Blackburn visited Newcastle on Saturday looking for their sixth consecutive away victory at St James’s Park, but in the end, they never looked like they were going to leave with any points, thanks to a Demba hat trick and an accomplished display by Newcastle.
Newcastle dominated possession (63% v 36%), made more than twice as many passes (382 v 174), better pass completion rate (84% v 67%) and attempted more shots as well (15 v 3). From our backline to our forwards, we kept the ball better as our defenders decided to play the ball out rather than to play it long towards our strikers.
As you can see from the stats above, Coloccini had the highest pass completion rate and Steven Taylor not far behind, emphasis on passing it out of defence and maintaining possession –unlike Scott Dann of Blackburn (see below).
Although Demba Ba will probably grab the headlines, Cheick Tiote had another sterling performance and looks to have turned to corner after a poor start to the Premier League campaign. In the second game in a row, he completed the most passes on the pitch (77) and was narrowly pipped by Coloccini for the best pass percentage. Similar to the assist at Villa, Tiote’s pin point cross from the left wing was met by Ba, who headered the ball into the net – despite an attempt from Leon Best to knock the final ball in.
Another attribute that Tiote has and probably isn’t recognised as much, is his ability to help out the back and recognising when to fill in when required. Several times during the match, Coloccini was dragged out of position into the wing, following a run by Yakubu. Tiote helps out and plugs the gap to maintain a stable back four (see below)
Samba and Salgado
Both defenders had a poor game and Newcastle took advantage of some poor positioning by the Blackburn defenders.
Michel Salgado pushed up quite high marking Gutierrez and as a result, left a lot of space behind him for Ba and Best to run into space (see below). For the first goal, Coloccini played the ball into the space vacated by Salgado and Best ran into the space taking Christopher Samba with him. Without Blackburn’s best defender in the box, a good cross into Demba Ba left him with a 1v1 situation with Scott Dann. Dann failed to pressure Ba, who swivelled and fired a shot past Paul Robinson.
The second goal came from clearance from a corner that Danny Simpson picked up. Steven Taylor who was still up field from the corner, cleverly paired himself against Salgado. Simpson played the ball deep for Taylor, who won the ball comfortably, which led to Ba’s second goal. Samba caught badly positioned.
Tale of two strikers
After a difficult start to his Newcastle career – Pardew stating Ramadan being the reason – Ba opened his Newcastle account scoring with all three shots that he took inside the area. His only shot off target was a shot from outside the area. A turn in his own half and a powerful run leading to a strong shot over the bar, whilst shrugging off Christopher Samba – no mean feat in itself.
Despite failing to hit the target with any of his four attempts on goal, Best didn’t have a bad game. An 86% completed pass rate, provided an assist and he also created the most chances (4) in the team. Not only that, Best’s workrate has been very good all season – against Blackburn he attempted 19 50/50 duels (won 9) and won 5 out of 8 of his aerial duels. One encouraging aspect of Best’s play was that he was getting into the right spaces, just his composure was missing on the day.
It was a comfortable performance, as Krul and our back four had very little to deal with. We’ve had the same defence for our six Premier League games and they’ve played well as a defensive unit.
Tiote and Cabaye continue to grow into a formidable partnership, protecting the back four and it’s encouraging to see that they’re getting on the ball so many times, passing well and thus, controlling the midfield. Cabaye has helped out with defensive duties (75% 50/50 duels and tackles won, 2 interceptions), whilst being able to support the attack and provide chances as well as being a threat in front of goal.
Ba and Best are linking up well and with Ramadan ending a couple of weeks ago, hopefully Ba will take confidence from this hat trick performance and continue to improve.
Finally, it’s great to see Ben Arfa back after a year out. For the brief 16 minutes he played, we saw glimpses of his speed and an eye for a pass and shot that will help us this season.