It started off as a frustrating 70 minutes of football, as Bolton stifled Newcastle and made it difficult for the home team to build any sustained pressure. It didn’t look like it was going to be Newcastle’s day.
However, a piece of individual brilliance from Hatem Ben Arfa, provided a goal worthy of goal of the season, as he danced through the centre of Bolton’s midfield and defence to calmly slot the ball into Adam Bogdan’s net.
Newcastle started off with a 4-4-2 formation – utility man James Perch played alongside Yohan Cabaye in the centre of midfield. Captain Coloccini came back into the team and Davide Santon was brought in at left back.
Bolton frustrate Newcastle
Owen Coyle lined up his team in a 4-5-1 formation and by packing his midfield, it stopped Newcastle playing freely in the centre of the pitch. Cisse and Ba often came short to make up the extra man in midfield to receive the ball.
Another part of Bolton’s gameplan was to give Newcastle as little space as possible whenever Newcastle were in possession in the middle of the pitch. As you can see from the chalkboard below, Bolton committed 18 fouls in total, 11 fouls in the first half alone – an average of 1 every 4 minutes – the majority of fouls being in the middle third. Bolton’s midfield pairing Darren Pratley and Reo-Coker were given the role to chase after the ball in the midfield and committed 7 fouls between them.
The stop-start nature of the first half worked to Bolton’s advantage and similar to Newcastle’s performance against Swansea, Bolton restricted space between defence and midfield and were happy with Newcastle playing the ball across their defence.
Next Page: Newcastle Shut Down Bolton and Ben Arfa’s brilliance opens Bolton up
Newcastle shut out Bolton
Captain Coloccini was a welcome return in the middle of defence and he and Williamson managed to keep Kevin Davies quiet throughout the game. Coloccini commanded his defensive area well and brought an air of calm amongst his fellow defenders. He attempted, made and had the best pass percentage (44/49 – 90%) from all Newcastle players – his ability to keep the possession of the ball is a great asset when playing the ball out from defence. Adding to that, he made the most interceptions (6) from either team and blocked two of Bolton’s attempted shots on goal.
Although Newcastle defended well as a whole, Bolton still had a few chances to score. Bolton also focused much of their attack down their right hand side – possibly targeting Davide Santon as the weak link in the back four. Overall, Santon coped with the threat of Chris Eagles, as he won all 3 attempted tackles and over half of his ground duels.
Continuing his form this season, Tim Krul made two crucial saves from Mark Davies and Chris Eagles when the scoreline remained goalless. His contribution throughout the whole season has been tremendous and he has saved Newcastle on numerous occasions with brilliant goalkeeping. Joint with Joe Hart, no other goalkeeper has kept as many clean sheets (13).
Ben Arfa’s brilliance open up Bolton
It was a superb piece of football brilliance from the Frenchman, as he received the ball inside his own half, leaving Sam Ricketts on the floor with a deft flick, rode a late challenge from Mark Davies, before speeding past between Tim Ream and David Wheater and then finally slotting it coolly past Adam Bogdan into the Bolton net.
Ben Arfa attempted 7 dribbles and was successful in all – the only player in the Premier League this season to achieve such a feat (courtesy of @OptaJoe).
The opening goal meant Bolton had to open up, as they attacked in numbers looking for an equaliser – which left spaces at the back. Shola Ameobi, on as a substitute for Demba Ba, was up against Tim Ream on the right touchline, but Ameobi used his experience and strength to hold off the young American and go on to supply a pin point accurate cross for the oncoming Cisse to score his 10th goal in 9 starts.
It was a close game and in the end, there wasn’t much between the team in search of European football and a team fighting to stay in the Premier League.
Newcastle shaded possession (51% v 49%) and had a better pass percentage (79% v 75%), but as seen from last week’s performance against Swansea, it’s not the amount of possession you have, but what the end product is. Both teams had three shots on target, however, Newcastle were more clinical and Bolton were left to rue the chances that Mark Davies and Chris Eagles had early in the second half.
Easter Monday proved to be very good holiday – Tottenham lost to Norwich and Chelsea could only manage a draw against Fulham. Newcastle lie 5th, equal on points with 4th placed Tottenham on 59 points, two points behind 3rd placed Arsenal and two points ahead of Chelsea.
Who, at the start of the season, would have thought that we’d be in this position with five games to go?