On paper, it looked like Newcastle would easily win this fixture. Flying high in 4th place and unbeaten, playing against a second bottom Wigan side, who had lost their last six games in all competitions, including four away fixtures. In the end, it wasn’t a pretty performance and with few chances. It took until the 81st minute, as Yohan Cabaye scored his first goal in a Newcastle shirt, in front of the Gallowgate end to win the game 1-0.
Tale of two wingers
In Alan Pardew’s interview with BBC Newcastle on Thursday (link if you haven’t heard it yet, 1hr 3mins into the program), he recognised that work was ongoing with Obertan to encourage him to take on defenders and to get crosses in and fans would notice the difference against Wigan. Indeed, Obertan did produce more crosses than in previous games, but unfortunately the quality is not quite there yet. As you can see below, only 20% (1 out of 5) of his crosses reached a team mate and the only successful cross was to the opposite wing.
In contrast, on the opposite side, Jonas Gutierrez saw 57% (4 out of 7) of his crosses successful and all crosses were in dangerous areas as well.
This season, Gutierrez has provided 6 successful crosses out of 31 (19%)* and it is noticeable that the number of crosses attempted has increased in the last few games. Whether this is more emphasis from Pardew, more confidence to take on defenders and cross with his left foot or even being able to attack more, with Ryan Taylor being able to cope better at left back and therefore, leaving Gutierrez more opportunity to attack – is open for debate.
Gabriel Obertan has only supplied 19 crosses this season, but only 2 have been successful (11%). Hopefully, with Pardew recognising this as an area for improvement, we will see some progress in the near future. In his interview, Pardew defended Obertan – stating that his age (22) and his lack of Premier League experience (14 games in 3 years at Manchester United) contributed to the lack of activity in the final third. However, Sylvain Marveaux is only a few years older with less Premier League experience, but arguably looks more capable than Obertan.
In Marveaux’s brief appearances as substitute, he has created 4 chances (including one assist) in 37 minutes – averaging one chance every 9 minutes. Comparing this to Obertan, he’s created 12 chances in 745 minutes – averaging one chance in every 62 minutes.
*For comparison purposes, Gareth Bale 32%, Stewart Downing (26%)
Unable to control the midfield
As with previous games where Newcastle have been up against a five man midfield (Arsenal, QPR), Newcastle have struggled to control the midfield, with Cabaye and Tiote outnumbered in the centre.
Wigan lined up with Watson, Diame and Jones in the centre of midfield and with a combination of some good and bad tackling, Wigan managed to stifle Newcastle’s central midfield and stopped Tiote and Cabaye from dominating the midfield.
Wigan made 14 more tackles than Newcastle (12 v 26) and as you can see from below, the vast majority were made in centre of midfield. In addition to this, Newcastle conceded only 7 fouls in the whole match, compared to 22 fouls by Wigan. Again, the majority of fouls were made in central midfield, disrupting the fluidity of Newcastle’s attack.
Playmaker Yohan Cabaye was unable to get forward as often as in previous games – he only managed to make 9 passes in the final third of the pitch. Last week against Tottenham, he made nearly twice as many passes in the final third (17).
Wigan’s game plan to stop Newcastle’s midfield in any way possible provided successful results.
Not a vintage performance, however another three points and a clean sheet see Newcastle joint third with the meanest defence in the league.
Even though Newcastle saw more possession of the ball (54% v 46%) and had a better pass percentage rate (81% v 78%), Wigan’s counter attacking system created more shots on goal (7 v 11). Although, Wigan failed to capitalise on this, as only 2 out of 11 shots on goal were on target.
Tim Krul did exceptionally well to keep out former Newcastle target, Victor Moses after his shot was slightly deflected by Steven Taylor. Lone striker, Hugo Rodellega was wasteful in front of goal, failing to hit the target with his 3 shots. For Newcastle, Leon Best should have done better with this header on goal and Demba Ba was unlucky not to add to his season’s tally with Al-Habsi preventing the ball from crossing the line.
Encouragingly, we’ve kept the same starting XI for the 5th game running and also, 8 players have started every game since the start of the season, creating consistency and an understanding throughout the team. However, our fringe players, Hatem Ben Arfa, Davide Santon and in particular, Sylvain Marveaux are very close to forcing themselves into the starting line up. The latter could be introduced sooner than later, if Gabriel Obertan’s progress is not as productive as Pardew would like.
Newcastle’s next fixture is a tricky away trip to Stoke. Hopefully, we can avenge the 4-0 defeat from last season and extend our unbeaten run and continue to prove critics and pundits wrong.