Analysis: New look but same old failings for Newcastle

Mark Noble and Newcastle substitute Rolando Aarons
Mark Noble and Newcastle substitute Rolando Aarons

If only Newcastle United’s own half had been as congested as the North Circular.

This was too easy for West Ham United. Or at least they made it look easy.

West Ham's Dimitri Payet, right, scores the opener against Newcastle

West Ham's Dimitri Payet, right, scores the opener against Newcastle

The roads around Upton Park had been gridlocked before kick off.

But Slaven Bilic’s side didn’t have any problems finding a route to goal last night.

Worryingly, Steve McClaren’s side, beaten 2-0 thanks in large part to the brilliance of Dimitri Payet, have now gone four Premier League games, and almost seven hours, without scoring a goal.

Newcastle might have a new look this season, but some familiar old failings have returned to haunt them at both ends of the field.

Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse attempts an overhead kick

Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse attempts an overhead kick

They were disorganised and disjointed.

And the mood on Tyneside will darken if the team fails to get its first league win ove the season on Saturday against newly-promoted Watford.

Up to now, fans have been patient, but there’s an understandable impatience to see progress on the pitch, and right now, a top-eight finish looks a long way off.

And January, when the club could move to sign a striker, also looks a long way off.

West Ham's Pedro Obiang is challenged by and Massadio Haidara

West Ham's Pedro Obiang is challenged by and Massadio Haidara

Of course, the London traffic didn’t help the team.

The roads around Upton Park were at a standstill before the game, and Newcastle’s players arrived at the stadium less than an hour before kick-off.

Fans also struggled to make their way through the gridlock to the club’s last league fixture at the Boleyn Stadium.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of supporters had been caught up in long delays on the trains, with a fatality on the line south of Peterborough having led to the East Coast Main Line being closed for an hour and a half and several cancellations.

The return journey, however, was to prove point-less.

McClaren’s players emerged from the tunnel late and warmed up for no more than 10 minutes before heading back to the dressing room for their final briefing.

Supporters were still filing into the stadium when the match kicked off, but just about everyone was inside in time to see Payet opening the scoring in the ninth minute with a lovely side-footed effort from a Mark Noble lay-off.

The strike flew into the top right-hand corner, and just beyond a helpless Tim Krul.

Payet could have made it 2-0 10 minutes later, and West Ham looked dangerous every time they got into the final third of the pitch. McClaren’s defence was frequently stretched by an elastic attack of Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Victor Moses.

Payet was signed by West Ham in the summer, having spent the past two seasons at Olympique Marseille with Newcastle’s Florian Thauvin, who had a quieter half on the left side of midfield.

Moussa Sissoko didn’t fair any better on the right.

Bilic’s side, by contrast, attacked elegantly and defended ruggedly.

Newcastle struggled to get in behind them, and striker Papiss Demba Cisse, recalled to the starting XI in the absence of the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic, struggled to stay on his feet.

McClaren, presumably, was thinking of making a change long before the half-time whistle.

At least his team got to the break without conceding a second goal.

The club’s 2,200-strong support, frustrated at what they had witnessed, chanted “attack, attack, attack” in first-half injury time.

McClaren, however, sent out an unchanged side for the second half as bubbles floated around the stadium.

And West Ham’s supporters were again blowing bubbles in the 48th minute when Payet made it 2-0 after Moses struck the crossbar after getting the better of Vurnon Anita.

The ball cannoned off the woodwork to Payet, who hit it neatly between Krul and his defender.

Frustratingly, the move had started from a Newcastle free-kick.

And more frustratingly, passes kept going astray. McClaren acted in the 60th minute, bringing on Siem de Jong and Ayoze Perez in place of Anita and Thauvin, but they struggled to get into a game which had already gone away from Newcastle.

Right-back Daryl Janmaat tested Darren Randolph at his near-post in a rare opportunity for Newcastle, who had to contend with Andy Carroll for the last few minutes.

It’s still early days for McClaren at Newcastle.

But Newcastle are finding it hard to score, and harder still to keep the ball out of their own net.

And that’s a troubling combination.