcastle United?

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Derby-Day Debacle: What Went Wrong for Newcastle United?
Scott Heppell/Associated Press
Pardew and Poyet shake hands after Sunderland earn bragging rights

When Sunderland's Jack Colback broke away and smacked the third goal past Tim Krul on Saturday afternoon, it was a new low for Newcastle United.

Once again, they had surrendered easily to their most fierce rivals. But this time, there was no genuine excuse as to why they had been so comfortably dismissed at home.

Last time, when Paolo Di Canio led his side to a win by the same scoreline, the game fell just a few days after Newcastle had been on Europa League duty. This time, there was no extra game for the Magpies, yet they still found themselves totally outplayed by their red and white counterparts.

Sunderland were hungrier, sharper and wanted it more. They were more motivated and worked for each other all over the pitch, carrying out Gus Poyet’s every instruction with precision.

This was everything Newcastle weren’t. In recent weeks, they have looked dangerous going forward and solid at the back. Mike Williamson has been a revelation since coming back into the side and Mathieu Debuchy seemed to have found a balance between defensive responsibility and all-out attack.

But on Saturday, the two names mentioned reverted to type. Williamson looked shaky and uncertain alongside Steven Taylor, while Debuchy was too easily beaten by Marcos Alonso and Colback.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press
Shola Ameobi couldn't add to his seven goals against Sunderland

One possible problem with the Newcastle side over the last three Derby games has been the influence of the French players. Some say foreigners find it hard to understand the importance of local derbies, so when Alan Pardew named Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi, Taylor, Williamson and Krul—a Newcastle player since he was 17—in the starting lineup, it looked like a side that knew what a win would mean to the 52,000 fans inside St James’ Park.

But they were all below par and Pardew was unable to instil the type of motivation needed to get a result in the biggest game of the season.

Sunderland’s tactics were hardly complicated. Press high up the pitch and hurry Newcastle when they had the ball, which would leave the Ameobi brothers isolated if they got the ball in a counter attack and double up on Newcastle’s best player, Hatem Ben Arfa.

Ben Arfa had looked excellent in Tuesday’s goalless draw with Norwich, causing problems whenever he had the ball and looking like he fancied the task of being Newcastle’s main playmaker in the absence of Yohan Cabaye.

But when Phil Bardsley and Adam Johnson—a winger who played to the level required in a Derby game—doubled up on Ben Arfa, the Frenchman was unable to beat two men often enough to create any opportunities for his starved strikers.

The chances were so few and far between that Pardew was forced to make a move which he didn’t want to. He threw Luuk de Jong on at half-time, knowing full well the Dutchman wasn’t fully match fit but at the same time his team needed something from somewhere.

De Jong proved his lack of match sharpness, hesitating to take a Cheick Tiote through ball onto his left foot—a route that would have provided him with a clear shot at goal—as he chose to try and round John O’Shea and get onto his stronger right side.

It says a lot about Newcastle’s tameness in front of goal when their best opening came from Captain Tiote, whose decent strike from 25 yards was acrobatically turned away by Vito Mannone in the second half.

Newcastle certainly lacked something in the centre of midfield, as Moussa Sissoko, Tiote and Vurnon Anita struggled to step up and take the game by the scruff of the neck—something which Ki-Sung Yueng found no problem at all for Sunderland.

Maybe the rumoured acquisition of Clement Grenier, as reported by the BBC, would have helped had the Lyon schemer been signed by Joe Kinnear in the three remaining days of the transfer window after Cabaye had packed his bags and went to Paris.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press
Kinnear: Resigned

Perhaps the move could be back on in the summer, after Kinnear handed in his resignation in the wake of the defeat to Sunderland.

Pardew’s record against Poyet speaks volumes. It currently stands Pardew 0-4 Poyet, after the Uruguayan oversaw two victories over the Magpies while in charge of Brighton and now two as Sunderland boss.

The difference between the two surely lies in motivational techniques. Neither are from the North-East, yet the man from South America seems to get the importance of the Derby across to his players better, while the man from South London struggles and puts himself under serious pressure every time his side loses to their hated rivals.

Maybe the fan that invaded the pitch on Saturday and attempted to hand his season ticket to Pardew in protest is the wake-up call the manager needs to sort his side out.

Something must change at Newcastle United and quickly, before the pressure which has been instigated by the latest Derby Day debacle becomes too much for the man at the helm at St James’ Park.

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