So, here we are; 3 ghastly games and 1 point later! 2 goals notched, 7 conceded; 19 chances producing 25 shots and 45 chances allowed, gifting 43 shots. The residual high generated by the superb start to the season, slowly morphing into that feeling we Newcastle fans know all too well……or is it? A first loss to the most ‘progressing’ side in world football currently, a draw at one of the most difficult stadiums in the world to play at and a home defeat by the other blue money-spinners who should have been a player down and whom took easy advantage of playing against 10 players and a team with no recognised centre back. When you look at it ‘black and white’, it doesn’t appear so gloomy on the shell after all! While it would be a logical impossibility to predict exactly where NUFC will finish this season, with little over a 3rd of the campaign played, there have been some pictures painted which could help gage a fair estimate.
NUFC_Stats began this investigation by asking some of the fans what they predicted would be the end of the season standing. @chrisclowess said, “6th, if we can keep our big players injury free and invest wisely in January. A recognised CB is a must!” @StephNUFC reckons, ‘Top 10 minimum – our good start has given us a great platform to build on” and @gaz_nufc responded with, “We’ll finish 7th as our squad isn’t strong enough yet to get into top 6”. Clearly, NUFC’s impressive launch to the campaign has raised the spirits of fans and a more optimistic look on the season and final position is as apparent as ever. So, what do the numbers say on NUFC’s current performance and chances of high-placed finishing in the Premier League this season?!
Premier League history:
NUFC currently lie 6th in the Barclays Premier League after 14 games and have gained 26 points; a total only equalled by Portsmouth (2007/08) at the same stage of the season in the last 10 PL campaigns. The average for 6th placed team after 14 games in the last 10 seasons is 23 points. and the average finishing position of teams 6th after 14 games over the same period is 6th/7th. Portsmouth are the only team in that 10 years who were 6th at this time of the season to finish any lower than 8th position (17th). Furthermore, NUFC presently boast a points-per-game average of 1.86; over a 38 game season that would equate to approximately 71 points. In the previous 5 seasons, that total would have a team finish 2nd, 4th, 5th, 5th and 3rd.
Everyone knows that teams who perform well in the Premier League, one of the most difficult, high tempo and physically challenging leagues in the world, must have a defensive soundness; they rarely concede goals and have stability in their defensive unit like few others. Last season Man Utd conceded the 3rd lowest goals (top scorers however), the season before that Chelsea conceded the 2nd least (also top scorers) and the season prior to that, Man Utd conceded the least. NUFC have a current goals conceded per game average of 1.07, the 3rd best in their entire PL history, just behind the 93/94 (3rd placed) season and the 95/96 (2nd place) season (see graph).
In terms of where we are at present in relation to the other PL teams, the ‘defensive numbers’ sit us on a very average-height-ed pedestal. As we speak, NUFC win more tackles per game than any other PL team with 21.6 on average. Wolves have the worst record, winning only 15.4. Aerially, NUFC sit 13th though, winning only 10.8 a game on average compared to top team Stoke who victor at 15.7. NUFC also concede the 7th most shots per game on average with 15.7 – for context, Chelsea are the best at ‘shot-stopping’ conceding only 10.6 per game, whereas Bolton sit at the bottom of the same table with 18.6 on average per game. In relation to those shots, NUFC concede the least in the whole PL from the left side of the field (Simpson’s side) with 10% of goals coming from there. However, they concede the most in the PL from central areas with a mammoth 75% of goals directly through the middle. Norwich have only conceded 59% of their goals from there.
It’s probably fair to say NUFC’s attacking potential hasn’t equalled the ferocious effort shown defensively in some games this season and most of the stats related to NUFC’s forward play reflect those very thoughts.
Newcastle lie 13th for the amount of shots they produce on average per game; at 13 shots they are 6 per game behind leaders Man City. They are also 13th for possession (47.2% per game) and for pass succession, where with an attainment of just 75.5% lie one place above neighbours Sunderland and some 10.7% less than possession-masters Man City. It would appear NUFC are also very average at dribbling with the ball too. Top of the pile Wigan, through top dribbler Victor Moses, execute 10.3 successful dribbles per game on average compared a lowly 6.1 from Newcastle; Cheik Tiote and Jonas Gutierrez making the top 10 PL players to be dispossessed.
In terms of passing, it doesn’t make very good reading unfortunately; NUFC sit in the basement (16th) for short passes produced per game with just 308 on average parallel to pass-master Arsenal who manufacture 507. They do however play the 5th least amount of long balls on average at 63 (equalled by Chelsea), some 11 passes less than leaders Spurs and they are 9th for the quantity of through balls assembled (2). Arsenal lead that pack too with 8 on average per game. Afterthat, comes the crossing stats; here, NUFC are 9th best, creating 22 crosses per game, only 6 less than top crossers Liverpool. More worrying though, is that only 6% of those crosses are effective at the moment. Newcastle sit 6th in the table for scoring from open play, they’re yet to sore from a ‘fast break’ and they have the joint worst record with Aston Villa for scoring directly from set pieces (2). Finally, Newcastle United are the 2nd worst team for the percentage of play they have in the opposition’s half with just 22%.
As always, make of the numbers what you will, but they do give an objective summary of NUFC’s current state of play. While the tougher fixtures are over for now, the next run of games won’t come easy after the nightmare circumstances surrounding Steven Taylor & Fab Colo, two of our most influential players this season. It also remains to be seen what the January transfer window will do to the squad; we fans could be sitting after the window with 2/3 incredibly strong additions and some prolonged optimism, or the mirror reflection of last January, losing key personnel and the season nigh not coming soon enough.
All in all, 6th at this stage of the season has historically done teams well (other than Pompey) and as long a AP sustains the stability and motivation in the ranks, Newcastle can pull off a very respectable finish to the season. But, what about that old cliché……’there’s still a lot of football to be played’!
NUFC_Stats prediction – 8th