Newcastle United 2-2 Chelsea: 20 Thoughts & Tidbits

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47. Written for NUFC360 – a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates.

This Newcastle United group has had a tendency to play up to their competition for quite some time now; and it usually happens versus Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. As a matter of fact, Mourinho is still winless at St. James Park throughout his coaching career; now there’s a stat. The game started off well for Newcastle, Ayoze Perez had a few opportunities before he put the Magpies up 1-0. Wijnaldum then headed home Perez’s corner kick and Newcastle was suddenly beating last year’s Premier League champions 2-0. Unfortunately, Chelsea did score two goals before the final whistle but it was still a great result for a winless Newcastle United.

Here are my 20 thoughts and tidbits:

  1. 20 year old Kevin Mbabu was told an hour before kick-off that he would be starting at left back versus Chelsea. And what a job he did. Having to cover one of the better wingers in the world, Pedro, and at times sticking with Hazard too, is no easy task by any means. But he stood his ground and held his own. Great composure from Mbabu, I would not mind seeing him get more playing time.
  2. Since the beginning of the season, Steve McClaren has been trying to find the best role for 2 players: Georginio Wijnaldum and Ayoze Perez. Gini played some #6 role and #10 role but today was different. McClaren lined him up on the left wing and it worked out wonderfully; Wijnaldum was one of the best Newcastle players yesterday.
  3. Same goes for Ayoze. We saw him on the left wing for a few matches but he has not really gotten a chance to start as a #10. Looked tremendous last night and really linked up well with Mitrovic all game. His goal was truly incredible; the first touch was beautiful and great poise to finish it. Perez always had the making for a #10, his touch, his pace; all he really needed was a chance to prove himself and I’m glad McClaren gave him that.
  4. The formation that we saw was sort of a 4-4-2 but with Ayoze trailing behind Mitrovic. Could McClaren have finally found his best starting 11?
  5. Mitrovic’s influence on the match was apparent the moment he stepped on the pitch. His mere presence has an intimidating factor to the opposing team. Having a target man is extremely important in today’s game of football, for a few reasons. When there is a goal kick, and Krul punts it up, he’s always trying to target Mitrovic because he knows he can chest the ball down, shield his defender and keep possession for a few seconds longer. Those seconds can turn into a back pass to a midfielder and you start an attack. On the other hand, you have someone like Ayoze or Papiss as a target man, and those goal kicks no longer become possession on 90% of plays.
  6. The big Serbian also got into Chelsea’s back four’s head throughout the whole match, especially Ivanovic. The two fellow countrymen were going at it back and forth throughout the whole match.
  7. On NUFC’s first goal, Kurt Zouma lost the ball but he was also paying a lot more attention to Mitrovic than Perez and this goes back to Mitrovic’s presence on the pitch and the influence he has. Zouma knows Mitrovic is great in the air, this is what he’s studied all week, this is what the coaches have been harping to him. So when a ball like that is coming up in the air, his first instinct is to keep an eye on Mitro instead of watching Perez slip right behind him. Just an example of how impactful Mitrovic is and will be for Newcastle United.
  8. Of course, there’s always a condition. Newcastle United need to find a way to keep Mitrovic on the field. He may be the player that turns the season around for the Magpies but first he needs to stay away from bad tackles and arguing with players or referees. He was tackled hard and was played aggressively all match but did not respond once. Hopefully he’s changed that aspect of his game but will stay aggressive, whilst knowing the borderline.
  9. It is no longer a secret, but we’ve got a superstar in Chancel Mbemba.
  10. Starting to really feel bad for Siem De Jong. He simply cannot stay healthy. As soon as he was subbed on, he took a shot to the head by Ramires and was down for several minutes.
  11. Speaking of Ramires, what an impact he made when Jose subbed him on. Scored the first goal for Chelsea, distracted Tim Krul on William’s free-kick goal and almost headed a third goal in. That’s why they are PL Champions and that’s why Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the game. Those are the types of substitutions that win games and turn seasons around for some teams.
  12. After the match, Mourinho said that Newcastle’s attitude was “typical of a team that wins nothing. I think maybe one of the reasons why Newcastle over the years doesn’t get good positions is because of this mentality, it’s because they choose some matches to sweat blood and in other matches, they don’t. This is an attitude typical of a team that wins nothing”. It’s very hard to disagree with those sentiments. A draw at Old Trafford and at home against Chelsea but cannot beat Watford and Sheffield Wednesday? Something has to change.
  13. That change does not come overnight but one of the main issues is the leadership in the locker room. I’ve spoken about it on multiple occasions and said that is the root of the issue and bringing back Coloccini this summer was a mistake. Not much more can be said on the topic.
  14. It’s unfortunate that Newcastle United could’ve have secured 3 points last night, it would have been a huge relief to get that first win out of the way and they could’ve started looking ahead instead of behind.
  15. Newcastle scored from a corner kick. No joke.
  16. I thought Sissoko and Janmaat were somewhat poor. A very disappointing season for Moussa thus far. He’s supposed to be the best player on this club and roster but has not shown it. Somewhat odd with the Euro 2016 coming up, you’d think he want to showcase his best work.
  17. Truth be told, I don’t think Chelsea looked good either. They probably will end up finishing in the top 4 but that does not look like a team that is going to win back-to-back championships.
  18. Newcastle plays Man City next, the team they always have the biggest problem with. With some confidence in their spirits, we can only hope the Magpies fight and work hard next match.
  19. Florian Thauvin has been a massive disappointment. He did not see a minute of the pitch last night and some were saying McClaren was disgusted with his play versus Sheffield. Hopefully we do not have another Ben Arfa case; player with tons of talent but bad attitude.
  20. I’ve seen a lot of scrutiny and fans calling for Steve McClaren’s head of saying that these recent losses and poor results are Mike Ashley’s fault. I don’t see the correlation. They spent over 50 million this summer; how is Mike Ashley to blame? I mentioned it earlier and I’ll mention it again: giving Coloccini another contract was one of the bigger issues. This club needs a new leader.

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