Written by Harvey Jamison
Newcastle’s highly-anticipated return to the Championship ended in disappointment as we lost 1-0 to Fulham on Friday night.
Here are five things we can take away from the performance.
1. Start Gamez
We can’t beat around the bush: Paul Dummett was awful last night.
The young left-back has been praised over the years for his relentless work ethic: but, in my opinion, that is all he has, and it’s certainly not enough to earn him a place in this team.
In the early parts of the game he showed promise by getting the ball forward and dealing with some early danger from Aluko, but after that he was washed away and never really recovered. He gave the ball away on too many occasions which put increased pressure on the fairly new centre-back pairing of Lascelles and Hanley. As the game progressed, his possession and movement with the ball became sloppy and he just couldn’t deal with the strength and pace of Aluko and Odio.
By starting Gamez in the next match it will take pressure of the back four. Plus with the Spaniard you get a very hardened and experienced full-back who has played in the Champions league and against some of the world’s quickest players in La Liga.
It will be interesting to see if Benitez sticks with Dummett at left-back or answers his critics and starts Gamez. I certainly am hoping for the latter.
2. Don’t start Colback
Again on a night which held so much optimism and excitement for Newcastle, Jack Colback failed to deliver.
He seemed to be playing a holding role with Hayden at first, but too often was caught out high up the pitch, either loosing the ball or failing to maintain possession. He was ineffective throughout the game and really did struggle to defend against a strong Fulham attack who bullied him all night.
I would prefer to see Shelvey start in his position. After coming on, he seemed to take back some control in midfield (though not as much as I had hoped). In the 15 minutes that he played he dinked in some excellent balls that threatened the Cottagers defence, but did not have enough time to really pick them apart. A Hayden and Shelvey pairing in midfield from now on could really become a great force to supply the forwards, whilst still having the capabilities and strength to sit in-front of the defence.
3. Start Aarons and Diame
We badly need to inject some pace in the current squad. When Aarons came on, he did show glimpses but simply wasn’t given enough time to work the Fulham defence.
Aarons would be an outright replacement for Anita, who again did not have the best of games, playing as a winger. Diame on the other hand desperately needs to feature, but ahead of who? My best guess would be Perez as with Diame he brings strength and lots of pace, with the ability to tear apart defences.
It was unfortunate that he was unable to feature last night but has to be a priority for the Huddersfield game. Last night showed how much we miss a player like Sissoko, who isn’t afraid to run at defenders and harness his natural pace.
4. We need Mbemba fit… Soon!
You could tell that we were lacking the physical presence of Chancel Mbemba last night at the heart of our defence. When he plays you know he is raring to go and has no fear of using his strength and ability to muscle players off the ball.
Grant Hanley didn’t have the best game of his life (I hope); he looked tired and out of sorts for the majority of the game and ultimately gave away the corner which lead to the winning goal.
Mbemba would give the team that reassurance we desperately need and would link up well alongside Lascelles.
5. Ritchie has to take set-pieces
Perez seemed to take the majority of them last night, maybe he was just nervous, but he couldn’t hit a barn door.
Since Cabaye departed, we’ve missed a player who knows what he’s doing from set-pieces, be it corners or free-kicks. In Ritchie, we potentially have that player; he was at leats able to it the target, which is more than can be said for Perez.