Although difficult to write – as a loyal Newcastle United supporter – given his consistency over the last few years it may be time to question whether Jonas Gutierrez is becoming an issue for us and holding us back from challenging the top 6.
Although signed as an attacking winger with quick feet and incredible flair he’s been somewhat reinvented recently as a hard-working, defensive LM or even CM, and although his defensive work-rate is unquestionable I can’t help but finally wise up to the fact that he may be holding us back going forward. Here’s a few defining issues:
Lack of goals
In 140 starts and 17 substitute appearances Jonas Gutierrez has scored only 10 goals in his Newcastle United career.
What else is there to say? It’s simply not good enough. With a winger scoring so few goals you’re adding an increased dependency on the strikers to score. That said, when signed he had only 5 goals in 88(8) appearances for Mallorca – they must have saw something beyond that, right?
For all of his (rightful) praise for his defensive work-rate it is often forgot than this can hinder him in an attacking sense, he’s often found to be sitting too deep and it can leave a gap on the left when attacking. Jonas must find a balance between attack and defence if we are to offer an equally threatening defensive and attacking game. The above image shows our left-back (Santon) operated on average a very similar position to Jonas during our recent 1-0 win over Norwich whilst operating in a position behind Jonas. Simply put, this shouldn’t be happening. You could argue this is a fluid method of support in both attack and defence but the wide-left position should be operating in a more attacking dependency than we are currently if we are to offer a balanced threat going forward.
A key talking point in the defence/criticism of Jonas over the years has been his end product, or more specifically – crossing. His crossing is average at best and simply does not create enough goals in the opinion of many. Here’s a few key crossing stats over the last 2-3 years. I’ll let you decide.
10/11 – 1.0 accurate crosses per game (36/180). 4 assists.
11/12 – 0.5 accuracy crosses per game (17/99). 3 assists.
12/13 (4 appearances to date) – 0.8 accurate crosses per game (3/8). 0 assists.
Unbalanced attacking play
This is an issue that has reinvented itself year-on-year. Under Hughton’s tenure we often found ourselves attacking far too frequently down the left hand-side (dominated by Jonas and Enrique). This could be chalked down to Joey Barton’s inability to run at full-backs and ultimately inability to play wide-right, but now we find ourselves in a different position – we don’t attack enough down the left. As you can see from the above image we have a high dependency on the right-side in our attacking play.
The above images tell a lot of the story, compare his attacking work-rate to that of Ben Arfa and you can see where I’m coming from. Ben Arfa can be a dominant force down the right, granted, but Jonas seems to have dropped off of late and simply allows Santon to make the majority of attacking runs or allows the right to be the dominant attacking channel.
From a tactical perspective this can make us easier to predict and mark – teams are now frequently doubling-up on Hatem on the right-wing, meaning we don’t create the chances we perhaps should. Predictability can be a defining issue in tight games.
Jonas Gutierrez made more tackles (85) and interceptions (74) than any other Premier League wide-midfielder during the 11/12 season.
His defensive contribution however should not be overlooked. Quite frankly, it’s superb. The above statistic tells the story. Jonas has been brilliant for us in a defensive capacity, we’re often incredibly difficult to break down on the left hand-side and sides are forced into focusing attacking efforts at central and right areas of the pitch. In this sense Jonas is seen as an asset to our play and has rightfully received nationwide coverage for his efforts.
It’s a difficult conclusion to give as this issue is not entirely black and white. Where Jonas may hinder us in an attacking sense in could be argued he makes up for in a defensive capacity. It’s no coincidence that Jonas has often been found now operating in a central defensive role and even given the captains armband on occasion.
Personally I cannot see an alternative who’d come to the club (under our financial restraints) and give us the grit and determination that Jonas does. Where I don’t see Jonas as an issue, I can’t help but think a similar player to Ben Arfa either side of a 4-3-3 formation would allow us to begin challenging at the top again and ultimately make us a force to be reckoned with. What do you think?