While injuries and insufficient depth have no doubt combined to conspire against Newcastle, Phil speculated that some sort of dysfunction must have entered the club's locker room. None of us truly know what's going on between those four walls, but Newcastle has certainly lacked the sort resolve that it displayed time after time last season.
Well, take a bow, Phil, because your hypothesis looks more and more accurate by the day. Rumors that captain Fabricio Coloccini wants to make a stunning exit and return to his native Argentina began last week, but solidified Friday when reputable publications began reporting the news. The speculation is Coloccini has a family issue and believes returning home is the only way to address it.
Alan Pardew admitted he and Coloccini had a disagreement last month - which prompted Pardew to embrace his captain on the field following the win over QPR - and Coloccini hasn't looked like himself for much of the season. (Not to mention of late he's been pulling the Michael Owen captain routine by avoiding interviews at all costs.) Add to that the constant drama surrounding now-departed Demba Ba, who was said to be one of the more influential voices in a heavily French-speaking locker room, and you don't exactly get the picture of a team with the sort of we're-all-in-this-together mentality that seemed to exist last season.
Pardew, Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias may dig in their heels and insist Coloccini stays, at the very least until the summer. But does the risk of holding on to an unhappy captain outweigh the positives of keeping the club's most accomplished defender? Would a struggling team benefit from a total shakeup this month? Or would losing Coloccini be merely another blow to its fragile psyche?
I don't know. But let's hope Pardew, Ashley and Llambias choose the right answer.