Graeme Jones was right about one thing after Newcastle United's defeat to Chelsea
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“We’re in a relegation battle,” said Jones. “There’s no question about that, that’s where we are. We need to face it like men, and stick together.”
For only the third time in its long history, the club, 19th in the Premier League with four points, has failed to win any of its first 10 league games.
Steve Bruce left the club in a mess, and shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s still in a mess 11 days after his departure.
Newcastle had been a shapeless mess against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month for Bruce’s last game in charge.
Bruce should have gone earlier – every game counts – but the club’s new ownership needed a few more days to make a decision on the 60-year-old, who had succeeded Rafa Benitez at St James’s Park two years earlier.
United weren’t a shapeless mess against Chelsea, the Premier League leaders and European champions. They were organised and disciplined without the ball, and, for 65 minutes, they frustrated a team which had scored seven goals against Norwich City a week earlier.
“I think for 65 minutes we were competitive – that was the gameplan,” said Jones, appointed on an “interim basis” following Bruce’s departure early last week.
Miguel Almiron and Joe Willock had been waiting to come on when Reece James broke the deadlock at a sold-out St James’s Park.
“We had a little bit of momentum in their half,” said Jones, who was previously Bruce's assistant. “I was ready to make a couple of positive substitutions. From that point on, we conceded another two goals, the game was dead.”
The problem against Chelsea was what Newcastle did when they did take possession.
United were trying to play a counter-attacking game with a low block, but they lacked quality and conviction on the ball. Time and again they surrendered possession cheaply, and the ball kept coming back.
Allan Saint-Maximin, the obvious out ball, was tightly marked along with leading scorer Callum Wilson, and Newcastle only had one shot on target all afternoon.
So, without an outlet, there was an inevitability about Chelsea’s first goal.
“We’re playing against the Champions League winners,” said Jones, who also revealed why he had left defender Federico Fernandez out of his matchday squad for the second week running. “You think about what they did to Norwich. For me, it wasn’t a 3-0 game.”
Jones will find out this week whether he will still be in charge for Saturday’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.
Certainly, an appointment is needed sooner rather than later. This team, in limbo as the club’s owners identity its next head coach, needs a new direction.
Jones himself was recruited for his “fresh ideas” in January with the club having failed to win any of its previous 11 league and cup fixtures.
And following an 11-game run without a win in all competitions this season, more fresh ideas are needed, as Newcastle are deep in a relegation battle.