Premier League
Newcastle United 3 West Ham United 0

Saturday, 26th August 2017
by Staff Writer

Wanted. Captain and tactician to give rudderless underachieving Premier League football team. Must have kicking own players up the backside skills.

As usual I travelled to this one in the company of my Geordie chum was were even more pessimistic than I was over their chances. He needn't have worried. If you're having a bad run you can always rely on us to end it for you.

Team news was that, although all three of the long term injuries who had missed the start of the season had trained, none of Kouyate, Lanzini or (perhaps unsurprisingly) Carroll made the starting XI. The first two of that triumvirate made the bench whilst Carroll was not available for selection.

Team: Hart, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Collins, Ogbonna, Noble, Rice, Antonio, Fernandes, Ayew, Hernandez.

Well it was a scrappy first half, made scrappier by the frequent appearances of the medical staff, and the declaration of open season on Hernandez by ref Swarbrick for whom the stuff about playing through the back of the player is just something that applies to other referees.

After the fourth such challenge Hernandez elected to take the law into his own hands and barged Ritchie off the ball. This brought up an interesting look at the role of the fourth official. By and large it's acknowledged that the 4th man shouldn't generally re-referee stuff, though it is within the remit of the official to bring stuff to the main man's attention if the main man allows it. This is what happened on this occasion and Swarbrick informed Noble that he was booking Hernandez on the basis of what he had been told.

By Mike Jones, a referee for whom the word honesty is just something that appears only in a dictionary I suppose this was a neat mirror image of the previous week which saw opponents get off scot-free for offences that were seen by the officials, we were now being punished for stuff they didn't see.

Our problem was, as has been all season, we were not trying to make stuff happen. Which was a shame because when we could be bothered there was opportunity, the best of which was probably the effort from Cresswell at the far post that would have been a difficult conversion but ought to have served as a hint of what was possible. It didn't.

There was yet another lengthy break caused by Ayew receiving a good solid kick in the face that required a change of shirt following the spilling of copious amounts of claret of a different hue to that of the shirt. For the second week running we were treated to a match official whose idea of instantly stopping play for a head injury is to wait until he's really sure our opponents won't score. After treatment Ayew's blood-soaked no.20 shirt was replaced by the nearest shirt available, th no.60, which simply made him three times as anonymous.

Then, predictably and depressingly, we went behind. Rice had a somewhat unfortunate slip in his own half and lost the ball to Ritchie. Ritchie fed Atsu whose run Noble had deemed beneath him to track. Atsu squared the ball to Joselu, the ball rebounding in off the striker from Rice's desperate attempt to make amends.

We made two changes at the interval. The no.60 "no-name" shirt was replaced by another no.20 with Ayew's name on it. The other change was a real one with Rice being replaced by Lanzini.

The Geordies were up in arms early on in the second half. "The ref gave you everything" I was informed afterwards. The cause of their ire was one of those blocks from Hernandez that ends up with the full-back getting caught on the follow through. I was slightly concerned, not because it was a yellow - it wasn't - but because I must have seen those sort of challenges a thousand times over the year and the only players who ever get sanctioned for it are ours. Swarbrick had a word and left it at that.

We ought to have equalised. Antonio's fine ball found the advancing Cresswell whose powerful effort was too hot for 'keeper Elliott. Unfortunately, Hernandez wasslightly off balance as the ball shot back him and Clark was able to smuggle the effort away. And that was about it for us as an attacking force.

Ritchie ran through a non-existent midfield and brought out a save from Hart, the rebound of which was cleared by Zabaleta. Ritchie then turned provider. Lanzini was robbed too easily, though the presence of Ritchie's hand in the small of his back didn't help. Ritchie received a return pass and crossed for Clark to head home, neither Collins nor Zabaleta getting close enough to the player to challenge.

Well we queried the role of the fourth official earlier. It seems that role is flexible. Mitrovic launched into Lanzini with his elbow in a disgraceful assault of the sort that saw Arnautovic get a deserved ban. Swarbrick appeared to be looking at it but ignored it. However, it happened right in front of Jones who had been so keen to get involved in the first half. This time he decided that he wouldn't bother. Yet again we had to wait for the ball to be kicked out for a head injury to be looked at. Yet again an elbow was ignored. Covering last season and this, in our last 5 games I have now seen 4 players felled by elbows. Three of those fouled have been Hammers. None of those sent off have been opponents. Go, as they say over the pond, figure.

Of course the inevitable happened. Mitrovic firstly got a good save out of Hart. Then, looking offside (one of those where his toe was probably off, something that only applies to us it seems) he ran through and around Hart to make it 3-0. At 2-0 and facing 10 men there was a chance. 3-0? Forget it. Mitrovic's 3 match ban will restore some semblance of justice I suppose but wouldn't it have been nice to have seen a bit of honesty from Jones who, being only 4th man, at least will be spared the bother of having to lie to the disciplinary bods this time.

The problem is that if you don't attack you don't get goals. You don't get goals you don't win matches. The idea of sitting back and seeing if anything happens is, I am sure, not what the players are told to do. But that is what they are doing. This may contrast with the Allardyce-era when the players were actually told to go out and to try not to lose but the effect is largely the same. What's the point of having 67% of the ball if you have no ambition to do anything with it.

We had no fight, no orgainisation, no team spirit to speak of (see below) and, as a result, no hope. We got what we deserved.

Loath though I am to agree with Preview Percy the old fool did raise a valid point recently when looking at the lack of leadership in the team. A case in point was the first goal. Rice was clearly gutted at losing the ball in the build-up, though he did at least try and save the situation. As the players walked back, eventually Joe Hart jogged up to the lad and had a word, along the lines of "get your head up son. Put it past you".

It was belated and had all the appearance of an afterthought. That's the sort of thing you expect from a captain, a leader. We didn't get it. We have arguably eleven good players out there. What we don't have is a team. And what that eleven doesn't have is a leader who can organise and inspire.
And that's a worry.

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Player Ratings

Joe Hart
Comments to follow.

Pablo Zabaleta
Comments to follow.

Aaron Cresswell
Comments to follow.

Angelo Ogbonna
Comments to follow.

James Collins
Comments to follow.

Declan Rice
Comments to follow.

Mark Noble
Comments to follow.

Michail Antonio
Commnts to follow.

Edimilson Fernandes
Comments to follow.

Javier Hernandez
Comments to follow.

Andre Ayew
Comments to follow


Diafra Sakho
(Replaced Noble) Comments to follow.

Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Rice) Comments to follow.

Cheikhou Kouyate
(Replaced Ayew) Comments to follow.

Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Did not play.

Jose Fonte
Did not play.

Arthur Masuaku
Did not play.

Pedro Obiang
Injured during warm-up.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna, James Collins, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Michail Antonio, Edimilson Fernandes, Javier Hernandez, Andre Ayew.

Goals: None.

Booked: Javier Hernandez 17          .

Sent off: None.

Newcastle United: Elliot, Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba, Hayden (Diame 82), Merino, Atsu, Ritchie (Murphy 88), Perez, Joselu (Mitrovic 71).

Subs not used: Aarons, Saivet, Gamez, Woodman.

Goals:  Joselu 36, Clark 73, Mitrovic 86.

Booked: Merino 84.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Lee Mason.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Javier Hernandez.