Newcastle will be unlikely to win many games away from home this season and we made it all too easy for them to claim the three points yesterday.
Too many of our players had an off day yesterday. We started off on the back foot and made it easy for the visitors to take and to retain the initiative. Having managed to draw level on 67 minutes there was some hope that we might go on to apply some sustained pressure and claim a win but that hope evaporated when we conceded another goal only six minutes later and we never really looked like pulling this one out of the fire.
We appear to lack the ability to boss games which we start as favourites and to keep a clean sheet in the league this being the 26th we have now gone without doing so. We lacked creativity and intensity yesterday often seeming devoid of ideas. Gabby missed a gaping open goal on a day that we created very few opportunities, we failed to compete strongly enough in the midfield and Newcastle eventually ran out worthy winners.
Last season we often went to home games with more than a touch of pessimism. A bright start to the season at Arsenal and Chelsea had left us approaching yesterday’s game with optimism despite our home defeat against Liverpool. But our hopes for three points were soon dashed by a second successive inept first half display that left us with a lot to do in the second half which again proved beyond us.
This second defeat at home to Newcastle was hard to take. This is a team that got a shot in the arm last season from their win against us and one that arrived with a simmering discontent given their lack of summer transfer activity. Had we claimed the first goal we could well have gone on to exploit that discontent and to be sitting comfortably in the top half of the table this morning. But our first half display did for us and we have now followed that encouraging first day victory at Arsenal with three league defeats one unluckily but the last two increasingly less so. The points gained from that early win have now been negated by two consecutive home defeats and although we still have three more points than we had got from the corresponding fixtures last season losing at home to Newcastle is a habit we did not want to start getting into and we will now need a win at Norwich to make amends for this debacle.
My player ratings from a game that has left us in the bottom six that we have grown far too accustomed to spending time in of late are:
Brad Guzan – 6 – Turned a Ben Arfa shot from the edge of the box past the post for a corner on 60 minutes but he could only parry a very similar effort 13 minutes later to Gouffran whose tap in proved the match winner.
Matt Lowton – 5 – Got forward well enough on those occasions he moved forward but left a hole behind him when we lost possession and was undone by Remy in the lead up to their opener and caught flat footed for the second.
Ron Vlaar – 6 – The most solid of our defenders yesterday.
Jores Okore – 6 – Injured in winning a challenge with Remy inside the box becoming the third of our central defenders to leave the field injured during our first four league games on the half hour mark. His ability to read the game was missed on a day when our defence was put under significant pressure.
Antonio Luna - 5 – Allowed Ben Arfa the space to cut inside rather than force him wide for their second and was given a tough defensive examination throughout. Really needed to try a shot rather than look for a pass when in room inside the box on 50 minutes and did not get forward as often or as effectively as he has been doing up until now.
Karim El Ahmadi – 3 – This was a disappointing return to the ineffective performances that led him to spend so much of last season out of the team. It will be a big surprise if Sylla does not start the next game after this.
Fabian Delph – 7 – MOTM – The best of our midfield by some distance and our most effective player on an ineffective day. Hit a 30 yard shot just wide on 80 minutes and having earlier picked up his customary booking.
Ashley Westwood – 5 – This was some way below the level of performance we have come to expect from Ash.
Gabriel Agbonlahor- 4 – Missed a game changing opportunity on 55 minutes. Lowton found Weimann whose splendid cross left Gabby with a tap in from a couple of yards out which he inexplicably hit across the gaping goal and wide. Fought back for the ball on those occasions he was dispossessed but his woeful miss capped off a below par display.
Andreas Weimann – 4 – Andi was some way off his best on his return from international duty yesterday and looked weary at times. Pulled a shot badly wide on 42 minutes having been found well by Lowton might possibly have been distracted by thoughts of squaring the ball to Gabby.
Christian Benteke – 6 – Powered in a header from a corner on 67 minutes to bring us all square. The test of a great striker is to score on a day when they appear to be having an off day. Benteke was not at his dominant best, lacked service and did not hold the ball up as well as he usually does. But he averages a goal a game and where on earth would we be without his goals?
Ciaran Clark – 6 - Replaced Okore on 30 minutes and gave a good account of himself at the back. Hit a first time shot into the side netting after Krul had flapped at a Lowton cross on 41 minutes.
Libor Kozak – 5 - Replaced El Ahmadi on 67 minutes. His introduction at the corner that led to our goal may have led to some confusion in the Newcastle defence which Benteke benefited from. Early days in the shirt and had limited service and opportunity to shine.
Aleksandar Tonev - Replaced Weimann on 88 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
Up the Villa!