There was a feel-good factor around the ground prior to kick off to mark the club’s 125th birthday, and although Joselu gave us the lead after just 4 minutes, it quickly turned sour as Leicester inflicted our third straight home defeat to deepen our relegation fears.
Before I get started on the game itself, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the incredible scenes inside St. James’ Park in the moments before kick off.
An incredible spectacle on our 125th birthday, making it all the more deflating that the result couldn’t do it justice:
Now to the game itself. I’m scratching my head at what I’ve seen from us over the past week weeks and once against yesterday. What happened to the compact, difficult to break down side that we saw earlier on this season?
We’ve conceded FITEEN goals in our last 5 games. It was said over the first few months of the season that our big problems was goals up front. Ironically, both our strikers netted last night but it was our leaky looking defence that let us down.
I loved the way we came out the traps. In their faces and right up for it, but those energy levels were unsustainable and we were picked off all too easily. Our 4-4-2 system can look great when we’re on top, but Merino and Hayden have a huge amount of work to do. Any mistakes or over commitment in that area leaves our back four so exposed.
Time to revert back to 4-2-3-1 I think. We can’t go on conceding cheap goals like this and must try and regain the discipline, determination and organisation that saw us at least compete in most early season encounters.
Rafa has real work to do on this team and his tactics, but Lascelles and Dummett’s return can’t come quick enough.
On the plus side, it was good to see Gayle and Joselu get on the scoresheet. We’re not blessed with great options up top, but they’ll take confidence from that – the most important trait for any striker.
Clutching at straws a little, but good to see Joselu & Gayle on the scoresheet⚽️⚽️
— Black&WhiteBarmy (@BlackWhiteBarmy) December 10, 2017
With two of our next four games being against Arsenal and Man City, a win against Everton on Wednesday is badly needed – but this one does nothing for our confidence. I can see Staveley’s interest being shelved until the summer if we see another bad result in that one.
Talking of confidence and current form, it’s not just our system that looks all over the shop. What’s happened to Ritchie? To Lejeune and Clark? Yedlin? So many players are offering so little (struggling to know what Hayden did at all yesterday) who had been doing a very decent job not so long ago.
The lack of quality in the squad falls on Ashley’s door and that was evident today. I honestly don’t know if a single NUFC player would get into that Leicester side right now and that sums up where we’re at in that respect.
That old chestnut can’t be our excuse every week though. It’s a valid point and the reality of our overall situation, but we Benitez and the boys still have a job to do on the pitch each week and they’re not doing it well enough at the moment.
We must wake up soon or we could quite easily find ourselves in the relegation zone come January – a month that could make or break our survival hopes.