Newcastle have defied their critics this season, with some people even putting them down as potential relegation candidates, however, they find themselves in 8th place at the turn of the year. They are just 6 points off the Champions League places, but that’s likely to be a step too far for the Magpies this season.
Nevertheless, they will be strong challengers for a Europa League spot, especially if more places become available in the league depending on who wins the cup competitions. Alan Pardew’s men are in a similar position to the one they were in the 2011/12 season, which resulted in a 5th place finish. He will be hoping his team finish this season in a similar fashion, but to do so they may need to strengthen this month.
Newcastle have conceded 25 goals from their opening 20 matches, while they have kept 6 clean sheets in this period which has equaled their total for the whole of last season. Mike Williamson has without doubt been the star of the back four. He has made more headed clearances (66) and total clearances (112) than any other defender in the squad. While he has also made more outfield blocks (11) than his team-mates. Moreover, he has been the most successful when it comes to ground duels, winning 73% of his 40 ground duels. Cheick Tiote has won the most ground duels in the squad with 107 from 189 .
Mathieu Debuchy has been very impressive this season, he is currently the side’s top tackler and the best in aerial duels. He has attempted the most tackles (65) in the squad, he has also had more successful tackles (45) than anybody else. Some people may be shocked that the Frenchman is good in the air, but he has won 70 of his 95 aerial duels. His aerial duel success rate (74%) is higher than Williamson (65%) who is well known for his aerial ability. His success in the air has led to Pardew opting to use Debuchy as a target from set pieces, which is unusual for a full back.
Newcastle have an average possession of 48.2% this season, but I’d expect that to increase over the second half of the season as the side is starting to play a passing game. The top passers are Tiote (88% success rate) and Vurnon Anita (87% success rate). In fact, none of the regular players have a lower passing success rate than 73% (Debuchy) which highlights the side’s ability to retain the ball. Tiote has attempted the most passes (979), which is to be expected considering his role in the team is to win the ball back and pass to a team mate. Also in his central position, he receives the ball a lot. Meanwhile Anita and Yohan Cabaye show the attacking side of the midfield, as the majority of their passes go forward. The Dutchman sends 33% of his passes forward while Cabaye passes forward 34% of the time.
Cabaye also shows his playmaker role, as he has attempted more passes in the final third with 297, while he has completed 201 of these at a success rate of 68%. Tiote has the most attempted passes in his own half with 583, completing 551 at a success rate of 95%. This again shows Tiote’s crucial role in front of the back four retaining possession. Cabaye has an attacking role in the Newcastle midfield, highlighted by the fact he has made 175 final third entries, more than any other player. He has also attempted the most through balls with 16, with 5 being successful. This shows that the Frenchman operates mainly in the opposition half as an attacking force, as opposed to last season when he was being used as a deep lying midfielder.
Newcastle have started to be more dangerous in the final third this season and that is due to the increased creativity in the side. Moussa Sissoko has been the main creative source. The Frenchman has created 37 chances, which is a chance created every 46 minutes. The midfielder is also leading the assists charts with 4. His compatriot Cabaye is well known for his creativity. He has created 27 chances so far which is one every 49 minutes. He also has two assists, both from set pieces, which will please Pardew as his side had struggled from set pieces before this season. They hadn’t scored directly from a corner since October 2011 before Loic Remy scored against Norwich.
Hatem Ben Arfa and Sissoko have attempted the most dribbles in the squad with 81. The former is slightly more successful (58% success rate) than the latter (49% success rate). Ben Arfa is known for his dribbling prowess, and likes to glide past defenders. He has been used sparingly over the last couple of months but there there signs he is close to a first team place. Sissoko has been used on the right wing and has performed well, he has a slightly different style to Ben Arfa as he likes to run at defenders with power and strength. He doesn’t have the natural skill of Ben Arfa, but he is far more powerful. Davide Santon is also an impressive dribbler at full back completing 78% of his 27 attempted dribbles.
Newcastle have relied upon three main sources for their goals and this needs to improve. Either they need to get some of their misfiring stars back to form or buy a new striker in the window with Luuk de Jong and Bafetimbi Gomis being linked. Loic Remy has obviously been the main man when it comes to goals grabbing 10 so far. The club have an option to buy the striker permanently in the summer and they will be keen to do so, but they will face competition. He has a shooting accuracy of 51% and a chance conversion of 26% which are very impressive for a Premier League striker. Remy has never scored more than 15 goals in a single league season and he’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t this season.
Yoan Gouffran has been very good for the Magpies this season, scoring 6 goals to date from the left wing. He has a shooting accuracy of 53% and a chance conversion of 32% which is actually better than Remy. It’s not surprising that Gouffran has been so good in front of goal this season as he has spent the majority of his career as a striker at Bordeaux. Cabaye has also contributed from midfield with 5 goals. He is one short of his tally from last season, which he should surpass this campaign. The former Lille midfielder has been given more of a license to get forward and it has resulted in crucial goals for his side. He scored the winning goal at Old Trafford to give his side their first win there since 1972.
Papiss Cisse has been misfiring for the past 18 months, but Newcastle will still hope they can get him back scoring regularly in the second half of the season. He has scored in his last two games so there is a glimmer of hope that he can salvage his season. The Senegalese International has been clinical throughout his whole career, Newcastle fans will be hoping that he can return to that form in the coming months, especially as Remy’s goals have dried up recently.
Comparison To Last Season
Newcastle are an incredible 13 points better off than they were at the same stage last season. In the same period last season, they managed to score 26 times, which is 3 less than this season. The side have scored 29 goals to date. While they conceded 37 goals at the same stage last season which is 12 more than they have conceded so far this season. Their goal difference at this stage last season was -11, which is far worse than this season as it currently stands at +4. They are certainly doing far better this season without the Europa League to stretch the squad. The side is currently going through a blip after losing their last two league games and getting knocked out of the FA Cup, but they will be hoping they return to the form they showed before Christmas in the next couple of months. They are still genuine contenders for a European place, but Pardew won’t be too annoyed if they miss out, as Europe was extremely damaging last season. The fans will have a very different view on the Europa League though.