The Ultimate Post-Match Analysis From Newcastle v Hull – Formation, Tactics, Statistics…
Newcastle United 2 Hull City 3
Saturday 21 September 3pm
It was starting to look relatively rosy on Tyneside in the wake of Newcastle’s comfortable 2-1 victory over Aston Villa. Optimism was burgeoning around St James’s, the giddy heights of top 10 could be achieved this season, if we won we’d have briefly gone second. No relegation struggle this time around and Pardew has learned lessons from the catastrophe of last season.
But in a listless second half display (although, despite the scoreline, the first half wasn’t much better) the pessimism immediately surrounded the club once more as Hull were able to smash and grab three points from a Newcastle side who went from lukewarm to tepid following the 15 minute break.
On the face of it Newcastle were the dominant side, bossing possession 61-39%, with higher overall pass accuracy and being better in the air than their recently promoted opposition but Hull City, or Hull City Tigers, came with a very strict game plan and performed admirably on the day, leaving 50,000 Geordies disappointed and rather bemused as to why a team who had so much possession could create so little in terms of clear cut chances.
Alan Pardew chose the same 11 and the same formation as against Villa, with rumours of Remy starting up front and Gouffran wide on the left proving to be just rumours. Cabaye was again deployed in a kind of more defensively minded number 10 with Pardew hoping to channel the attacking play through the former Arsenal target.
Hull lined up in a 4-4-2 with Huddlestone and Livermore in the heart of midfield and set to do battle with Anita and Sissoko. Pardew expected Cabaye to drop deeper when out of possession and help harass the Hull players.
Danny Graham was hoping to break an impossibly long (even by Papiss Cisse terms) goal-scoring drought and partnered Sone Aluko up front, the latter preferred to Yannick Sagbo, who was on the bench.
Although Hull presented a 4-4-2, during the game it slowly developed into a quasi 4-3-3 itself. With Brady on Hull’s left wing pushing up on the left, alongside the two other strikers and Hull’s right winger Stephen Quinn tucking in to help flood the midfield and prevent Newcastle’s narrow attacking.
NEWCASTLE WIN POSSESSION BATTLE
Barcelona would have you believe possession is 9/10ths of the game but that wasn’t the case at St James’s Park. Newcastle achieved dominance on the ball but their use of it was poor, especially as the game got away from them in the second half.
The warning signs were there from the start, Newcastle’s most completed pass combinations in the first half, and indeed through the game, all involved the back four. Plus, demonstrating how effectively Hull marked Ben Arfa out of the game, Debuchy to Ben Arfa, the highest combination in each of the two previous games, was joint seventh this game week.
When Yanga-Mbiwa did try something different, dribbling out of defence, Newcastle looked shaky and surrendered a number of chances to clear their lines. Pardew, prowling on the touchline as ever, made his feelings towards the adventurous strides forward from his centre back perfectly clear.
Once Hull had gone ahead they were happy to defend deep, with Newcastle launching ball after ball at the Hull defence but offering very little threat, the only chance of note being Remy’s miss in the final minutes.
Even without the ball, Hull harried well and refused Newcastle’s midfield any consistent time on the ball. Their tackling was top notch, Chester racking up six, Elmohamady five and both Liam Rosenior and Tom Huddlestone scored four. Newcastle’s highest was Cabaye with just three.
WIDTH VS NARROW
One of the weaknesses of the 4-3-3 is a lack of width, both defensively and in attack. This was exploited with aplomb by Wigan in the 11/12 season, whose 3-4-3 cut ribbons out of Newcastle and they ran out 4-0 winners, bringing Newcastle’s winning run to an abrupt end.
Hull, who flirted with a back three at times last season, were more basic with their width, playing in a simple 4-4-2 but Huddlestone, who ran the game from midfield, sprayed passes from side to side and was afforded far too much space from the Newcastle midfield. Targeting the flanks had two effects, with Remy and Ben Arfa not tracking back as much as Pardew would have liked, Anita and Sissoko were instead pulled out wide to try and help, thus leaving more space for Huddlestone and Livermore in the middle.
The forwards’ reluctance to put in a defensive shift could have been forgiven if they offered more going forward but the movement of all three was poor (Remy’s the best but still far from what his midfielders would have hoped for) and their passing when looking to counter lacked accuracy and incision.
HULL TARGET DEBUCHY
Against Villa Newcastle’s full backs were solid, both going forward and in defence. Steve Bruce chose to target Debuchy, who has less pace than Santon, as a potential weak link and it worked wonders. Debuchy was caught out of position for the opening goal, failing to readjust in time for Hull’s second attack and Ben Arfa failing to deputise (more on that later).
Debuchy tried his best, he made two tackles and gave away one foul as Hull continued their barrage down his flank, with 44% of Hull’s attacks down their left side. This paid dividends with both their opening goal and the eventual winner, a spectacular volley from Aluko with the cross coming from Newcastle’s right.
Hull City didn’t just pressure in the form of attacks either, with Debuchy being the chosen member of the back four to be picked up by Aluko which resulted in Debuchy having to play a long, hopeful ball upfield increasingly often as the game wore on. He managed just 69% pass accuracy, the lowest for a Newcastle player by more than 10%.
