HomeOTHEREPLFulham 5 Newcastle 2 | Tactics & Stats

Fulham 5 Newcastle 2 | Tactics & Stats

It was a game of two halves at Craven Cottage, as Newcastle comfortably dominated the first half of the match, but only had a superb Danny Guthrie strike to show for the vast possession they had. With a couple of substitutions and change of formation for Fulham at half time, a debatable penalty decision and 16 minutes of uncharacteristically crazy defending from Newcastle afterwards, Fulham came back from behind and inflicted Newcastle’s greatest defeat this season – something that was quite unfathomable at half time.

Newcastle player stats vs Fulham
Newcastle fail to capitalise on first half dominance

From the opening whistle, Newcastle dominated possession in the first half, making nearly 100 more passes than Fulham (274 v 188) and attempting more shots on goal (9 v 1). Unfortunately for Newcastle, only one goal came from the nine shots that were on target during the first half. Coloccini would have been disappointed with his effort, as his shot was directed straight at David Stockdale. On the other hand, Fulham could only muster one attempt in the first half through ex-Newcastle player Damien Duff.

Shots on goal in first half - Newcastle 9 v Fulham 1

Yohan Cabaye was one of the main reasons why Newcastle played so well in the first half. He had the most touches from anyone on the pitch in the first half and subsequently made the most passes in the first half (41). Incredibly, he made 9 interceptions in the first half (denoted by the blue dots below), another reason why Fulham were so restricted in their possession.

Cabaye's passing (l) 1st half, (c) 2nd half, (r) interceptions (blue 1st half, red 2nd half)

However, the second half painted a different picture. With Newcastle playing more direct football and Fulham having more possession of the ball, Cabaye was less involved. He made only 20 passes in the second half, more than half of the number of passes played in the first 45 minutes. With Fulham playing longer balls to Zamora and Johnson, Cabaye also had less impact in breaking up their play, as denoted by only 3 interceptions (red dots) in the second half.

Change in tactics and Fulham exploit Newcastle’s high defensive line…

Unfortunately for Newcastle, Steve Sidwell suffered an early injury in the first half and Andy Johnson came on to replace him. This resulted in Martin Jol introducing a change of tactics with Fulham playing more direct football, playing Johnson alongside Zamora and this nearly paid dividends soon after. Just before half time, a long ball forward allowed Johnson to cleverly turn Santon on the halfway line and the Italian eventually bundled him over, as he struggled to match the striker’s pace and was lucky not to be sent off.

Fulham’s direct approach continued to trouble Newcastle, as early in the second half, Santon was penalised for a foul on Damien Duff and Fulham were awarded a penalty – however, video replays suggest the foul was committed just outside of the area.

Despite the continuing warning signs, the Newcastle defence continued to push high up the pitch and was exposed for the second goal. As you can see below, Johnson turns Williamson just past the halfway line, which eventually led to Dempsey’s opening goal.

Andy Johnson turns Williamson by the half way line, exposing Newcastle's high line
… and Dempsey’s movement cause Newcastle problems

Despite starting off on the left wing, Dempsey naturally cut inside into his favoured central position (as seen by the pass heatmap below), where there was more space with both Cabaye and Guthrie naturally pushing forward and no Tiote manning the area in front of the central defenders.

Dempsey's passing heatmap and movement to the central area into space

Tiote gives that extra protection in front of Newcastle’s defence by effectively dealing with any players dropping off the front or players coming inside from the wings. As you can see from above, Zamora drops off deep to receive the ball, but takes Williamson with him and leaves space for Dempsey to run into. Cabaye, who is more offensively minded than Tiote, is too far forward to get close to Zamora. If Tiote was playing, he would be deep enough to deal with Zamora, leaving Williamson in the centre of defence, with no space for Dempsey to run into.

With Zamora isolated by himself in the first half, Newcastle’s central defence was stable and Dempsey had a very anonymous first half, making only five passes. A change in tactics in the second half and Fulham’s front two creating more space, he made three times as many passes. Fulham’s hat trick hero attempted three shots and scored with all three.

Hatem Ben Arfa

“He [Ben Arfa] needs to put in more effort for this team. He doesn’t have to be less maverick. That is his strength. What we do need from him is discipline.”

This season, Pardew has been hesitant about introducing Ben Arfa into the starting line up, alluding that his lack of defensive qualities and being able to keep the ball one of his downfalls.

In this game, you could see both sides of the coin.

Other than Tim Krul, he had the poorest pass completion rate (62%) and lost out in more than half of his ground duels (8/19). He lost possession of the ball more times out of all the Newcastle players (25 times, next highest Krul 20, Santon 17) and was dispossessed more times than any player on the pitch (9). With his skill and trickery, Ben Arfa does like to carry the ball, rather than pass it, sometimes taking on a man too many and losing the ball cheaply – something that Pardew is nervous about, as he adopts the safety-first approach first.

However, he is one of the few Newcastle players that can produce a piece of magic from nothing at all.

Offensively, he gives Newcastle a lot of options, as shown by his goal and his assist for Danny Guthrie’s goal. He attempted 5 dribbles on Saturday and was successful in all 5. The previous week, he was influential in creating the chance for Leon Best’s winning goal against QPR and his FA Cup goal against Blackburn underlined his offensive qualities. Against Bolton on Boxing Day, he came on as substitute and changed the game, scoring the opening goal in the process.

It’s a difficult decision for Pardew, despite what Ben Arfa offers going forward, he has the tendency to give the ball away cheaply at times. Pardew has already stated that Hatem’s natural position is the ‘number 10’, but with the manager’s preferred formation of 4-4-2 – Ben Arfa doesn’t fit into his plan.


After the first half performance, it was disappointing that Newcastle couldn’t take advantage of the vast possession that they had and scored more in the opening half. Fulham’s debatable penalty proved to be a turning point, as Newcastle pressed the self destruct button with some very poor defending.

The result leaves Newcastle still in 6th place, as 7th place Liverpool lost to Bolton and failed to take the opportunity to overtake Newcastle. If Newcastle drew at Fulham, it would have taken us into 5th spot temporarily and as it turns out, for the time being as Arsenal lost to Manchester United.

Next up is an away tie to Brighton in the FA Cup. A kind draw considering they are some all Premier League ties this round. Perhaps with more Premier League teams being eliminated this round, it gives Newcastle a chance for a decent cup run this season.

Newcastle United supporter and blogger. Creator of www.nufcvisualised.wordpress.com. Lover of all things football. Follow me on Twitter @avaehe
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