It proved to be a frustrating afternoon, as Swansea held Newcastle to a goalless draw at St James’ Park. Newcastle were glad to see the return of Cheick Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini, who were sorely missed against Norwich and Davide Santon kept his place at left back, after Ryan Taylor was ruled out through injury. Leon Best also returned from injury to re-establish his striking partnership with Demba Ba, which proved fruitful before his injury in October.
Newcastle unable to convert chances
Newcastle dominated the first half, as they had the majority of possession (56% v 44%), but unfortunately none of the twelve shots that were taken in the first half (1 on target, 7 off target, 4 blocked) resulted in a goal. In contrast, Swansea attempted only one shot on goal in the first half – a long range effort from Joe Allan.
In the second half, Newcastle failed to capitalise on their performance from the first 45 minutes, as Swansea started to creep into the game – gaining 57% of the possession, but most of their play was in front of Newcastle and they eventually only created two more chances on goal and neither were on target. Similar to the story in the first half, Newcastle couldn’t convert their chances in front of Swansea’s goal. Only two shots from the ten attempted by Newcastle tested Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Demba Ba was proved to be a handful for Swansea, often using his strength to create chances out of very little. Ba was the closest to breaking the deadlock, attempting eight shots, two on target and one attempt that struck the post after beating Vorm.
Swansea defending deep
It looked as if Swansea’s game plan was to limit the space in between their back four and goalkeeper – perhaps Demba Ba’s two goals at Norwich, where he exploited space in this area effectively worried Swansea. With Swansea also preferring to play patient football along their defence and midfield, Newcastle added extra pressure by pressing them higher up the pitch, as denoted by their average positions below (via whoscored.com).
The only Newcastle outfield players behind the halfway line were Coloccini and Perch. Danny Simpson could have pushed further up the field, however he might have been concerned about Scott Sinclair’s pace. Danny Simpson was Newcastle’s most effective crosser of the ball, as each of his four crosses attempted reached a team-mate.
As Swansea defended deeper and congested the centre of the pitch, with their midfield trio of Gower, Allan and Britton, Newcastle found more space on the flanks – in particular, Obertan creating problems down the right hand side in the first half.
In total, Newcastle attempted 41 crosses during the game, but only 14 (34%) were successful. As you can see from the Chalkboards below, the majority of the failed crosses came from the left flank – Gutierrez attempting 12 crosses, but only 3 were successful. In a similar situation, Yohan Cabaye attempted more crosses (14), but only 4 crosses found a Newcastle team mate. Swansea defended very deeply and effectively, making 41 clearances from inside and around their penalty area – Steven Caulker making 9 clearances alone.
Davide Santon impressing in home debut
Davide Santon started his first Premier League game at St James’s Park and was one of the best players on the pitch yesterday.
Other than Cheick Tiote, he was on the ball more than any Newcastle player and was successful in 82% in his passes. He often provided support to Newcastle’s attack, playing the majority of his passes in the attacking third, as denoted by the heat map on the right.
Defensively, he had a near perfect game. He was successful in all 9 of his ground duels and only aerial duel, whilst winning 4 out of 6 tackles. Marking Wayne Routledge on that flank, Routledge attempted 7 dribbles, but failed to in all – Santon with the added help of Gutierrez, nullifying the threat from that side.
With Santon looking comfortably in defence, it freed Gutierrez to attack more – something that he is restricted to do when Ryan Taylor plays. It’ll be interesting to see whether Taylor regains his place once fit.
Looking back at the match, it was more two points dropped than a point one, as Newcastle failed to capitalise on the possession and making their shots count – only three shots tested Michel Vorm’s gloves.
There were a few positives to take away – Coloccini, a welcome return to the centre of defence, added his calmness as he maintained his high passing success rate – 92%, the highest of all players – something that was lacking against Norwich, as it seemed that Newcastle failed to hang onto the ball. The return of Cheick Tiote, amidst of transfer rumours, also played well – retaining possession, as well as winning the ball backing vital areas – winning all 4 of his tackles yesterday.
James Perch, who has been receiving some boos from the crowd, played well alongside Coloccini and another one of the boo boys, Obertan looked effective in the first half and hopefully this will give him the much needed confidence to help him win the crowd over.
The result leaves Newcastle in 6th place, although they will drop down to 7th if Liverpool get a result at Villa Park today. Newcastle can go only as low as 7th before Christmas, which is a great achievement considering some of the doom and gloom that was banded across in the summer.
Next up is a home fixture against West Brom, who played well to come back from a goal down to win against Blackburn. The pace and movement of West Brom strikers Odemwingie and former Newcastle target, Shane Long will provide a stronger test for Newcastle’s defence than Swansea yesterday.