It was a game to forget at St. James' Park on Boxing Day, as Newcastle were swept away by Manchester City 3-1. It was the Magpies' second defeat in three games. Defensive mistakes and a crucial error by goalkeeper Tim Krul handed Man City two goals in the opening five minutes, virtually assuring the result in the visitor's favor.
The first goal was all you really needed to see. Tim Krul attempted to pass the ball to one of his defenders (rather than simply clearing the ball with a swift kick), and it was intercepted by Man City star Carlos Tévez, who passed it to Gareth Barry on the left post, who easily put it past a flustered and upset Krul. Tévez scored on a terrific give and go with former Magpie James Milner just two minutes later and the game was all but over. Tévez was just too fast for Newcastle on the breakaway. He passed the ball to Milner on the right wing (who was an excellent wingman for Newcastle, after all), got a couple of feet ahead of defender Fanricio Coloccini, and was able to tap in Milner's return pass.
I wasn't expecting Newcastle to defeat Man City. I was hoping for a point, but that would have been the best case scenario. Frankly, Newcastle United didn't have a chance to win this game.
So, moving on...
Newcastle's most difficult stretch of the season comes to an end on Tuesday December 28th, when they travel to North London to play the Spurs. Again, they are not expected to win. They will be without captain Kevin Nolan, who is serving a one game suspension for picking up his fifth yellow card of the season. But they have to play hard and create more chances. It makes no sense to play a quiet, conservative game when they are the underdog. They need to play a fearless 90 minutes of football at Tottenham.
The highlight of Boxing Day was the new contract for hometown defender, Steven Taylor. After being listed on the transfer list in August, the team has recommited to Taylor, who will no remain at the club through May 2016. I think he is a competant defender. He's still young and there's room for growth. Coloccini could use his help in the backfield. And this new contract has certainly improved Taylor's morale.
I think the new Taylor contract signals the end for James Perch. As a right midfielder, Perch does not excel at either offense or defense. He has had trouble preventing breakaways, and he's had trouble passing the ball forward to the strikers this season. He is also young, and will grow, but he will be of much better use in the Championship rather than the Premiership. If Newcastle is going to gain entry to the Europa League in 2011 or 2012, they need Premiership quality players. In my opinion, it would be worthwhile to find a buyer for Perch in either January or during the summer.