After a controversial summer, Newcastle have had a solid start to the season picking up ten points from their opening seven matches. They are currently in 11th place which leaves them in a decent position to achieve their aim of a top ten finish. Although it’s still early in the season, the first ten games are crucial in determining where a side is likely to finish in the table. In this article, I will explore the side’s defensive, passing, creativity and attacking stats while looking at key men in each area. Furthermore I will compare the team’s start with last season to see if there has been an improvement.
The Geordies have conceded 12 goals so far but they have managed to keep two clean sheets. Alan Pardew will want the defence to be more consistent because even though they’ve kept two clean sheets, they have conceded 3 or more goals on three occasions. The key man in the Newcastle defence is captain Fabricio Coloccini who has been crucial since the side’s return to the Premier League. He has made the joint most amount of blocks (4) with Mathieu Debuchy, while he has also provoked the most offsides (10). Both of these show the Argentine’s awareness of what is going on around him. The club captain has also managed to make a healthy amount of headed clearance (14) and total clearances (30). However he is bettered on both by Mathieu Debuchy who has a tally of 18 headed clearances and 32 total clearances. Mike Williamson also has more headed clearances (15) than Coloccini but this is down to his tall frame which makes him strong in the air.
There have been seven errors so far that have led to shots. Coloccini, Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Cheick Tiote have all made one error each while Tim Krul has already made three, one of which led to a goal. Pardew will not be happy at the frequent errors being made by his defence as the strength of the league will mean they will be punished more often if they continue in their current vein. Meanwhile the top tackler in the Newcastle side is Debuchy who has made 23 tackles at a success rate of 83% (19 tackles won). The full back has also won the most aerial duels (27 from 39). These show that the French International’s contribution at the back is being underestimated as he is considered by most as being too attacking.
Newcastle have a total open play passing accuracy of 81% from 3078 passes made in total, 36% of which have gone forward which is to be expected from a side that likes to be more direct in it’s play. The side’s most prolific passer is Moussa Sissoko who has attempted 342 passes at a success rate of 82%. The Frenchman passes forward more than he does in any other direction (31% of the time). He passes forward more than the more conservative central midfielders Tiote (25% of the time) and Vurnon Anita (29% of the time). This highlights Sissoko’s more attacking role in the side as opposed to Newcastle’s two defensive minded midfielders. The Dutchman Anita’s main role in the team is to retain possession, a role he has performed very well with a passing accuracy of 88% from 295 passes. This is the joint best passing accuracy of Newcastle players who have made more than 15 passes along with Tiote. The Ivorian has made less passes (242) than Anita so the former Ajax player can be considered the most impressive passer at the club so far this season.
In the final third, Sissoko has amounted the most passes with 112 with an accuracy of 73% which again emphasises his attacking role in the Newcastle midfield. The most accurate passer in the final third is the mercurial winger Hatem Ben Arfa who has attempted 79 passes at a success rate of 80%. As the most dangerous attacker in the squad, you would expect him to comfortable with the ball around the box as he tries to create chances for his team mates. Somewhat surprisingly playmaker Yohan Cabaye only has a success rate of 68% in the final third from 75 passes. This is disappointing for a player of the French International’s quality, especially as he has been given a freer role by Pardew.
As a side, the Magpies have created 84 chances, from these 8 have been clear cut opportunities. The team have attempted 143 dribbles at a success rate of 52%. The player who has created the most chances is Sissoko with 14 (1 assist) which is the joint fourth best in the league. This will show fans that the former Toulouse man deserves more praise for his creativity and that he offers a lot more on the pitch than people think. Sylvain Marveaux has been the most frequent creator with a minutes per chances created of 14 which is far superior than Sissoko who creates a chance every 45 minutes.
Papiss Cisse has made the most assists (2) however it’s difficult to praise the striker’s creativity as both assists have come from attempted shots put in by Loic Remy. Unsurprisingly Ben Arfa has attempted the most dribbles (34) at a success rate of 62% which is 10% more than the team average. This highlights the winger’s unpredictability around the box as he is the most impressive dribbler and final third passer in the Newcastle team. He has also made the most crosses with 26 attempted.
Newcastle have scored 9 goals so far with a shooting accuracy of 42% and a chance conversion rate of 10%. Moreover they have only managed to score 33% of their clear cut chances which Pardew will want to improve upon. The side’s star attacker is Loic Remy who has scored 5 goals from 16 shots. The on-loan striker has the best chance conversion rate (36%) in the squad while his shooting accuracy (57%) is also impressive. Remy’s stats are even better when you consider he is predominantly playing on the left wing, only starting through the middle on one occasion. Currently he is second top scorer in the league behind only Daniel Sturridge. From the players who have taken more than 5 shots, only Luis Suarez (60) and Romulu Lukaku (64.25) have a better minutes per goal than Remy (66).
Ben Arfa has had the most shots (19) but he has only scored twice. His shooting accuracy (47%) and chance conversion (13%) show that despite his individual brilliance, the winger still has plenty of room for improvement in front of goal. Although he has converted the only clear cut chance that has come his way. The North East club’s first choice striker Papiss Cisse has disappointed so far in the Premier League as he is yet to open his account, despite taking 18 shots with a shooting accuracy of 38%. This highlights the forward’s lack of confidence in front of goal. He will have to start scoring soon as Pardew has already showed he isn’t afraid of dropping his first choice striker, especially as Remy has been in great form.
Pardew’s team have started this season slightly better than they did during the 2012/13 campaign. Last season Newcastle picked up 9 points from the opening 7 matches (2 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses) which is one less than they have this year. They managed 8 goals in the same period last season which is again one less than they have got so far this campaign. However they have conceded one more goal this season than they did this time last year when they shipped 11. Their goal difference is exactly the same as it was last season at -3. They did face a tougher start last season as they played four of the teams that finished in the top six in the opening seven games. As opposed to this season when Newcastle have only faced two sides that finished in last season’s top six.
In the corresponding fixtures last year against Manchester City (a), West Ham (h), Fulham (h), Aston Villa (a), Reading (Hull) (h), Wigan (Cardiff) (a) and Everton (a), Newcastle managed to pick up 7 points with a goal difference of -5 (scoring 7 and conceding 12). They have improved on that this year by three points while scoring two more goals. So whilst the supporters may believe there have been a few struggles for the Geordies, the last stat shows that Newcastle United have improved when you compare corresponding fixtures from the 2012/13 season.
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