It was a nerve wracking Monday night in West London, as we somehow managed to return to Newcastle with a happily taken point. A mixture of good fortune and QPR failing to capitalise on their chances allowed to us to keep our third clean sheet of the season, but again, we looked toothless up front.
Similar to our opening game against Arsenal, we started as 442 – with Shola and Best leading the line. But again we failed to make any inroads, as our central midfield two of Tiote and Cabaye looked overran and struggled to compete against QPR’s central midfield three of Barton, Faurlin and Derry – at times it was four, as Tarrabt was given a free role. Taarabt and in particular, Shaun Wright Phillips providing good outlets for their attacking play.
Unlike the Arsenal game where Pardew changed it to a 4231 formation, Newcastle stuck by the 442 and the second half became another repeat of the 45 minutes and Newcastle were under pressure yet again without seriously troubling QPR’s goal.
Lack of attacking presence
We were ineffective upfront for much of the game and other than Leon Best’s effort on goal in the 13th minute; we failed to register another shot on target for the remainder of the match. Every time we play 442, we seem to bypass the midfield and punt it straight to our strikers only for the ball to come straight back at us – similar to the Arsenal game. Shola Ameobi had another poor performance – only 56% of his passes were completed, a third of his aerial duels won, only 17% of his 50-50 ground duels won and no shots taken. Comparing those statistics to Leon Best, 74% pass completion, 67% aerial duels won, 71% 50-50 ground duels won and two shots on goal – we can see which striker puts in more effort.
We lack creativity from our wide men as well – no chances created from our wingers. SWP created 3 chances and Taarabt 4. Unfortunately Gutierrez has a difficult job on the left wing without Jose Enrique. Our make shift left back, Ryan Taylor requires more protection from Gutierrez, which has an impact on his attacking play. Not famed for his end product either, it makes our left wing even less productive than normal. I’m hoping the introduction of new signing Davide Santon at left back will help rectify this. Obertan on the opposite wing, might have a good pass percentage, but very little seems to be in the final third and into the box. He’s got the pace, but doesn’t seem to have the confidence to take the players on. Another criticism I would have of him is his lack of defensive work – he’s often late in tracking back and unwilling to put the foot in – no tackles attempted.
Another clean sheet
Even though we rode our luck at times, we can take some positives out from our defensive display. We had two goal line clearances, one from Danny Simpson and another from Steven Taylor – who also did well to put off Faurlin in the six yard box. Even though QPR had 13 shots, only 4 were on target – a mixture of poor finishing from QPR and our defenders doing enough to put attackers off.
Tiote had another poor game by his standards – a story of his season so far. He only completed 74% of his passes (last year average 87%) and only won 30% of his ground duels and was often seen dwelling on the ball too long. Hopefully this is only a temporary blip due to problems in pre-season.
It’s always a good sign when you can play below par and pick up a point, so Newcastle will be happy to take the point. However the warning signs are there. Newcastle have played 442 a couple of times now and it’s not worked either time. With Cabaye and an under-performing Tiote in central midfield, against most teams they’re being outnumbered.
I’d like Newcastle United to play 4231 – Best up front, playing Marveaux, Obertan and Gutierrez behind him. Also, Shaun Wright Phillips had a field day against Ryan Taylor. Bringing in Santon at left back will see a balance in our defence and allow our left winger, be it Gutierrez or Marveaux, to concentrate on attacking.