There has been plenty to point at with regard to Newcastle United’s current form. The goals have dried up on the front end and they are shipping in on the back end. You don’t have to attend manager training to know that’s a bad combination. I personally believe the midfield is where this team has been lacking all year. Service (including our wingbacks) has been poor to the forwards and there has not been the same level of protection for the back line. You can sacrifice one for the other, but when you do neither, you’re second from bottom of the form table (hat tip @toonarmynyc for the link).
To me, this was the backbone of our team last year and what much of our success this year is dependent on. I don’t think anyone would look at the back line or striking crew and think they were world class units. However, I do think many would say we have a “proper” midfield.
Injuries aside, when is the last time we bossed a game? The first time I noticed was in the Manchester United game. ManUtd were reeling at the time with their midfield and defense in shambles. Tactically, we set up like chickens and were undone by set pieces early which changed the game but that was an opportunity to make a statement. And on and on it’s gone since.
I don’t like to call out individual players because there are many factors contributing to their output but I feel I must briefly here. Aside from a few moments of brilliance, Cabaye has been fairly anonymous. Tiote has maintained his knack for picking up yellows and completely lost it for picking up the ball. He is a total shell of himself from last year. Jonas, who has long been a workhorse both protecting the back line and running at opponents has been largely ineffective for some time now in my opinion. The lone shining star has been Ben Arfa. I felt he really tried to put the team on his back vs West Ham and his attitude was right. I don’t know how effective his style is for this team right now though.
The entire year has been stop/start and the midfield is the epitome of it. Hopefully something can be a big enough jolt to change the momentum or this may quickly become a long and lost season.