In a closely contested game, the two Dembas both scored to help Newcastle win 2-1 over Aston Villa. Newcastle reverted back to their 4-4-2 formation with Demba Ba returning to the starting line up after being away on international duty at the African Cup of Nations. New signing Papiss Cisse started on the bench, but was substituted early on after Leon Best was injured and similarly, Gabriel Obertan replaced Ryan Taylor after he was injured from a late challenge by Stephen Warnock.
Newcastle too open in the first halfIn the first half, Villa looked dangerous and arguably should have scored more goals than the solitary Robbie Keane goal just before half time. 9 out of 14 shots attempted by Villa overall, came in the first half, as Newcastle were too open and allowed N’Zogbia to use his pace down their left wing. The chalkboard suggests that the majority of their play came from that side. N’Zogbia managed to get the better of Simpson several times, only to make poor decisions and shoot from narrow angles. However, in first half stoppage time, he beat Coloccini and Simpson to cross the ball for the unmarked Keane to score the equaliser. Darren Bent managed to get in behind the defence and would bend his runs behind Mike Williamson and was through on goal on a couple of occasions, only for Tim Krul to save well with his feet.
Cisse’s movement causes problems for VillaNew signing and new number nine, Papiss Cisse was introduced to the field much earlier than expected, after Leon Best suffered a medial ligament injury inside the 15 minutes and looked very lively on his debut. His movement and pace caused Villa’s defence problems, as his quick turns often caught Cueller and Dunne on the back foot. Not one for staying still, he moved across the pitch, often dropping deep to receive the ball, passing the ball to the midfielders and then getting back into the box ready to for crosses into the box.
Perch puts in a performanceSince signing in the summer of 2010, it has been a tough time for the ex-Forest player. Starting his career for Newcastle at right back, he was booked in each of his first five games, setting a new Premier League record in the process. Since then he’s been used sparingly as a utility player, playing in several positions including right back, central defence and in particular, this season Pardew has used him as a defensive midfielder – bringing him on towards the latter stages of the game to protect the lead. After being overran in Newcastle’s last outing, away to Blackburn, in a change of formation and tactics, Pardew brought on Perch in central midfield to protect the back four and did a reasonable job – limiting Blackburn’s attack through the centre. Against Villa on Sunday, Perch was employed to do the same job and with success too. His role was to break up play, keep it simple and keep the ball moving – he completed 73% of his passes (27/37). Defensively, Perch did well protecting the back four – he was successful in 67% of his ground duels (10/15), won 71% of his aerial challenges (5/7), was successful in 3 out of his 5 tackles and also made 3 interceptions. From the chalkboards below, his passing heatmap shows he stayed mainly central, ensuring that he wasn’t pulled out of position and protected his defence well, making his challenges just in front of his defence. Offensively, he created one chance and was unlucky not to hit the target with his 30 yard effort.
SummaryIn the end, Newcastle deserved the narrow victory, as Villa failed to build on their first half display, thanks to a more disciplined performance from Newcastle. Perch and Guthrie played well as a central midfield partnership. Perch would be the man to stay back and it allowed Guthrie to venture forward – he played well spreading the play and also created 6 chances as well. The result means Newcastle regain their 5th place above Arsenal and only a point behind Chelsea and with our new striker hitting the floor running, is 4th place a realistic goal?
Thanks to the Guardian.co.uk Chalkboards for the heat-maps above. All of the other stats in this article are from the EPLIndex.com Stats Centre. Want access to Opta stats and want your articles to be distributed to thousands? Subscribe Now for all of this and more!