I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve got no complaints with that – even if Raheem Sterling’s first half strike ended up inflicting our fifth straight home defeat in the league.
I sat down in my seat just hoping I wasn’t about to see a real trouncing. This is a Man City side who’re enjoying the biggest winning streak in Premier league history, boasting a bigger lead at the top by Christmas than we’ve ever seen before in the top flight. They’re favourites to win this year’s Champions League with several bookmakers and a one who’ve put 3 past Arsenal, 4 past Tottenham and 5 past Liverpool so far this season – not forgetting highly convincing away wins at Man Utd and Chelsea recently.
Does this mean I accepted defeat before a ball is kicked? No. But if someone said we’d be in the game with 10 minutes to go and have a late flurry where I genuine believed we had them rattled for a moment, I’d have bitten your hand off!
We put in a great shift and kept fighting until the end. We may have given the home crowd little to shout about form an offensive point of view, but the St James’ Park crowd seemed fully onboard with what we were trying to achieve and the players were rightfully clapped off for their efforts following the full time whistle.
Team selection, Rafa’s defensive tactics and our lack of attacking intent has been questioned, but I honestly don’t see how any of these arguments can be deemed valid in the circumstances – especially the former with our limited squad having to manage 3 games in just over 5 days!
Man City have beaten Liverpool 5-0, Watford 6-0, Palace 5-0, Stoke 7-2, Burnley 3-0, Swansea 4-0, Spurs 4-1 and Bournemouth 4-0. And people wonder why newly promoted #NUFC parked the bus?
— Alastair Campbell (@alastair10) December 27, 2017
Now back to our approach to last night’s game itself. Gary Neville described our approach as incredibly ‘negative’. Quite frankly, any suggestions that we should be attacking Man City and going toe-to-toe with one of Europe’s most devastating sides are ludicrous. It wasn’t pretty at times, but keeping it at 0-1 meant we were always ‘in the game’. With 22% of the ball and so little goal mouth action to shout about, we were rarely knocking on the door, but you always give yourself a chance when there’s only a single goal in it – and very few sides have been able to go into the latter stages of a game with a genuine chance of a result against this formidable team.
It would’ve only taken Gayle’s header to go in or a scrappy set piece goal to give us a precious point in a game we expected to be trounced in, so those suggesting we got it all wrong are incredibly naive. Go toe to toe with Man City and we have have scored, but I’d like to bet that we’d have conceded four or five (at least!) – and don’t forget that any heavy defeat would’ve given our goal difference a real hit too!
Anybody criticising Newcastle’s tactics and approach to this game, knows nothing about football. Defend deep, frustrate & try to hit City on the break. #NUFC would get destroyed if they took the game to City as they have better players by a mile. #NEWMCI
— Adam C. (@adamecurry) December 27, 2017
In an ideal world, we’d play our strongest side and field a team slightly more capable of hurting City when hand the odd moment to spring a counter, but handing rests to the likes of Merino, Ritchie, Atsu and Gayle will look like a masterstroke if they were the driving force behind a win over Brighton on Saturday. Now that IS a game that we should be looking to attack and one that will define our season far more than last night’s free-hit against Man City.
Dummett’s return was a bonus. He was solid and will add to the sense organisation and compactness Jamaal Lascelles has brought back to the team.
Hats off to Diame too. The last time he was on the SJP pitch he was sarcastically cheered off, but he reacted last night with the sort of dogged display we’ve not seen nearly enough from him. He’s limited technically and is a frustrating player to put it mildly, but he’ll have far less Geordies on his back each weekend if he can get into the opposition and make a nuisance of himself as he did last night.
Atsu and Merino also had some nice moments in short cameos from the bench. Hopefully those two will be firing on all cylinders at the weekend.
A good atmosphere and a great effort from the boys which should put us in decent stead for Brighton on Saturday.