On a bitterly cold night at Ewood Park, Newcastle were missing several key players and played poorly in general, however, the defence managed to shut Blackburn out and Newcastle came away with all three points thanks to a Scott Dann own goal and a coolly taken goal by Gabriel Obertan in stoppage time.
Pardew stuck with his 4-2-3-1 formation with Coloccini returning to the first team line up after injury and Ryan Taylor coming in for the suspended Yohan Cabaye in the centre of midfield.
After Blackburn’s dominance in the first half, Pardew reverted back to his tried and trusted 4-4-2 in the second half, with Perch coming on for Ben Arfa to partner Guthrie in the middle and Ryan Taylor pushed out to the right, to give Danny Simpson extra cover that was lacking in the first half.
Newcastle with backs-to-wall defending shut out Blackburn
With Newcastle’s front 6 unable to pass and keep possession effectively, it gave Blackburn the opportunity to keep applying pressure onto Newcastle’s goal, but with a combination of poor finishing and resolute defending, Newcastle managed to keep a clean sheet.
Blackburn’s main focal point was their loan striker from Bordeaux, Anthony Modeste who caused Newcastle problems with his strength and pace. Modeste won the majority of his ground (11/17) and aerial duels (3/5), but failed to score. Only 1 of his 5 attempts on goal was on target – which was the story of Blackburn’s night. Despite having the majority of possession (59% v 41%) and nearly 3 times as many goal attempts (26 v 9) – only 4 shots were on target, including David Dunn’s penalty that was saved by the impressive Tim Krul.
At times, Newcastle’s defence were throwing their throwing their bodies on the line to protect Tim Krul’s goal – Coloccini making the most clearances (3), Williamson (2) and Danny Simpson (2) with what seems like his obligatory clearance off the line.
From the chalkboards below, Blackburn’s dominance can be seen as Newcastle nearly made twice as many clearances as Blackburn (41 v 22) – Mike Williamson making the most clearances (11, Simpson 5, Coloccini 4, Santon 2).
Newcastle inability to pass creating pressure
Newcastle lined up similar to Blackburn with a 4-2-3-1 formation, however Blackburn’s midfield made better use of possession.
Newcastle were wasteful with their passes as denoted by their 69% pass success rate – their lowest of the season (season away average 75%) and subsequently only had 41% of possession (season away average of 46%).
Without Cabaye and in particular, Tiote missing from the middle of central defence, Newcastle struggled to keep a hold of the ball. As you can see from the chalkboards below, Tiote’s position rarely moves from the middle third and his passes are short, maintaining possession and effectively, relieving the pressure from the defence – similar to the ‘water carrier’ role that Claude Makalele was used to employ effectively for Chelsea and France.
Ryan Taylor’s passing map shows a difference in the distance and success of passing and also Taylor’s movement too. With longer, forward passes not reaching a team mate, Blackburn regained possession to start another attack. Ryan Taylor lost possession of the ball more times than any other Newcastle player (22, Krul 21, Williamson 13). Granted that Taylor’s natural position isn’t in the centre of midfield, but it highlights the importance that Chieck Tiote brings to the team.
Danny Guthrie had an unusually quite game, by his recent standards. Perhaps missing his central midfield partner Cabaye, he only had 35 touches of the ball and couldn’t exert himself in the game – (v Fulham, 55 touches, v QPR, 94). Blackburn midfielders, Morten Gamst Pedersen (84) and Steven N’Zonzi (70) and twice as many touches each and it showed how much possession Blackburn had in midfield.
Pardew’s changes reaps benefits
In the past, Pardew has been criticised of being too slow to make team alterations during the game – however, in this game, Pardew made the necessary changes after a difficult first half. Playing a relatively new 4-2-3-1 formation, where Ben Arfa was playing further up in the three behind Shola Ameobi, it left Danny Simpson exposed to Hoilett and attacking full back, Martin Olsson.
At times Ben Arfa failed to track back and with Blackburn enjoyed much success down Newcastle’s right hand side in the first half, as the passing heat map above indicates. There were a few times during the match, Danny Simpson was shouting at Ben Arfa to give him more cover. Also one of Ben Arfa’s downfalls is his tendency to lose possession easily. In the 45 minutes played, Ben Arfa lost possession on 8 occasions – nearly once every 5 minutes. Compare that to Danny Guthrie, who only lost possession 4 times in the entire match and you can see why Pardew has had reservations of bring him into the starting line up.
Pardew changed formation at half time, resorting back to 4-4-2 and played Ryan Taylor at the right wing to give Simpson more cover – ironic, that Gutierrez used to play the same role to support Taylor on the opposite flank. James Perch came on as a defensive midfielder and played well, disrupting Blackburn’s play in the centre of the park.
Towards full time, recognising that Blackburn players were both tired and pushing further up in search of a late equaliser, Pardew brought on Lovenkrands for the injured Best and then Obertan for Ryan Taylor. Both players linked up to take advantage of Blackburn’s high line and Lovenkrands played a perfect through ball for Obertan to rush though and he calmly slotted his shot past the oncoming Robinson to score his first goal for the club. Although he was only on for 7 minutes, he made 5/6 passes (83%), was successful in his single ground duel and tackle, as well as scoring with his only shot.
Fingers crossed this will give him a confidence boost that he’s greatly in need of.
It wasn’t the best performance by Newcastle, but taking into account that our first choice central midfield partnership was out, as well as our leading striker, it was a fantastic result. Being able to pick up points, especially away from home, when you’re not playing at your best is a sign of a good team, as they say.
The result meant Newcastle marked their first double of the season – beating Blackburn, home and away (treble if you count the FA Cup) and takes Newcastle to 5th place, after leap-frogging Liverpool and Arsenal, who could only manage a draw against Bolton. A great achievement at this stage of the season.
Next up is a home match on Sunday to Aston Villa – who haven’t kept a clean sheet in 2012. A good sign for the returning Demba Ba and new signing Papiss Cisse.
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