For anyone who felt a bit of a ‘Scrooge’ heading into St James’ Park, today’s result and performance did absolutely nothing to get you in the Christmas spirit – with us serving up a 0-0 and one of the worst games you’ll see this season.
A stat that perhaps says it all is the fact we failed to muster a single shot on target against the league’s bottom side – a team that have the worst defensive record in Europe after conceding 42 goals in 17 games before today.
As we know, our home form going into this one was awful (the worst in England’s top four tiers after 7 defeats in 9), but we showed absolutely nothing against a Fulham side there for the taking. We now play 5 of the divisions ‘big six’ in our next 7 games – starting with a trip to league leaders Liverpool on Boxing Day – this was a huge chance to break further away from the bottom three.
It’s a big chance missed, but on the subject of chances, I can’t think of one clear cut one we created today – and that is pretty damning when up against a side who’ve shipped goals for fun all season, with this being their first clean sheet of the season.
It was a toothless performance and a perfect advert to show just how badly we need some attacking reinforcements in January, but there were some big mistakes made today and issues all over the pitch.
Lascelles and Schar looked shaky throughout, our midfield couldn’t get anything going and Rondon was absolutely starved of service or numbers around him – with even the ultra reliable Dubravka almost gifting them a huge chance as he overplayed at the back.
I feel Rafa got it wrong at times today as well if I’m being honest. We were set up with five at the back on occasion – which is baffling when up against a bottom of the league side there for the taking – and I’d also question certain subs, or the lack of them. It was clear for a while that nothing was working for Atsu and that Manquillo was out on his feet. It’s easy to say in hindsight, especially when we’re not exactly blessed with bundles of quality on our bench, but I’d question why Rafa’s £10m man Muto didn’t come on – especially when we were crying out for pace and energy during an off day for Perez.
Here’s how the table now looks after today’s results:
Burnley lost 3-1 at Arsenal, Cardiff are behind at home to Man Utd as we speak and Huddersfield lost another six-pointer up against Southampton, so results didn’t go badly in terms of the bottom three, but the fact we failed to take advantage of that just adds to the frustration.
Now the tough run begins – with us set to play 5 games against the ‘big six’ in our next 7 games:
- Liverpool (A)
- Watford (A)
- Man Utd (H)
- Chelsea (A)
- Cardiff (H)
- Man City (A)
- Tottenham (A)
We’re five points above the drop zone as it stands, but we’ll do very well to maintain that gap over the coming weeks if we don’t up our game against this lot.