So McClaren has blasted his players. Not before time, some might add. The media seems to be siding with McClaren. Should they? 

Newcastle United’s PR machine has become an efficient beast, backed by media suspensions. The face of the club is Steve McClaren. He is the one with the weekly press briefings. Do players have the right of reply? 

It is true that Newcastle United have had a bad year. 2 wins in 13 league games this season follows Carver’s spell of 3 wins in 19 and Pardew’s run of 5 wins in 1 27 before a 5 game winning burst in autumn 2014. 

It is easy to make a case to blame the players. There are also signs that criticism should not necessarily be assigned to the squad. 

McClaren himself has had a poor run. Including his spell at Derby, he is in his own run of 4 wins in 26. He left his previous club, Forest, in a similar position to Newcastle United now. 

What he has had is an injection of around £50m of playing talent. He also has his own coaches, Paul Simpson who has had 6 managerial spells of his own and the talented Ian Cathro. 

McClaren has also strictly adhered to formations involving 2 holding midfielders. Now, he has passed his own self imposed honeymoon period of 12 games, inviting judgement upon himself. 

Press reports suggest that none of the squad suggest that nobody was spared “from Fabricio Coloccini down to the latest graduate from the reserve team”. Aside from Paul Dummett, nobody on the field against Leicester had graduated from within, both Woodman and Sterry being on the bench. 

Patterns of play have been emerging. It is always fun to put yourself in an opposing manager’s shoes. As well as looking at strengths, how would you set up a team to beat Newcastle United? 

Arguably, some of the most pleasing aspects of Newcastle performances this season have been defensively. When under pressure, the team have held formations in the box, closing opponents and providing the keeper with narrow angles to protect. This worked against Man Utd and Bournemouth. 

There is talent when driving forward, particularly down the right with Janmaat overlapping. That is the side for an opposing manager to defend, with only Newcastle’s left backs being naturally left sided. 

The weaknesses have come from open play. Yes, Coloccini has been drawn out of position. Despite strengths going forward, Wijnaldum has been caught out by the pace of the Premier League and is still adapting. Since his return, perhaps unsurprisingly with only 3 starts previously this year, Tiote has been caught in possession. 

These provide clues for opponents’ strategy.  Let Newcastle have possession, into the attacking half, pressure those players who may not be at optimal sharpness then when in possession, play the ball into the vacant full back areas, particularly Newcastle’s right hand side. At the same time, send 3 players forward at pace, one in to the identified space and one towards each of the near and far post. 

It is therefore no surprise when Coloccini is drawn out wide. These are the sort of tactics that have led to not only most of the goals against but also the majority of bookings in attempting to stop the counter. The pattern of cards tells its own story, Colback, Anita, Tiote and Janmaat taking the bulk of them. 

If these are patterns identified by supporters and opponents, who really should take the blame? 

McClaren’s PR efforts are admirable. As my daughter observes, he always smiles after a defeat. He also has the team playing with some style on occasions and in spells. 

The manager must also take his share of the blame for deployment of resources. Without natural wingers in the side, his pattern of play becomes predictable. The lack of genuine width provides target areas for opponents to defend. 

He could also apportion blame to recruitment policy. 12.5% of outfield starts this season have been domestic players. The age profile suggests a lack of experience, combined with overseas recruitment, a lack of Premier League experience compounds the issue of match pace. 

There are solutions, some of which can be addressed in the January window. As for the manager himself, he can learn to adapt to modern methods and tactics, as employed by the foreign coaches at the top of the league, or be replaced. 

Certainly, the current generation of English managers in their 50s, brought up under Howard Wilkinson’s percentage philosophy under the FA, have achieved little success. 

Of course, supporters can see that the team, as selected, have been incapable of producing the sort of form that we would like to see. We can also see that the progress on the pitch has an inverse to Mike Ashley’s revenues. Is McClaren bold enough to rant at the real source of Newcastle United’s woes? 

The big question is has McClaren hit the target, or on this occasion, is he wide of the mark?