Newcastle's best hope is to copy Sunderland's simpler style
It is a huge ask for Newcastle to stop a resurgent Liverpool side on Sunday but there are ways for them to beat the Reds' pressing game and get their confidence back.
If I were Magpies boss Steve McClaren, I would be a bit more pragmatic with the players at my disposal and try to make things a bit simpler for them - like Sam Allardyce has done since taking charge at Sunderland.
The Black Cats have certainly not played pretty football since Allardyce arrived but they have looked so well organised and shown they are willing to fight for points.
Almost every time Sunderland get a set-play or a throw-in, the ball goes in the opposition box and they are looking for something to drop for them.
They have nicked a couple of results that way, and it is probably time for Newcastle to go down that route too.
After such a disastrous run of conceding goals, this weekend's game is not about trying to please their fans with great football but losing again, it is about getting a scrappy draw or a win whichever way they can and building a bit of belief.
'You can turn things round by being clever'
Newcastle's attacking and defensive stats under McClaren have not shown much improvement on John Carver's spell as manager in the second half of last season - in some cases they are worse.
I would still like to wait until McClaren has been in charge for the same amount of matches to give a true comparison but it is a worry that, on top of their disappointing results, his team is having fewer shots and facing more than a side that had such a disastrous run.
|Newcastle in the Premier League (and rank)|
|Under Carver||Average per game||Under McClaren|
|0.95 (16th best)||Goals scored||1 (16th best)|
|8.6 (15th)||Shots||6.7 (20th)|
|1.8 (18th)||Goals conceded||2.1 (19th)|
|8.9 (11th)||Shots faced||11.7 (19th)|
The bigger concern for me, though, is the stat that shows Newcastle have lost more points - 10 - from a winning position than any other top-flight team in 2015-16.
They have played well for spells in games but that proves that, when they get pulled back, they go under.
I don't know if that is because they have a mindset where they retreat because they are so desperate to protect their lead but I am sure that Steve has looked at why it is happening and, more importantly, what he can do to change it.
There are drills you can do in training to recreate that scenario but, in my experience at Fulham, when you are down at the bottom of the table and having a bad time then you turn things around by being clever and being cute.
If you are 1-0 up in a game with 30 minutes left then you take your time over free-kicks and throw-ins and also go down with an injury and get the trainer on.
Allardyce's teams have been the best at it recent years. A number of times when I went to Blackburn or Bolton and we went a goal down, I would see their ball-boys taking extra time giving the ball back or their player being substituted would somehow always be in the far corner and would take an extra minute walking off that would never be put back on the clock.
It was all pre-planned and all done very deliberately as clever ways of seeing out the game.
'Newcastle are short of experience and nous'
The main thing is not to try anything risky, though. Newcastle need to play some percentage football to get their confidence back and there are plenty of little things they can do if they take the lead against Liverpool.
It might be that they won't take any short free-kicks or play them sideways or backwards. Instead of playing their normal passing game, they could go long into the corner or into the box and fight for it there.
Or they could not let their keeper throw the ball out. McClaren should say to Rob Elliott: 'I don't care if the opposition drops off 40 yards, you are going to kick it long and we are going to fight for the second ball and play in their half'.
Their fans might not like it but they don't have to do it for the whole game, only when they are ahead, and it might mean they do not make the mistake of giving the ball away in their back four when they are winning the game.
It is that kind of nous that Newcastle's squad is lacking at the moment, something that is at least partly down to their recruitment policy.
Since Kevin Nolan and Ryan Taylor joined in early 2009, Newcastle have spent more than £100m and made 42 permanent signings but only three - Wayne Routledge, Sol Campbell and Jack Colback - arrived with any substantial Premier League experience, by which I mean they had already played more than 50 top-flight games in this country.
Of the current squad, Colback is the only signing that comes into that category.
Of course it is good to try to nick a few bargains and Newcastle can point to the likes of Yohan Cabaye as successes, but the truth is there have not been that many of them.
I am a big advocate of mixing your signings up because experience can make a big difference. After Roy Hodgson miraculously kept Fulham up when I was at Craven Cottage in 2008, he brought in Mark Schwarzer, Andy Johnson, Bobby Zamora and Zoltan Gera, who had an average age of 29.5 and had played more than 500 Premier League games between them.
That summer we went from being an average side to being a team with some leaders and some talkers. We became a really clever and experienced outfit, and without spending an absolute fortune either.
Beating Liverpool's pressing game
McClaren is stuck with the players he has got until January, and he has got a pretty limited squad - there are not many changes he can make to make them any stronger.
I worked with him when he was part of the England set-up, and he was an astute coach who was very aware tactically. As Sven-Goran Eriksson's number two he was very good at setting up teams to play against different formations and to be defensive or attacking.
I have been surprised by how open and naive Newcastle have been under him this season but I am sure he will realise that, if he tries to go toe-to-toe with Liverpool at St James' Park this weekend, Newcastle will get torn apart.
But he still has a couple of options of how to deal with Liverpool's pressing, if Jurgen Klopp's side adopt their expected approach.
Newcastle can go a bit longer, from back to front, to bypass the press and the Liverpool midfield. That could mean hitting a big man like Aleksandar Mitrovic in the front areas, playing up to him and then have Moussa Sissoko running off him with his pace.
Or, if Liverpool are playing really high up the pitch, then the Magpies can look for longer balls directly for fast runners behind the back four.
That is the way we played at Fulham when we had Johnson in the side because he loved running behind defences. We could play blind passes over centre-halves and full-backs and, even if he did not get them, that turned the opposing defenders around and we were advancing up the pitch.
The third way is more difficult, because it involves playing your way through the press.
You can do that if you are confident and have good players because you will know that, while the press might be intense in the first 15 or 20 minutes, there is no way the opposition can keep that up for 90 minutes and your quality will wear them out.
In Newcastle's predicament and with their low confidence levels after their recent results, I would be surprised if McClaren tried it.
But whatever his tactics are, his players have to back them up by running hard, winning some tackles and showing some guts and commitment.
They have not done that in recent weeks and they will not get anywhere without it.