Is McClaren ready for judgement day? 

Steve McClaren asked to be judged after 12 games. With 13 down, is he just unlucky? 

Going by results, McClaren must be considered as one of the mangers under most threat.  13 games played, 10 points and just one place above the relegation zone, Newcastle United are not looking too healthy, to say the least. 

Of the clubs below, Sunderland have already lost Dick Advocaat, Villa have replaced Tim Sherwood and Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe has already proved a miracle worker, merely for bringing Bournemouth into the top flight for the first time in their history. 

On their way to the Championship title, Bournemouth beat McClaren’s Derby County who tailed off with 2 wins in their last 13 games. 

Coincidentally, McClaren has started at St James’ Park in the same way he finished last season with Derby, 2 wins in 13 games. Such a return saw Derby lose patience with the former England manager. 

McClaren’s advocates will point to his track record. Among current English managers, he is a rarity in having won a major domestic trophy, the League Cup in 2004. Of those in employment, Garry Monk is the only other English manager to earn major silverware. In addition, McClaren can claim a Dutch league title. 

His critics will point out that McClaren has only ever achieved a single top half Premier League finish, with Middlesbrough when well funded by Steve Gibson. He also lays claim to be one of the few England managers not to have qualified for a major competition. 

Since those heady days in international football, aside from his experience at Twente, he has parted company with Twente twice, Wolfsburg, Forest and Derby, making him something of a journeyman. 

Casting an eye back over results, his first 8 games were winless. Some may argue that this was to be expected, given a run of games including the top 4 from last season. That run also included 4 teams that have come up since Newcastle’s own return to the top flight in 2010, West Ham (2011), Southampton (2011), Swansea (2012) and Watford (2015). 

After 4 points out of 24, a run of 4 games saw just 1 defeat, perhaps giving McClaren some breathing pace. 7 points from 4 games put Newcastle United 7th in the form table. In truth, the 6-2 win against newly promoted Norwich could have gone either way, Newcastle scoring from all 6 shots on target, the Canaries scoring 2 from 6. 

The red and white stripes of both Sunderland and Stoke provided a further platform, playing attacking football from the start. The erroneous sending off of Coloccini turned the game against the local rivals, inspired goalkeeping from Butland thwarting a home win against the Potters. 

Fortune was reversed against Bournemouth who dominated possession and territory. This time it was Rob Elliot’s turn to put in a great keeping performance to keep a clean sheet whilst Perez scored from Newcastle’s only shot on target. 

Now we are in McClaren’s self imposed judgement period, Leicester City at home last weekend saw a capitulation where a 0-3 score line flattered the home side. 

So what have we come to expect from McClaren? 

Generally, there has been a consistency in selection of players, excepting disciplinary and injury problems, 8 players having made 9 or more appearances. 

Tactically, the start of the season saw a 4-2-3-1 formation, adhered to for the first 5 games. The 6th game, against Watford, marked a change with 2 up front, with just one holding midfielder and, for the only time, 2 out and out wingers. Since that 1-2 home defeat, the pattern has been a 4-4-2 with a reversion to 2 holding in midfield. 

Also since that Watford defeat, we have seen even more consistency in selection, the only changes having been Dummett in at left back for the injured Mbabu and Tiote in the holding role for Colback. 

The more progressive midfielders, Wijnaldum and Sissoko, have ostensibly been deployed on the flanks. Both being naturally central players, perhaps predictably, width has been lacking. Any width has come down the right hand side, Janmaat being the overlapping full back. 

Defensively, the team has looked solid against set pieces and when playing with their backs to the wall. The back 4 have withdrawn into their own area, narrowing angles, holding midfield just in front to block whilst the attacking midfield have had responsibility for the wide areas. 

The problems have come from more open play, those attacking midfielders being slower to retreat with opponents breaking at pace. Critics have been quick to point the finger at the maturing captain Coloccini for being pulled out of position. Others might justifiably highlight newer signings, adapting to the speed of the Premier League. 

That there is attacking talent in the side is beyond debate. Wijnaldum’s 4 goal haul against Norwich is a testament to that. Up front, Perez has shown great technique with quick feet. Mitrovic has hinted at his aerial potential and made intelligent runs but as with any target man, needs service to be able to consistently impress. That service has been lacking. 

Whether that is attributable to McClaren is open to debate. Another guide to attacking intent is in penalties awarded, only one since the start of last season, the lowest in the Premier League. 

Discipline has also been an issue, the 3 red cards this season (one since rescinded) putting the team close to the top of the table, just behind Chelsea and Spurs. In fact, as a club Newcastle have received 12 reds since one was awarded against opponents. 

So far, the evidence is that the sceptics were right. 4th bottom of the league, with only 2 away goals to match the 5 in 6 home games (out of 7) that Newcastle have failed to win. 

Having spent £40m on attacking players during the summer, it is hard to argue that McClaren can mix it with other managers relatively fresh to their Premier League clubs, Bilic, Koeman, Monk, Ranieiri, Pochettino, Flores, even Pardew, let alone Klopp. 

From now on McClaren can expect criticism if things don’t improve fast. With the 2nd highest net transfer spend in summer, only behind Manchester City, surely the time will soon come for owner Mike Ashley to decide to stick or twist. The coach might argue that the 3rd relegation campaign in 4 years suggests that the problems may be more deep seated. 

McClaren was the man who accepted the challenge to sort it out and as they say, at the end of the day, it’s good night.