A lot of criticism of Newcastle this season has been directed at the style of their football, with many people arguing that they have often favored a long ball tactic in games.
In this article, we will take a look at the statistics behind this claim, and whether or not Newcastle are beginning to emulate what Stoke brought to the Premiership in their first couple of seasons in the top flight.
Firstly, Newcastle are the second most aggressive team in the league in terms of discipline, amassing a lot of yellow and red cards. Chief culprits in this regard are Perch, who has six cautions, and Williamson, Gutierrez, Tiote and Santon who all have three or more.
Even Yohan Cabaye has picked up three yellow cards and he has spent a lot of time on the sidelines already this campaign. Newcastle’s midfielders have 20 yellow cards between them and we haven’t yet reached the New Year, a damning stat on the style of football they have been playing.
Why is this? It appears to be inexplicable, but it is certainly something that Alan Pardew needs to address in order to start improving Newcastle’s fortunes. This statistic bears a comparison to Stoke’s poor discipline, exemplified by Dean Whitehead, Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross, who have all amassed at least 5 or more yellows cards this season.
Moving away from the discipline area, Newcastle have shown an alarming willingness to deploy a ‘long ball’ tactic. No other team in the Premier League comes close to matching the number of long balls we play each match – 75. A further look at the statistical breakdown shows that the midfield is naturally the main source of this ‘boring’ style of pass, with Cabaye averaging 6 accurate long balls per game and Tiote 4.9.
Moving back, the central defenders Coloccini and Williamson both average over 3 each match, and goalkeeper Tim Krul a whopping 8. Now, obviously at every stage in any game long balls to creep into a side’s game, but the stats reveal it’s beginning to become a hallmark of Newcastle’s game.
In terms of through balls, no Newcastle player this season averages over 0.2 successful through balls a game. This is an astonishing stat, really revealing a shift in emphasis from last season.
In addition, our passing accuracy is not what it should be. At 79.9%, Newcastle are the 11th most accurate team in the league. The most impressive passers of the ball are Steven Taylor (90.4%) and Shane Ferguson (89.7%). On the other end of the scale, however, Papiss Cisse has been one of the worst (72.3%)
Stats site ‘Who Scored’ gives a detailed analysis of every team in Europe’s top league, and using this information it depicts each team’s playing style: among the characteristics of Newcastle’s style are ‘Long balls’, ‘Attempt crosses often’, ‘Take long shots’, ‘Take a lot of shots’, ‘Playing in their own half’ and ‘Aggressive’. It’s quite frankly embarrassing how much our style has changed over the last year.
*All stats given are taken from WhoScored.com, and apply only to the Premier League this season.
Now, why is this? Pardew is clearly attempting to tailor his team to play only to certain players. It is not too dissimilar to the manner in which Rafa Benitez is trying to get Fernando Torres firing at Chelsea, ordering his team to direct early and longer passes to the Spaniard.
This is what it seems Pardew is trying to get Newcastle to do, searching out Ba and Cisse and bypassing what has on occasion been a weak midfield due to injuries. It has however, not worked. Cisse has been exceptionally poor in most of his outings, leaving Ba to try and forge many opportunities out of nothing. Pardew needs to develop a new tactic in order to get the Magpies back on track this season, and needs to do it quickly.
What are your views on Newcastle’s style of play this season? Do you agree that there has been a definite shift from last year’s successful tactic? Let us know your thoughts, along with perhaps whom the club could sign in January to help turn this around.
By Harry Aitkenhead