Newcastle United eye defenders in January as Eddie Howe battles individual and referee errors

Newcastle United lost 4-0 to Premier League champions Manchester City - their 10th defeat of the campaign. Our writer Jordan Cronin takes a look at the main talking points ahead of Manchester United, Everton & the January transfer window:
Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles.Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles.
Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles.

Oh, not another one...

Individual errors have been a constant theme for Newcastle this season. Add bad refereeing into the mix and it’s a calamitous outcome.

Both have combined to go against Eddie Howe and & Co three times in a week (Leicester City, Liverpool & Man City) to provide a crushing blow in the search for much-needed festive points.

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At the King Power Stadium, errors from Jamaal Lascelles, Javier Manquillo x2 and Joelinton gifted Brendan Rodgers’ side a 4-0 victory. You then had that James Maddison dive, which VAR refused to overrule.

Individual errors: Four. Referee controversy: One.

Four days later at Anfield, Isaac Hayden went down with a head injury in the penalty area. Mike Dean ignored player safety rules and didn’t stop play. Liverpool, as you could predict, equalised to cancel out Jonjo Shelvey’s opener.

Shelvey then turned hero to zero, inadvertently sending Sadio Mane in on goal which led to Mohamed Salah putting Jurgen Klopp’s men ahead.

Individual errors: Five. Referee controversy: Two.

Back to St James’ Park, Ciaran Clark ducked away from Joao Cancelo’s hopeful looped cross. Martin Dubravka could only watch as Ruben Dias headed home a fifth-minute City lead.

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Cancelo turned from provider to goalscorer, skipping away from Joe Willock in the middle, then putting Isaac Hayden on his backside before firing a shot in between Lascelles and Clark for 2-0.

And then came more referee controversy. Ryan Fraser was wiped out by goalkeeper Ederson. No penalty said Martin Atkinson. VAR, quite bafflingly, agreed as Howe, coaches, players, fans and pundits were left stunned.

Lascelles, after a VAR review, played Riyad Mahrez onside for 3-0, just as it seemed the linesman flag had come to United’s rescue. In the closing stages, Gabriel Jesus then slipped past Jacob Murphy with ease to put the ball on a plate for Raheem Sterling. 4-0.

Individual errors: Nine. Referee controversy: Three.

It’s clear where Newcastle’s ever-lasting achilles heel lies - it’s no coincidence they’ve shipped a league highest of 41 goals in 2021/22 so far.

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In 2021 altogether, United have conceded 79 goals, equalling Ipswich Town’s top-flight record. With Manchester United and Everton still to come, you can presume the club will break history for all the wrong reasons.

January transfer window can’t come quick enough

At this stage, it seems very apparent that the January transfer window will make or break Newcastle’s quest to remain in the Premier League.

It’s no given the club’s new owners will go out and spend given it’s an extremely difficult market to deal in - but they must try and do everything in their power.

Evidently, the most pressing area to strengthen is defence. Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier, Paris Saint-Germain’s Abdou Diallo and Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly have all been linked.

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Adding to the midfield wouldn’t go amiss either. Or attack, with Howe a Callum Wilson or Allan Saint-Maximin injury away from a crisis.

Either way, next month is a lifeline.

Relegation zone on Christmas Day - but it’s not all doom & gloom

For the first time in Premier League history, Newcastle will spend Christmas Day in the relegation zone.

But let’s try and spread a bit of positivity here, it’s not all doom and gloom... not yet anyway.

Following favourable results from of their relegation rivals and postponed games, the Magpies are set to head into January still within a shout of staying up.

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There is also an air of defiance and unity on Tyneside. It’s easy to forget that was non-exsistent under Mike Ashley.

At 4-0 down on Sunday, the Gallowgate End stood loud, proud and tall.

It was a moving sight. Flags - courtesy of the terrific Wor Flags - were waved proudly as the “Eddie Howe’s black and white army” chant belted around the stadium.

The history books are stacked against Newcastle, but it’s not over until it’s over. Taking points off Manchester United and Everton will quickly lift the mood, Covid-19 permitting, of course.

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