Preview: Crystal Palace vs Newcastle (28/11/2015)

Written by Jack Pierce

*Dear reader, please insert something about underperforming sides from the North East visiting Selhurst being like London buses*

After Monday night’s non-performance, Super Al and his players have a chance to repay the home support just five days after the disappointment of losing to Fat Sam’s lot.

Steve McClaren brings his Newcastle down south after a home defeat to forget themselves. Having been embarrassed by Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester lot last Saturday, it’ll be difficult for Newcastle to perform as badly this time around and fans will expect to see some sort of improvement. That shouldn’t be difficult.

They hardly troubled Leicester’s goal and the three goals they conceded were absolutely dreadful and avoidable if they had maintained any discipline whatsoever. While Jamie Vardy’s finish was a wonderful way to score in his tenth consecutive Premier League game, the space that Newcastle, Fabricio Coloccini in particular, gave Vardy was embarrassing. It’s not as though they could claim they weren’t to know how good a finisher the Premier League’s top scorer currently is.

The defending for the goals scored by Leonardo Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki was equally as bad and if Palace had a striker who knew where the goal is, I’d be very confident of us picking Newcastle off. Unfortunately, we don’t possess one of those unless Saturday is the beginning of a decent run of form for the likes of Connor Wickham, Marouane Chamakh or Patrick Bamford.

The summer was meant to be a fresh start Newcastle. Having dabbled with a return to The Championship last season with top flight safety only secured by a final day win at home to West Ham, Mike Ashley had to offer some hope to his club’s beleaguered fans and handing new manager, McClaren, a fairly hefty transfer kitty was deemed a good enough start. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum are two players that had been linked with some top clubs throughout Europe so for Newcastle to capture both must have excited their supporters. Wijnaldum in particular seemed an especially good bit of business. Fresh from figuring heavily in PSV Eindhoven’s run to the Dutch title last season, the Holland international allegedly chose playing in black and white ahead of plying his trade for some of Europe’s ‘bigger’ clubs, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid included.

He’s offered glimpses of the quality it is known he possesses but Wijnaldum will be required to find a greater consistency if he’s going to drag Newcastle up into a more respectable league position. While nobody will expect him to score four goals every week, like he did against Norwich in October, his levels of performance will need to be closer to that than one I saw him offer against West ham earlier in the season. With an expectant set of fans on his back, Winjnaldum will either float or sink as a Newcastle player although such is the quality he possesses, even if Newcastle do go down, it is likely Wijnaldum will remain a top flight player, be that in England or somewhere else in Europe.

Mitrovic, meanwhile, certainly has made an impact since joining from Anderlecht but perhaps not for the reasons he would have wished. Having been booked in his first two Newcastle matches for less than subtle challenges, not many were surprised when, during his first start at St James’ Park against Arsenal, Mitrovic was dismissed with less than 20 minutes played for a rather rash challenge. To be fair, since that red card, the Serbian’s discipline has been far better but he might just be one of those strikers with a habit of losing his head a la Diego Costa. As he demonstrated when with Anderlecht, the striker proved he knows where the goal is and is the latest hope in finding a successor to Alan Shearer, Newcastle’s last consistent out and out goal scorer.

Currently just a point outside of the relegation zone, Newcastle need to pick up some points soon if they don’t want to become embroiled in a season-long relegation dog scrap but considering their most recent victory, against Bournemouth, was completely undeserved and based upon the performance of third choice goalkeeper, Rob Elliot. They rode their luck and scored what proved to their winner through Ayoze Perez, a rare bright spark during the past two seasons, and managed to hold out. With both Newcastle and Bournemouth looking as though they’ll be battling for their Premier League status until the last ball is kicked in May, that win could prove a very important three points.

A bit like Sunderland, Newcastle have found themselves without an evident purpose. A club the size of the St James’ Park outfit should be sitting in a far more comfortable position than they currently but for whatever reason, things don’t look especially bright moving forward. Head coach, McClaren has the backing of Mike Ashley and some stability should only benefit the club. However, hovering in and around the bottom three would make any manager’s position slightly tenuous but with the levels of fan dissatisfaction around the club, a continued run of poor form may well end up in McClaren either walking away or being asked to walk away.

There are currently few jobs that are less of a poisoned chalice than the role of manager at Newcastle United.

Anyone know what happened to Alan Pardew?  He just dropped off the radar when he left Tyneside, didn’t he?