A home away from home
Everyone knows that Chelsea have struggled at St James’ Park for quite some time, winning just twice on Tyneside in the 2010s, but it was also not a surprise that this game turned out like a lot of recent fixtures at Stamford Bridge too – with Frank Lampard’s team struggling to break down an opponent willing to defend in numbers and rely on counterattacks, eventually being punished.
It has happened on four occasions now – Southampton, West Ham and Bournemouth at home – and all the familiar issues were signposted here long before Isaac Hayden beat Kepa deep in added time to send a home support that had been subdued by an insipid game into raptures.
Chelsea simply displayed a lack of courage, a shortage of creativity and a general passive attitude when they needed a player to take a risk or try something different. Lampard has discussed these issues more than once now, calling on his team to gamble in such circumstances, which makes this limp showing all the more frustrating.
Although they dominated possession and did begin to perform more expansively entering the latter stages, it was all too safe and too nice. And, yet again, they ultimately paid the price.
Reece James a rare highlight
A rare highlight from a dour evening came just after the half hour mark when Reece James played an exquisite through ball to N’Golo Kante that split the Newcastle defence in half. It was another shining example of the young right back’s attacking ability, something that was sorely lacking in other areas of the pitch against a resilient Newcastle side.
Already James’s passing ability is being placed in a similar category to Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and considering the Chelsea man’s rate of development, is it fair to predict now that they will be the two right backs in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the European Championship?
James was taken off late on with a right leg injury but he was able to walk and Lampard will…