The 20th Premier League Tyne-Wear derby ended in stalemate, as derby hero Shola Ameobi came off the bench to score a dramatic injury time equaliser in a game that saw plenty of action including two penalties for either team and two red cards for the visiting side.
Newcastle started with the same team as against Wolves – Pardew opting for his tried and tested 4-4-2 formation. O’Neill brought Bendtner back to the team, playing Sessegnon behind the lone striker.
Sunderland get the better of the first half
Sunderland started the better of the two teams, as they stifled Newcastle’s play and limited their chances up front.
Despite the brainless antics of Cattermole at the start and the end of the match, Cattermole played relatively well protecting Sunderland’s back four in the first half.
He sat in front of the defence, restricting any passes from Newcastle into the feet of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. Instead, many balls were played from long and lofted into the air from midfield and defence – Ba and Cisse unable to hold onto the ball enough to allow for a sustained attack.
Overall, Cattermole won 75% of this tackles (3/4), 57% of his ground duels (8/14) and made 5 interceptions in the match – along with O’Shea, the most from either team.
More on page 2: Pardew’s Plan B
Although, Cattermole didn’t offer anything offensively – his role was purely to disrupt and break up Newcastle’s play. In the game, Cattermole touched the ball only 45 times, attempting only 23 passes and completing 17. In comparison to Tiote, who plays in a similar role – touched the ball 101 times, successful in 53 passes from 75 attempted. Davide Santon who played only for the first half, attempted 16 passes – just 7 passes shy of Cattermole’s total for the game.
Newcastle also played quite narrow and wingers were deep in the first half. Gutierrez and Ryan Taylor didn’t use width effectively enough and didn’t get to the byline enough and so the play mainly came through the centre in the first half.
Pardew goes for Plan B for Ben Arfa
In a change of tactics, Pardew brought on Ben Arfa and as soon as the second half whistle blew, Newcastle played better and used their width. Ben Arfa hugged the right touchline taking Richardson on and Gutierrez mirroring the same on the left hand side, often getting into the box and being double marked by McClean and Bardsley. Newcastle took four shots in the opening five minutes – more shots attempted than in the first half.
After the sending off, Sunderland restricted space and packed the centre to stay compact and so Newcastle played the ball out wide to either wing. In total, Newcastle attempted 51 crosses, but was only 11 were successful. Gutierrez attempted 10 by himself, but none of his crosses reached a team-mate.
O’Shea and Turner defended their area resolutely, making 29 clearances between them (Sunderland 51 in total), more than Newcastle in total (21) – emphasising the amount of pressure they were under in the second half.
Sunderland sat deeper as time went on and they invited more shots from Newcastle – but with Sunderland packing the box, Newcastle attempted nearly half of their shots from outside of the area and off target.
With so much pressure, it was only a matter of time before Sunderland craved in and Newcastle got their chance when Ameobi was fouled by substitute Frazier Campbell – only for Ba to fail to score the resulting penalty. By this time Sunderland were camped just outside of the 6 yard box and Ameobi scored and Williamson could have even scored seconds before the final whistle.
More on page 3: Pardew on Ben Arfa…
“I’ve got to find a way of getting him on the pitch to play like that, because that was his best 45 minutes.” “We’ve got 11 games to go and he can cause some real damage. He was the big difference between the sides in terms of the technical quality.”
Pardew brought on Ben Arfa in the second half, in the hope of injecting some much needed creativity into the attack. Keiron Richardson, who isn’t a natural left back was left untested in the first half – Ryan Taylor, not a natural right-winger was unable to test Richardson.
With the more capable Bardsley on the right hand side and O’Shea and Turner coping with Ba and Cisse, Richardson was the weak link in the Sunderland defence and Newcastle exploited this weakness in the second half.
Despite concerns about Ben Arfa not releasing the ball and losing the ball too easily in the past, against Sunderland, he kept the ball and passed well too – completing 24 out of 26 passes (92%) – the highest percentage completed in the Newcastle team.
He also completed 58% (7/12) of his ground duels, not shying away from the derby day occasions and challenging for any loose balls.
Richardson had a torrid time and failed to keep up with Ben Arfa. Ben Arfa completed 7 out of 9 dribbles (78%), often beating Richardson to the byline and getting into the box to either attempt a shot, creating chances or getting a corner. Richardson only won 1 out of his 7 ground duels, emphasising how he struggled to keep up with the Frenchman.
Pardew has his concerns about Ben Arfa’s defensive capabilities, but his attacking qualities surely outweigh these? He’s one of the few players at Newcastle that can give a piece of magic that can break through defences and at times when teams come to defend at St James’ Park, a piece of trickery and skill is what’s needed to unlock their defence.
With Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson coping with Ginola and Robert, respectively, should Pardew shoe horn Ben Afra into his first team or should he play it safe and continue to opt for Ryan Taylor on the right?