Left issues, backwards tactics & the Longstaff conundrum – Liam Kennedy's SEVEN Newcastle United takeaways

Another weekend, another Newcastle United non-performance – did we expect any different?

To he honest, this was not as bad as before. The Magpies were OK against Manchester City, far from their worst, but the hosts rarely got out of first gear, never mind second.

Here’s what our writer Liam Kennedy picked out as his SEVEN Newcastle United takeaways from another predictable loss on the road for United...

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Issues down the left

Newcastle United's Scottish midfielder Matt Ritchie warms up for the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 26, 2020.

I know Newcastle United were playing one of the best sides in Europe – and it’s hard to criticise too much against top class players – but a distinct weakness down the left again reared its ugly head against City.

It seems, no matter who plays in the position – Matt Ritchie or Jamal Lewis – it is a real weak point for the Magpies.

The thing is, neither really seem like solid enough defenders to play the role, no matter who the opposition.

Bruce has a lot of headaches at United at the moment, but this is easily one of the biggest and most concerning – especially when it was a position the manager thought he’d solved with the big-money Lewis signing in the summer.

Can we discuss Miguel Almiron?

I love Almiron. Let’s not doubt that.

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I like his work ethic, his quality and his attitude – but I am struggling to see what he is adding to this United side at the moment. His inclusion seems to be more of a hindrance than a help.

For sure, he does not suit being stuck out on the left, which seems to be a position Bruce has favoured him in recently. This doesn’t suit United and it doesn’t suit the Paraguayan, who continues to look a shadow of the player of last season.

Slow and predictable play – backwards, backwards, backwards

This has to change – it is beyond a joke!

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It does not matter where Newcastle United win the ball, they go backwards, sometimes all the way back to Karl Darlow.

United are in many ways their own worst enemy.

Is this by design or is it an absolute lack of attacking confidence? Either way it needs to change.

Is Jacob Murphy up to the job?

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Another player who I think has ability, but are his performances worthy of a place in this United side – and are they even worth a new deal at the end of the season?

For a lad with a cracking right foot, ability to score with both and a decent looking attitude – why is he literally rarely an influence on games?

We need to see more from him. Much more.

No Wilson, no option?

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Well, not quite.

For all of Joelinton’s faults he was actually OK up top by himself at the Etihad.

It was a thankless task but he stuck at it. Won his fair share of headers, held it up and took the sting out of things when needed it.

Still, he’s nowhere close to Wilson is he?

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What does need mentioned, as a caveat, is he did not look like scoring and neither did United.

Karl Darlow – making a case for United’s No1 long-term

He came in as cover and has taken advantage.

Fans feared Darlow would not be up to covering for injured Martin Dubravka, but the keeper has been head and shoulders Newcastle United’s best player this season.

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Save after save again against City, with Dubravka nearing fitness, will have done his case to keep the position no harm.

It’s getting tougher and tougher for Bruce to make a call on who his best goalie is, although you’d imagine Dubravka still has plenty of cash in the bank with 18 months of solid performances.

Matty Longstaff return – pass or fail?

For 45 minutes you could have made a case to say Longstaff was one of, if not the most, busy of United’s XI.

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In the second 45 he faded. That should come as a shock to no one.

This didn’t look a great call by Bruce. It was like he was throwing Longstaff to the wolves, having failed to put him in any of his recent matchday squads, even at Brentford.

But all in all he stood firm and can hold his head up high, especially with so little football under his belt.