Butt, Barton, Smith is a dismal selection for Newcastle
This has been a terrible season for Newcastle. They started off not playing that great but were picking up wins at a regular enough pace to push them up in the top half of the table. But I think the turning point of the season into a spiral of desperate, dismal football was the home match against Liverpool in mid-November where they lost 3-0 and it was a scoreline that flattered them. That was the day Allardyce was a doomed man at St James' and in early January was replaced by the legend of Newcastle, Kevin Keegan.
Yet as we enter March, Newcastle are winless under Keegan and as they stand-still in the table they are slowly but surely being caught up by relegation candidates. In other words Newcastle are being sucked into a relegation fight and have absolutely no momentum behind them to aid them in this battle.
For me there has been a lot of focus in the media on the lack of quality in Newcastle's defence as the main reason behind their terrible season. However, for me the main problem with Newcastle is the selection of Butt, Barton and Smith as three central midfielders.
They are three players who have a real lack of quality and attempt to make up for it by using aggressive tackling and competiveness that often crosses the line. In the Premier League alone Butt has ten yellow cards to his name; Smith has 8 yellows and one red, and Barton who has been injured for half the season has three yellows and a vicious streak as Ousmane Dabo can account for. Joey Barton and Alan Smith were bought by Sam Allardyce for a total of £11.8 million - and that alone is an indictment on Allardyce's short reign at Newcastle. 33 year old Nicky Butt is quite a bit past his prime and is now a very average Premier League midfield player. All three often play the game with a snarl on their face and its not great to see.
According to Soccernet's stats none of these three players have any assists to their name. This highlights the main thing I notice when watching these three players perform - a lack of creativity and footballing intelligence to generate quality football at Premier League level. For me they don't represent the attacking Newcastle that the Toon fans want to see and the fact that the three have also represented England is somewhat a reflection on the limitations on the England national team in the last decade.
As long as Keegan persits on playing all these three players in the same team I fear for Newcastle - they are not good enough in the crucial central area of the pitch to take good control of the game, create chances and get a goal or two. Whatever happens to Newcastle this season it has to be the case that for the good of their club Butt, Barton and Smith are not included in the same starting XI at the start of next season.