Against Hull Can Newcastle Carry On These Lessons Learnt At Villa?
At Aston Villa, Alan Pardew gave a first start to Loïc Rémy, in a wide left role and started Yohan Cabaye for the first time this season, in an advanced midfield role. Anita and Sissoko were the two central midfielders, with Newcastle in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Villa lined up in a 4-3-3, as expected, although they were forced to bring on Ciaran Clark to replace Jores Okore, who
went off with a bad injury after thirty minutes.
Aston Villa sat fairly deep, allowed Newcastle to play out from the back and looked to break quickly and directly after winning the ball back. Their front three have lots of pace and are very direct, with Agbonlahor and Weimann looking to sprint in behind the defence before they’ve had time to get set.
Newcastle dominated possession and looked to win the ball back quickly when they lost it, pressing high up the pitch. Cabaye often looked to close down one of the centre-backs, along with Cissé and Anita and Sissoko looked to press Villa’s midfield, despite being outnumbered. The approach worked because Villa weren’t able to bypass the pressure and often gave the ball away cheaply, although they did look dangerous the few times they managed to find one of the front three with an early pass.
Anita was usually the one to drop deep and get the ball off the centre-backs. He doesn’t have the range of passing that Cabaye does but he’s neat and tidy on the ball, looking to play simple passes. Sissoko had a little more licence to drive forward but both played quite disciplined roles.
Rémy provided pace, direct running and a goal threat from a wide position. He often made runs in behind the defence, looking for an early pass and looked to run at Lowton when he had the ball.
You can see from the illustration how high up Cabaye played. Ben Arfa likes to drift around and cut inside so Cabaye favoured the right hand side and occasionally found himself out on the right, with Ben Arfa infield. With Rémy also looking to make direct runs and support Cissé, there was sometimes a lack of width, but the front four were quite fluid and certainly threatening.
Newcastle’s approach was demonstrated in the opening goal when Anita won the ball back high up the pitch, Rémy’s direct running, along with some good fortune, allowed him to get a cross in, which fell kindly for Ben Arfa to finish.
Benteke is an exceptional player and he provided a great target for Villa. He often dropped deeper to receive the ball, with Weimann and Agbonlahor looking to exploit the space he had just vacated. This posed a problem for Coloccini and Yanga-Mbiwa about whether to follow him or keep their shape. They usually opted to follow him, with Yanga-Mbiwa particularly keen to step out of defence to win the ball and there was a moment in the first half where both centre-backs got dragged up the pitch, with both full-backs deeper than them and a massive space in the centre of defence. Luckily, Villa couldn’t find the pass and they got away with it.
In the second half, Villa pressed Newcastle higher up the pitch, while Newcastle were happy to sit deeper and allow Villa to have more of the ball.
Agbonlahor missed a great opportunity to equalise after another direct attack. Weimann made a run in behind Santon and his early cross found Agbonlahor free at the back post, after Debuchy was slow to react to his run.
Benteke then equalised from a corner. Libor Kozák had just come on for El Ahmadi (Villa switched to a 4-4-2), which seemed to create some confusion. Neither Sissoko nor Yanga-Mbiwa seemed sure of who they were marking and neither of them stuck with Benteke, who had a free header. Krul made it even easier by trying to come for the cross, which he was never going to get to, although it was a great header nonetheless.
Gouffran, who came on in a straight swap for Rémy, then scored the winner after reacting quickest to a rebound from a Ben Arfa shot. Ben Arfa yet again ran at Luna, cut inside onto his left foot and created enough space for a shot, which Guzan could only parry. Gouffran reacted quickly and finished well. With Aston Villa now only playing two in midfield, Ben Arfa had a little extra time before they managed to double up on him. Again, the defending from Villa wasn’t too bad and Delph was a little unlucky not to get a block in.
Newcastle’s first-half pressing allowed them to dominate the game and Rémy, Cabaye and Ben Arfa were always threatening, with a good combination of pace and creativity. Ben Arfa was again the main attacking threat, continually running at his man and looking to make something happen but having more than one threat was crucial. Villa were always a threat on the break and came into the game more in the second half. There wasn’t a lot between the two teams but Newcastle had more quality in the final third.
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