This weekend will see the first North East derby of the season between Newcastle United and Sunderland and both teams will go into it feeling confident after credible draws against potential top4 sides.
Sunderland went away to Liverpool and after a first half battering and surviving a missed penalty, a possible red card and a dubiously disallowed goal came back strongly in the second half and were good value for the point they came away with.
Newcastle United played out a nil-nil draw at home to an under strength Arsenal in a game that was overshadowed by the red card that was, the red card that wasn’t and the red mist that came down over Joey Barton.
Newcastle United and Sunderland have seen quite a change in personnel since the opening of the January 2011 transfer window and one thing that I feel may have gone un-noticed is the lack of Premier League goals scored by the players who lined up on behalf of the north-east clubs last weekend. This should be a concern for Steve Bruce and Alan Pardew and I am sure that it is something that they would like to rectify if at all possible before the end of the current window, but I felt it was worth a closer look.
Let’s take Sunderland first as they are the home team, the match squad named for the game against Liverpool has managed only 80 Premier League goals between them during an accumulated 1385 games. It is fair to say that a lot of those games have been played by the more defensive minded members of that squad but even Asamoah Gyan has hardly been prolific in his time in the EPL. On a pure statistical basis the Sunderland 16 on duty last weekend only score a goal every 1.5 games between them. There is a real need for improvement, and soon. Gyan does have the best goals to games ratio in the squad with 1 in 3 and last season was his first in the EPL so he should increase that this time around but his ratio before coming to the North East was still only around 1 in 3 so that increase isn’t guaranteed, although he has scored at closer to 1 in 2 for Ghana.
Last season Sunderland finished a highly credible 10th even though they only scored 45 goals in the 38 games. They have since lost 21 of those goals with the players that are no longer with the squad, such as Bent, Wellbeck and Henderson. They have brought in players who have scored goals in the EPL previously but despite all the positivity around these new players there is still a blatant lack of proven fire-power amongst the group of players he has assembled. Wickham or Ji could turn out to be master strokes, Larsson should start providing more chances for Gyan and Sessegnon may continue his pre-season goal scoring form so it is certainly not all doom and gloom and with the team looking like it will be very solid and unlikely to be conceding many goals it may well be that Sunderland don’t need to improve very much on the 45 goals of last season to improve on last seasons finishing position.
How do Newcastle United compare? Last season Newcastle scored a very good 56 goals, but they have also “lost” a significant number of those goals with Carroll and Nolan leaving the club, 23 goals to be precise. They have also added to the squad but not with proven EPL goal scorers. Demba Ba did well in his short stint at West Ham but the other additions are yet to show their EPL form at all and none of them were particularly prolific in the respective leagues they have come from. The current squad have amassed a total of 108 EPL goals between them from a total of 948 games, giving them a ratio of a goal every 0.75 games which is almost double the Sunderland figure.
Shola Ameobi who is often much maligned and clearly splits Toon opinion down the middle, has scored almost half of those 108 EPL goals but the 38 he has scored have come in over 200 games at a ratio of almost 1 goal in every 6 games, hardly guaranteeing his team a goal every time he walks onto the pitch but his record against Sunderland is excellent and the Newcastle fans will be hopeful that he will chip in with another strike this weekend. Newcastle’s stats are slightly flattered by the excellent ratios of Leon Best and Demba Ba in the few games they have played in in the EPL and a surprising decent strike rate from Peter Lovenkrands.
Other than Gyan, Sunderland have only 4 other players who have a ratio better than 1 goal in 12 – Larsson, Richardson, Gardner and Sessegnon while Newcastle have 8 players who have a ratio better than 1 in 12 – Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Joey Barton, Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands, Leon Best, Demba Ba and Dan Gosling. I feel it is very apparent that both teams need another forward who can find the back of the net and my concern would be that Sunderland don’t seem to know that and Newcastle seem incapable of finding one.
When I look at the two teams lining up this weekend, I don’t see where the goals are coming from for either side but I also do not expect to see a nil-nil.