Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Away the Lads Suffer

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Away the Lads Suffer

Article excerpt


THE opening-day defeat at Fulham was a setback for Newcastle United but one disappointing result alone should not suddenly fool any of the Magpies' rivals into thinking they will not be serious promotion contenders this term.

For a start, Newcastle's summer spending spree is far from over, while the eight players who have already arrived still need time to fully bed in together.

Rafa Benitez also needs to see his new-look side operating in competitive matches over a sustained period of time to fully implement the tactical and technical changes he believes will lead United back to the Premier League.

One persistent concern remains the away form, though; there is simply no getting away from that.

It is not just the fact Newcastle cannot win once they cross the River Tyne, it is the manner in which they so regularly close up and appear to wilt on the road.

At St James' Park - under Benitez at least - Newcastle can be exciting, entertaining and can smother the opposition with their attacking intent.

Away from home, the Magpies are often lethargic, sloppy and can even appear entirely overawed by the occasions.

At Craven Cottage, like on so many occasions last season, United just could not distribute the ball efficiently.

In a 4-2-3-1 formation, the two 'pivots' - or holding-midfielders - are absolutely crucial to setting a side's tempo.

While Isaac Hayden was impressive in spells - his close-range passing was crisp and he displayed a calmness severely lacking throughout the rest of the side - he did not 'dominate' the area physically.

His central-midfield partner Jack Colback, meanwhile, had an evening to forget and was hooked on the hour mark.

What Colback should have been doing was recycling possession and driving United forward with some probing passes - instead, he regularly put his back four into danger by continuing to give them the ball back.

A clear Fulham ploy was to let Newcastle's centre-backs have the ball. Grant Hanley is certainly not overly comfortable in possession and, although Jamaal Lascelles has decent distribution, that is not his main strength. …

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