After a featherweight performance against West Ham United, Steve McClaren's Newcastle side were in need of a tactical reshuffle. Mid-week, the former Derby boss had admitted that he was still unsure of his best eleven and hinted that Vurnon Anita could lose his place as Watford visited St James' Park. His subtle remarks proved accurate and the Dutch international was replaced by Ayoze Perez with Georginio Wijnaldum being deployed alongside Jack Colback in the middle of midfield. Or so we thought. As the Magpies kicked off, it became apparent that McClaren was experimenting with a needlessly complicated 4-1-4-1 formation that saw Wijnaldum and Sissoko rotate (very unsuccessfully) the anchorman role; something that as far as I'm aware has never happened in the history of football. The system looked ugly, undisciplined and desperate and Newcastle were 2-0 down at half time. Like a man who just lost a heap of money on a dead-cert accumulator and heedlessly lumped a similar amount on the Argentinian Primera League in an attempt to win it back (through the night), McClaren's excessive midfield choices screamed of a do-or-die decision. In the second half, the Magpies' boss changed it. Papiss Cisse was replaced by Siem de Jong and Ayoze Perez moved up front. De Jong played as the number ten, Moussa Sissoko and Florian Thauvin occupied the wings and Jack Colback and Georginio Wijnaldum sat in front of the defence (in simpler terms, the team that should have obviously started). The change worked. Daryl Janmaat's 62nd minute goal ignited a black and white firework and St James' Park rocketed into life. But despite a surge of inspired attacks Newcastle were unable to find an equaliser and it's now six games without a win for the Toon Army and the not-so-simple task of facing last year's Champions next week. The claims that the last two performances have mirrored the dismal days of last season are partially right, although - correct me if I'm wrong - but wouldn't Alan Pardew have at least got a point against Watford today?
NCTJ-accredited football writer with an MA in Sports Journalism. What Culture football editor. Write for the official Newcastle United programme. Former video reporter at North News. Featured and published in the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette, Mail Online, The Mirror, The Sun and others.