Despite many Geordie fans’ initial resistance to Alan Pardew’s appointment in 2010, few can argue with their teams overall performance this season. Beginning with an unbeaten run of 11 matches built a fantastic platform for their season, although recent weeks have seen inconsistent performances and results.
After last week’s 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, Pardew admitted Newcastle’s chance of qualifying for the Champions League was over. Prior to the game, he had hyped up the importance of getting a result against the Gunners, so defeat would’ve come as a big blow. Certainly Newcastle worked extremely hard in a game they were chasing most of the time.
Pardew is pretty much a 4-4-2 man and this has been his favoured formation all season. But he does tweak things for certain games, as he showed in last week’s match against Arsenal. There, he played 4-4-1-1 which played more like a 4-5-1 to combat Arsenal’s dominance in midfield.
Newcastle’s best performance of the season came in January with a 3-0 victory over Manchester United. Pardew’s tactics involved two key components: pressing high up the pitch and hitting long balls up to Ameobi and Ba. Their height and strength were used to great effect and is something Norwich City struggled with at Carrow Road, despite winning 4-2. So this might be a tactic Pardew employs again on Sunday.
The game against Manchester United is a good example of how Pardew adapts against strong teams. However, with all due respect to Norwich, Pardew will most likely opt to play their normal formation and style, so expect a 4-4-2 with a deeper back line and less intense pressing.
One criticism of Newcastle’s squad is that it doesn’t have strength in-depth. This could partly explain why their form has dropped off recently – regular starters will be more susceptible to fatigue as the season wears on. The Arsenal game is a good example with Tiote suffering cramp, Ba being on his last legs at full-time and right-back Danny Simpson being forced to play to the end despite carrying an injury.
Next Page: Newcastle line-up and average stats for the season…
The line-up to face Norwich will probably include Cheik Tiote, with Danny Guthrie on standby. Partnering Ba up front will be either Ameobi or Cisse. However, the latter recently picked up a groin injury and may start as a substitute. This is especially likely if Pardew decides to use long-ball tactics against a Norwich side that struggled with this threat earlier in the season.
Elsewhere, a question mark remains of Danny Simpson’s fitness at right back. The other place up for grabs is on the right of midfield. Ryan Taylor and Gabriel Obertan have played in this position so far this season. But with question marks over Taylor’s fitness and Obertan’s general form, Ben Arfa might just get the nod after some promising recent performances.
As a recent article on EPL Index shows, Ben Arfa is one of those players who can equally frustrate and amaze. While he has the potential to be brilliant on the ball, he is also prone to losing the ball too easily and taking too many touches. In the inverted winger role, Ben Arfa will look the cut in on to his preferred left foot. Norwich’s left-back should try to push Ben Arfa wide and keep him on his right foot as much as possible.
In terms of statistics, Newcastle rate pretty average in the key areas:
|Shots per Game||13||11|
|Dribbles per Game||7||11|
|Aerial Duals Won per Game||48%||8|
|Shots Conceded per Game||14||11|
|Tackles per Game||20||11|
|Interceptions per Game||15||12|
|Fouls per Game||11||4|
Most of Newcastle’s goals come from open play:
Coupled with Demba Ba’s goalscoring record this season, the percentage of goals from open play underlines the threat the striker poses to opposing teams. Another noticeable feature of Newcastle’s attack is that the wide men don’t play for the byline very often – they’ve had only 11 byline crosses all season. And their full-backs don’t tend to push too far forward to create chances either.
If it wasn’t for Demba Ba’s 16 goals this season Newcastle would undoubtedly be struggling at the other end of the league table. Newcastle’s next highest scorer is Leon Best with just 4 goals. Cisse’s recent arrival looks promising, however he is a very similar player to Ba. This could pose a problem when playing the two up front together.
Newcastle’s recent form has resulted in four games without a win. With question marks over their general fitness and fading European aspirations, it is a crucial period for Newcastle. They will be looking at the Norwich fixture as a game they should win, however, as Norwich can testify after the 1-1 draw with Wigan, this can create a pressure in its own right.