FROM HERO TO ZERO
Last week I spoke far too soon in saying Hatem Ben Arfa had shaken his “mercurial” tag from the press. While he’s still far from a zero in the hearts of Geordies, his performance against Hull was easily the worst on the pitch, especially considering the high standard he has set himself with his performances so far in the campaign. He lacked any sort of energy from the first whistle to the last, failed in his defensive duties and offered little to nothing going forward.
Hull targeted Debuchy as a weak link in the United defence and the January signing got no help from Ben Arfa. Despite racking up 65 touches, more than either of Newcastle’s other forwards, Hull right back Rosenior had his man in his pocket all afternoon. Ben Arfa completed just two dribbles and had one shot.
What is even more frustrating for Pardew and the supporters is that Ben Arfa can play poorly for 89 minutes but still be capable of one minute of magic, so Pardew refused to hook him, instead taking off Cabaye, Cisse and Debuchy in search for a winner.
The correct tactics can put you in the position to win any game but managers cannot account for individual errors and there were far too many of them on display against Hull. For the first goal Cisse took a poor touch and the ball went out of play, resulting in an attacking Hull throw which ended up in a spectacular save from Krul.
Debuchy then failed to reposition himself in time for the second attack, affording Brady far too much space and he punished Newcastle. For the equaliser, Anita gave away an unnecessary free kick and for the winner Ben Arfa failed to adequately prevent the cross which was volleyed home by Aluko.
Alan Pardew is a manager who is happy to switch his formation quite quickly when things go against him but changing a team’s game plan requires more than that. Yohan Cabaye picked up a groin injury and in came Gouffran, with Newcastle reverting to 4-4-2 in an attempt to combat Hull’s width.
4-4-2 requires Ben Arfa to contribute more defensively to help his, at this point ailing, full back and Ben Arfa looked far from keen for the task, often failing to track back at all. Despite what the more optimistic might call ‘saving energy for the counter attack’ at no point in the game, even when 2-1 up, did Newcastle’s attack look as dynamic as some would have hoped.
Both of Loic Remy’s goals came about from good awareness on his part and confident finishing. A damning statistic for Newcastle’s offensive efforts? Other than the two goals, Newcastle didn’t have a single other shot on target, despite 15 efforts. Almost two thirds (60%) of those shots were speculative efforts from outside the box – Debuchy’s attempted wonder strike being a real nadir of quality.
Marveaux came on for the ineffectual (how many times has he been called that in the last 12 months) Papiss Cisse, with Gouffran then partnering Remy up front with Pardew hoping the two speedy players could stretch Hull’s defence and cause more problems than the aerial ball had so far. There was no luck, just three minutes after the change Hull scored what proved to be the winning goal and were from then on happy to sit deep and defend, both Remy and Gouffran had little space to run into behind the defence.
If Cabaye had still been on the pitch, he would surely have thrived in the attacking positions on the edge of the 18 yard box that were begging for a Newcastle player. As it was Ben Arfa looked in little mood to change the game at this late stage and Anita, while tidily recycling possession, didn’t seem to have the eye for an incisive pass through Hull’s rigid two banks of four.
Marveaux saw just 18 touches of the ball in his 20 minute performance and offered as little going forward as his French counterpart on the other wing. He had a 73% pass completion as he failed to find the killer pass or make the killer run to bring the Magpies back into the game.
The last change saw Tiote come on for Debuchy after a nightmare of a game. Anita dropped into right back and found himself in space on a few occasions but Newcastle seemed to insist on the narrow style of play that had brought them so little success up to that point in the game.
Remy scored twice and was Newcastle’s most threatening player going forward, although that isn’t saying much when the team only managed two shots on target, both Remy’s. Glaring miss at the death aside, it was a good performance from Newcastle’s one summer signing. He got six shots away, the most out of any player on the pitch but failed to test the goalkeeper enough with his efforts.
Newcastle dominated possession but failed to break down Hull’s well organised defence in almost any way. Unlike Fulham, who had a similar game plan just a few weeks ago, Hull were better in defence and more clinical in attack, taking three points away from a poor Newcastle who now face an unbeaten Everton.
If Pardew is to persist with 4-3-3 his full backs either need to improve their defensive positioning or not go forward as much. Neither, however, was helped by the ‘tracking back’ of either Remy or Ben Arfa.
In an odd way Everton, now under the attacking-minded Roberto Martinez, might come as a welcome relief for Newcastle at the moment. The team seem to lack the attacking instincts to cut a team apart if Ben Arfa does not perform. And that is worrying when someone is as injury prone as Newcastle’s number 10.
Newcastle United: Krul, Debuchy (Tiote 86) Mapou, Coloccini, Santon, SIssoko, Anita, Cabaye (Gouffran 62), Ben Arfa, Cisse (Marveaux 73), Remy
Unused Subs: Elliot, Dummett, Williamson, Sammy Ameobi
Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamady, Davies, Chester, Rosenior, Quinn (Boyd 64), Huddlestone, Livermore, Brady (Meyler 74), Graham (Sagbo 84), Aluko
Ref: Martin Atkinson
Crowd: 51,523 (2785 Away Fans)
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