West Brom visited St James’s Park on Wednesday night and took all three points, as their game plan to soak in pressure and play counter attacking football worked perfectly.
Newcastle didn’t play particularly well – the majority of players having an off day including the reliable Coloccini and Tiote, but credit to West Brom and strikers Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long, as both strikers used their pace and movement to trouble Newcastle’s defence.
West Brom defending deep
As part of Hodgson’s tactics, when Newcastle had possession of the ball, West Brom would defend quite deep, getting numbers into their own defensive third. When they regained possession, they would play the ball up front very quickly, trying to exploit the pace of Long and Odemwingie, with their midfielders coming to support – and it proved very effective, as two out of the three goals came on the counter attack.
Newcastle attempted 26 shots against West Brom, however 10 of those shots were effectively blocked by West Brom. As you can see from the chalkboards below, West Brom defended deep inside their 18 yard box, making blocks in and around the area – their main central defender Jonas Olsson blocking 4 shots alone.
As part of their counter attacking game plan, naturally West Brom would make more clearances (Newcastle 20 v 26 West Brom). The majority of West Brom’s clearances are contained in the centre of defence, as their central defence partnership of Olsson and McAuley made 16 clearances between them.
Conversely, you can see that Newcastle’s clearances are more sporadic in their own half – one reason being that Long and Odemwingie would roam in the Newcastle’s half.
Newcastle shooting from afar
With West Brom defending with numbers in the box, there was very little space in behind the defenders, which resulted in Newcastle attempting a lot of crosses into the area and shots from outside of the penalty area.
In total, Newcastle attempted 26 crosses from open play, but only 8 were successful. With Simpson and Gutierrez distributing the most crosses with 8 crosses each.
With space limited by West Brom, Newcastle opted to take more long range shots – 62% of shots attempted (16) were from outside of the area. In addition this, from the five shots that were on target, four came from outside of the area – including both goals from Demba Ba.
Vuckic had a good pre-season in the summer, scoring a couple of goals including an excellent curling effort against American outfit Columbus Crew and his performance against West Brom showed more promising signs from the young Slovenian.
In his first appearance in the starting line up, he completed the full game with a very good display and didn’t look out of place amongst other more experienced players. Along with Demba Ba, he was one of the few positives on the night.
With a decent 80% pass rate, he was successful in all ground (4) and aerial (2) duels as well as making four interceptions – the most from any Newcastle player. Offensively, he looked composed on the ball and troubled West Brom, creating two goal scoring opportunities. He also attempted 5 shots on goal (1 on target, 1 blocked, 3 off target) and was unlucky not to score, as his effort just before half time, smacked off the woodwork.
With only three goals coming from our midfielders this season (Cabaye, Gutierrez, Gosling), it is encouraging to see an up and coming midfielder with an eye for goal.
It was a disappointing performance from Newcastle, as despite dominating in possession (55% v 45%), attempting more shots (26 v 15), making more passes (359 v 282) and a with greater success rate (82% v 75%), Newcastle couldn’t make it count and West Brom probably deserved to win the game.
Ba continues to keep scoring and has now racked up 13 goals this season. It will be quite worrying once he leaves for the African Cup of Nations in January to see who will replace his goals. Ba has scored 57% of Newcastle’s goals this season (13/23) with his strike partner, Leon Best next highest with only 3 goals.
The result leaves Newcastle in 7th place on 27 points – one place better and five points better off. Despite the boos and the recent discontent, our current standing is still a great achievement considering most Newcastle fans would have settled for that at the start of the season.
Next up is a visit to the Reebok Stadium to face a Bolton side, buoyed by their away victory to Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night. Newcastle seek a win to halt a 6 game no-win streak and on Boxing Day – a day that Newcastle hasn’t won on since 10 years ago in 2001.