Newcastle faced Everton on Saturday lunchtime and after a nervy 2nd half, extended their unbeaten run with a narrow 2-1 victory.
With Gabriel Obertan joining Cheick Tiote on the sidelines, Danny Guthrie continued in central midfield, whilst Sylvain Marveaux started on the right wing, in the usual 4-4-2 formation.
After going 2-0 up after 30 minutes, thanks to a Johnny Heitinga own goal and a sublime volley from Ryan Taylor, it looked quite comfortable until Jack Rodwell’s header just before half time, set up a tense 2nd half that Newcastle managed to see out to win.
Middle of the pitch
As with previous matches where our two central midfielders are outnumbered against an opposing three (eg QPR, 1st half vs Arsenal), Newcastle are unable to control the midfield and consequently, often find themselves on the back foot and having to defend.
In the middle of the pitch, Cabaye (later Gosling) and Guthrie faced an Everton central midfield of Osman, Neville and Rodwell. In the second half in particular, Newcastle’s central midfield was over ran, as Everton used their extra midfielder to their advantage.
In the middle third, Newcastle regained possession of the ball on 16 occasions, compared to Everton’s 28 and thus, Everton were able to control the midfield and add more pressure. In previous home matches, where our central midfield partnership have been up against two opposing players, Newcastle have been able to control and maintain possession and as a result, exert more attacking pressure; Spurs 33 v 29 and Wigan 25 v 18.
Of course, Newcastle faced a bigger challenge once Cabaye was substituted on the 38th minute with a groin injury. Without their first choice central midfield pairing, it was going to be an uphill challenge.
As with previous matches, Newcastle’s midfield are committed to the team and work hard to assist the back four in defending Krul’s goal. As shown below, Gutierrez and Guthrie, both win possession on four occasions in the defensive third, as well as winning possession in the middle third.
In contrast, Dan Gosling didn’t win any possession in the defensive third and only won once in the middle third. Against Stoke, Yohan Cabaye won possession from Stoke on five occasions, emphasising the importance of his defending, as well as his creativity.
Importance of Cabaye
Despite Gosling having more playing time against Everton, Cabaye made twice as more passes (18 v 9) and with a better success rate (90% v 75%). However, Newcastle missed Cabaye’s ability to link up with the whole team – from picking it up from the defence, to working across the midfield, to linking up with the strikers.
From the chalkboards below and comparing it to Gosling’s chalkboard, Cabaye works right across the midfield, linking up and also the ability to create chances – even though he was substituted on the 38th minute, he created the most goalscoring chances for Newcastle (2).
One of the success stories for Newcastle, Yohan Cabaye has formed a formidable partnership with Cheick Tiote. It is no coincidence that their hard work has helped Newcastle’s defence this season and Cabaye has helped Tiote in the centre – Tiote picking up fewer yellow cards this season. Last season, Kevin Nolan failed to support Tiote defensively and left Tiote more work to protect the defence.
Although he has had his critics from some sections of the fans and with added pressure from Davide Santon on the bench as a potential replacement for Simpson at right back, Simpson answered back with a solid performance against Everton.
Simpson had the best passing rate from the back four (73%), the best ground duel rate of the whole team (80%), 100% tackling rate, made the most interceptions (3), along with Coloccini and also, along with Yohan Cabaye, created the most chances (2), including the cross that led to Johnny Heitinga’s own goal.
Adding to that, Royston Drenthe originally started on Everton’s left wing up against Danny Simpson, but got no luck whatsoever and consequently moved to the opposite side to try against Ryan Taylor.
Even though, Simpson had the best defensive statistics from the Newcastle defenders, as you can see from the Guardian heatmap below, Simpson made the majority of his passes in the final third. The adjacent chalkboard shows his tackles in the air and on the ground, showing his persistence up the pitch as well as in his defensive third.
In the end, it was a dogged defensive performance from Newcastle that saw them claim 2nd place in the Premier League for a few hours on Saturday afternoon.
Everton had more possession (44% v 56%) and created more shots on goal (9 v 12), however only one more shot was on target (3 v 4). Everton’s lone striker, Louis Saha was unlucky not to score – one shot striking the post and another that Dan Gosling handled in the area, which managed to go unpunished by referee Andre Marriner.
Injuries to Cabaye and Marveaux during the match disrupted our midfield, however the work rate throughout the team remained the same, as typified by Newcastle’s 86% tackling success rate.
It meant that Newcastle maintained their unbeaten record and also maintained the best defence record in the Premier League and the rest of the English league – the only team with a single digit in the ‘goals against’ column.
An international break isn’t usually welcomed when on a good run, however it will hopefully allow time for Tiote and Cabaye to return for our next match away to Manchester City. It’ll be interesting to see how Pardew approaches this game. Does he stay with his tried and trusted 442 formation or does he pack the middle and introduce another player in midfield?