As a Newcastle fan, I suppose this is the one I’ve been dreading/looking to dissect most.
Not a lot of positives in this picture, apart from perhaps the fact that points-wise there wasn’t a lot to separate West Ham in 10th place from Newcastle in 16th. Worryingly though, even less separated Newcastle from Wigan in 18th. Earlier I noted how small the margin for error was in the title-race for Manchester City, well the bottom half had similar difficulties as several teams were in the mix for relegation going into the last 4-5 games of the season.
I’m finding it a little hard to read these graphs objectively! In terms of goals scored it wasn’t a disastrous season – below par perhaps but not disgraceful, despite a tailing off towards the end of the season. The loss of Demba Ba was broadly compensated for by the arrivals of Sissoko and Gouffran in particular, and a return to form for Cissé. There seems to have been some sort of repellent force at stake whereby both Cissé AND Ba weren’t able to both score in the same team – the sort of force which prevented Gerrard and Lampard from striking a successful midfield partnership for England – but I digress.
Games 10-17 defined Newcastle’s season, as they took only 4pts from a possible 24 losing to West Ham, Swansea and Man City at home alongside losses Southampton, Stoke and Fulham away from home.
Defensively there were some absolute horror shows, as Newcastle went from defending fairly averagely in the first half of the season to losing the plot against Manchester United (lost 4-3) and Arsenal (7-3) during an unhappy Christmas period. And don’t get me started on those late season 0-3 and 0-6 home losses to Sunderland and Liverpool!
On average, the top 5 scored a shade under 3 goals per game against Newcastle, 6th-10th place helped themselves to about 1.7 goals per game. They were also hurt by not making the most of their matches against the bottom 4.
This graph shows that Newcastle generally fielded 1 player more than the league average in terms of players 1.82m or taller. And they attempted more long balls than any other club with 2285 long balls with a below average 54.8% accuracy. To put this into perspective, Stoke and West Ham, both of whom fielded even higher proportions of players in their line-ups over 1.82m tried significantly fewer long balls with 1989 and 1983 respectively. Newcastle were the undisputed proponents of long ball football in the league last season.
So is it all doom and gloom for Newcastle? Probably not. The above charts underline what is already fairly common knowledge (see article linked here) as Newcastle’s injury troubles really prevented them from fielding their key players in a high proportion of games. They were behind the league average in the top 4 tiers of playing time shown above, and this wasn’t a result of rotation – although the Europa League provided a heavy fixture schedule that the squad didn’t really cope with. Gutierrez and Cissé were the players who played more than 2800mins, and sadly neither had the sort of form capable of lifting the team beyond mediocrity. Davide Santon was a rare bright spark in an otherwise dismal season, and he managed 2645mins on the pitch. But out of the lifeblood of the team: Coloccini, Tioté, Cabaye, Ben Arfa and the departed Ba – only Cabaye and Coloccini managed just a little more than the playing time equivalent of 20 games in the league.
- Lowest proportion of tackles won (72.5%)
- Second only to Spurs in terms of total clearances (1590)
- Third highest number of dribbles attempted (658)
- Second lowest ratio of goals to shots on target (25%)
- =2nd highest number of red cards with 4
- More attempted long balls than any other team with 2285
Of course, Demba Ba was a real loss to Newcastle but as I noted earlier the signings of Sissoko and Gouffran softened the blow and in reality the second half of the season was pretty consistent with the first half: Newcastle improved a bit on the road, but worsened at home.
Sissoko was a bright spark and Marveaux showed flashes of quality but the squad just couldn’t cope without Tioté, Cabaye and Ben Arfa as regulars in the side. Anita failed to adapt sufficiently in his first season and Perchinho didn’t quite perform to the levels he achieved in the previous season (although the same can be said for just about everyone else as well!).
Next season Newcastle will hope for better fortune on the injury front and a new striker to complement Cissé to improve their chances of finishing in the top half.