Chelsea cruised to a routine win against a meek Newcastle side in a game that resembled little more than a brisk training session.
Werner and Abraham oozed quality throughout as Chelsea created chance after chance against a beleaguered Newcastle defence held together by goalkeeper Karl Darlow.
It might be said that Chelsea lacked incision going forward, but Newcastle’s defence saw to that as Fernandez helpfully turned into his own net to give Chelsea the lead.
Going forward Newcastle were a non-entity throughout and their day can be summed up by the comical fate of skipper Jamaal Lascelles who was forced off in bizarre circumstances. Having been withdrawn with a knee injury just before half time he had been expected to return, only for him to pick up a thigh injury whilst warming up for the second half.
His replacement, Fabian Schar then clocked up one of his worst performances in a Newcastle shirt and was at fault for Chelsea’s second goal.
Newcastle were thoroughly outperformed by a Chelsea side who temporarily moved to the top of the table and can consider themselves fortunate to have escaped with a two goal margin.
And yet, by the hopelessly illogical, tunnel vision reasoning that all supporters are guilty of, it had seemed as though things might play out differently.
Lampard had complained of only having only four players to work with during the international break, Azpilicueta had been forced to address Chelsea’s poor record at St James’ Park and Chelsea fans had mourned the loss of Thiago Silva. Something was afoot. Something could happen. Just get into them early and you never know….
…Well, everyone knew once they saw the team; 5-4-1 with Joelinton upfront on his own. You might want to pause reading this to go and look up Einstein’s definition of insanity. If you’re unsure what I mean just watch any Newcastle game from August 2019-March 2020.
The argument that Joelinton is no good in such a role is as tired as the argument that he gets no service. Both are equally valid and yet nothing has changed, the wing backs stayed back, the wingers dropped deep, the midfielders chased shadows and Joelinton did not get a shot on target.
And it would appear that nothing is about to change. On no fewer than six occasions Steve Bruce talked up the merits of this Chelsea side in his post-match interview (‘up there with the best in Europe’ was the crème de la crème). The media spin was obvious; this was a one off, a difficult performance that would have to be expected against such a good team.
Yet it was a match that very much fits the norm; for total shots, touches in opposition box and passes into the final third, Newcastle currently rank twentieth, rock bottom. During that spell they’ve been utterly outclassed by Brighton and Southampton, stole a point from Spurs and collapsed to a rank average Man Utd outfit.
And it’s not as though things have been any good at the back either. Newcastle have conceded a staggering, Premier League high of 146 attempts on goal, an average of sixteen a match. Perhaps Newcastle supporters should reflect upon the fourteen attempts that Chelsea merrily helped themselves too with satisfaction, Steve Bruce might be!
The direction of travel is clear, the wins against Everton, Burnley and West Ham are looking uncannily similar to snow days during a global warming crisis. Indeed, the chest pounding reaction of some to lasts seasons ‘achievement’ of survival, cup runs against lower league opposition and rope-a-dope results against decent football teams are equal in ignorance and danger.
Chelsea were superior on the day and to be fair they are a superior outfit in general, but does that really justify what Newcastle put out?
How about the abandonment of Joelinton upfront? The confusion that still (unbelievably) exists amongst the back five despite this being the set-up of choice for most of Bruce’s tenure? And it surely can’t justify what happened in the 84th minute, when on one of their few forays deep into Chelsea’s half Newcastle turned a thrown in into a back pass to Karl Darlow.
Losing to a superior outfit is understandable, but there was so much about this performance that is not. Disseminating the fact from the many fictions created by Steve Bruce and his media entourage (looking at you Mark Lawrenson) has to be Newcastle’s first place to start.