Newcastle United 1 Watford 2: Forget Lee Charnley’s emails, the narrative is still the same

Daryl Janmaat wheels away in celebration after his goal
Daryl Janmaat wheels away in celebration after his goal

It’ll take more than £52.6million to fix Newcastle United.

That’s how much was spent in the summer.

Yet it wasn’t enough.

And six games into the new Premier League campaign, only a goal from defender Daryl Janmaat – the club’s best attacker in the past two games – is keeping the club off the bottom of the division.

Newcastle moved up the table after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Watford, but the club, many feel, is on the way down.

But the fact that Sunderland are now in 20th place is scant consolation.

Janmaat slots home to give Newcastle hope

Janmaat slots home to give Newcastle hope

Both clubs, on the evidence of the first six games, are in trouble.

The latest defeat, and especially the first 45 minutes at St James’s Park, was certainly troubling.

And the paradox is that Watford spent a fraction of that sum invested by United after winning promotion.

And the club also changed manager.

The latest defeat, and especially the first 45 minutes at St James’s Park, was certainly troubling.

Yet the team was everything that Newcastle weren’t during the first half.

Quique Flores’ side were organised and disciplined in defence, and fluent and flowing in attack.

Steve McClaren is still searching for any kind of fluency.

Newcastle’s head coach changed the 4-2-3-1 system he and his players had been working on since the start of July in the wake of the defeat to West Ham United a week ago.

Has all that work gone to waste?

Maybe understandably, United – who lined up in an unfamiliar 4-1-4-1 formation – looked muddled.

Worse, still they were bullied.

Odio Ighalo – who scored both Watford’s goals – and Troy Deeney gave Fabricio Coloccini and his defence an uncomfortable afternoon.

And the decision of McClaren to keep Coloccini as his Newcastle, right now, looks questionable, at best.

Coloccini might be the club’s highest-earner, but keeping him at the club and handing him a contract extension was a relatively cheap option given the cost of recruiting an experienced and capable Premier League centre-half.

But that decision could prove costly.

Elsewhere on the pitch, midfielder Jack Colback didn’t suit the defensive role handed to him – McClaren dropped Vurnon Anita – and Georginio Wijnaldum, previously the club’s No 10, looked lost.

The team lost their way, and Watford didn’t have any trouble finding their way to goal.

Early in the game Ighalo had time and space to turn in the box for the visiting side’s first goal, and a simple ball forward, helped on by Deeney, led to his second in the 28th minute.

At the other end of the pitch, Papiss Demba Cisse, surprisingly kept in the team after his woeful performance five days earlier at Upton Park, shot wide with his weaker left foot.

McClaren defended Cisse’s selection by saying he was his “only recognised striker”, with Aleksandar Mitrovic suspended.

That much is true, though it is also alarming given that the new season is a little over a month old.

McClaren replaced Cisse with de Jong for the second half, and United were better.

Janmaat played a one-two with midfielder Moussa Sissoko before pulling a goal back in the 62nd minute, and Watford had to defend well and in numbers to protect their lead.

Owner Mike Ashley was not at St James’s Park for the game.

Instead, Ashley associate Keith Bishop watched the game alongside managing director Lee Charnley, who was put in charge of both the recruitment of Alan Pardew’s permanent successor and the club’s summer transfer business.

Charnley sent an email to fans which talked about “a new chapter” after the transfer window closed.

But the narrative so far this season is little different to that in the latter months of last term when the club fought the threat of relegation.

The goal this season is a top-eight finish and a trophy, but already, supporters are talking about survival.

It’s still early days – there are 32 league games left – but the worry among supporters is that January reinforcements could arrive too late to make any meaningful contribution.

And this is the one season you don’t want to be relegated. The Premier League’s TV revenues will increase significantly next term.

Charnley will, presumably, have shifted uncomfortably in his seat during the first half.

January seems – and is – a long way off, and McClaren, his choice as Pardew’s successor, needs both quality and quantity available to him between now and then.

McClaren lacks both in key areas – defence and attack – and he must find a way to win with what he has got.

Unfortunately, the club’s next two opponents are champions Chelsea and league leaders Manchester City.

First, however, is a Capital One Cup fixture against Sheffield Wednesday at St James’s Park in midweek.

The game does offer McClaren a chance to tinker with his formation, and it would be unwise to make the same number of changes – nine – that he did in the last round against Northampton Town.

There’s no quick fix at the club, but a win – any win – would at least be a step in the right direction.