Newcastle United’s dismal Monday night record continues, with Aston Villa outclassing us in all areas in a terrible display from all involved in black and white.
We’d shown real spirit and cohesion at both ends of the pitch in recent wins over West Ham and Bournemouth, but tonight we looked like a team of individuals – and not very good ones at that.
We were woeful in attack, with it looking as though the front three had never played together in their life, we were second to most balls and overrun in midfield and we made basic errors at the back.
Villa started with a high tempo and plenty of the ball as you would expect, with us sitting deep and looking to absorb any pressure they put on us.
We had the odd chance to hurt them on the counter, but our lack of attacking punch was summed up by an awful touch from Almiron after some great work from Saint-Maximin.
Hayden was snapping into tackles as usual but we were sloppy during the odd occasion we had possession, while Villa were neat and tidy and first to all the second balls.
There were too many long balls to Joelinton then not enough support to him when he actually got a hold of them.
It was uninspiring stuff, but our game plan was working to an extent…until a stupid and needless push from Yedlin gave them a free kick on the edge of the area, which Hourihane converted cleverly to make it 1-0:
Villa smelled blood and promptly added a second from set piece, and it came from another silly foul on Grealish, this time from Fernandez.
Hourihane put another great ball into the box and El Ghazi just strolled in unmarked and fired home, with Dummett guilty of ball watching as he beat the offside trap.
It really was starting to look desperate with every pass going astray.
We very nearly clawed one back on the stroke of half time when Heston made a great save from Fernandez but at half time it was looking hopeless.
The second half started a little better and Joelinton had a half chance as we pressed a little higher, but normal service quickly resumed and we were back to dreadful defending from set pieces, getting overrun in midfield and making Jack Grealish look like Zidane every time he got the ball.
62 minutes brought Bruce’s go-to substitution whatever the game, score or situation. On came Carroll – this time for Dummett and a change to 4-4-2.
Shortly after Gayle came on for Joelinton, who frankly had had an absolute shocker.
There were fleeting moments when you thought we could nick one. Carroll took a ball down on his chest but then struck his right foot volley straight at Heaton. There were also several moments when we had men forward and players in good positions but the final ball was awful – and that summed us up tonight. We didn’t get into good positions often, and even when we did our final product was woeful and erratic.
Villa were always dangerous though and Wesley missed a sitter from close range after another great ball in from the excellent Hourihane.
The last 20 mins or so became nondescript as the game just played out. Atsu came on for the woeful Almiron and that was that, with any small hopes of a comeback quickly fizzling out as we resorted to desperate long-ball tactics.
It felt like a massive opportunity to get ahead of steam and really push up the league was just thrown away tonight to be honest.
There was a feel good factor going into the international break which definitely came at the wrong time and killed our momentum.
Villa are a tidy side who will stay up comfortably, but we made them look far better than they are. Considering we were supposed to be the form team coming into this one, the lack of tempo, cohesion and quality was concerning to say the least.
With games coming up against Manchester City and Sheffield United in the next 10 days, Bruce and the players need a reaction, because another performance anywhere near like tonight and we’ll get beaten very easily in both games.
I’ve been very staunch in my defence of Almiron recently but not tonight, as that was possibly his worst game for us. Also, I’ve seen some fans on social media saying it will be a blessing in disguise that Lascelles is injured, well frankly that is beyond absurd. We really missed our skipper tonight.
Hopefully Schar and Lejeune will come back into the team very soon, as a lack of quality on the ball at the back was so apparent. Having players who can get on the ball and play out from the back is crucial to getting us on the front foot.
Man City next……