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Match Reports

Cardiff v Newcastle – The Most Complete Tactics, Stats & Analysis

8 years ago

Cardiff 1  Newcastle 2
Saturday 5 October 3pm

Very few fans were optimistic heading to South Wales with Newcastle’s atrocious away record for the past 12 months hardly allowing for any optimism.

Williamson was close to a defensive powerhouse at the back, making numerous clearances

Cardiff had turned over Manchester City at home and the Bluebirds (who play in red thanks to their Malaysian owner) wanted to turn their home ground in the capital of Wales into a fortress to help them secure Premier League survival.

All the talk pre-match was on Newcastle’s Jekyll & Hyde performance against Everton last Monday evening but the Magpies went into the match against Cardiff City knowing that three points would see them enter the top half of the table and help alleviate some of the pressure already on Pardew’s shoulders after some calamitous defensive performances, something Pardew usually prides himself on. Reports of his resignation or sacking though, were greatly exaggerated.


In the run up to the game it was well-known to both fans and journalists that Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa would pay the price for his awful first half display against Everton and the former Montpellier captain did, dropping to the bench with the much-maligned Mike Williamson stepping up as his replacement.

The more surprising line-up switch from Alan Pardew was leaving out Dutchman Vurnon Anita, who up to this point in the season has been steady but not spectacular and mercurial winger Hatem Ben Arfa, whose performances against Hull and Everton were considerably lower than what was expected of him.

In their places came Yohan Cabaye, who had dragged Newcastle to some level of respectability against Everton and Papiss Cisse, restored to the starting line up after being dropped against Everton. Despite in the past facing problems with width, Newcastle again lined up in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 with Cisse the striker up front flanked by Yoan Gouffran and Loic Remy.

Cardiff attempted to flood the midfield and, hopefully, target Newcastle’s full backs with a 4-5-1, former Sunderland man Frazier Campbell the lone striker up front.


In the opening 10 minutes neither side demonstrated any sort of passing fluidity, with both sides primary attacking tactic being a hopeful long ball. Both sides got a hint that it might bear fruit, with Newcastle’s centre backs letting a dangerous ball bounce, followed by Krul’s mishandling – only to be saved by Frazier Campbell losing his footing. Newcastle also suffered from some poor strike play, Santon finding Cisse with a diagonal long ball to die for, the Senegalese striker couldn’t bring the ball under control and get a shot off though.

It was on the 10th minute Newcastle really strung a few passes together well, with Tiote and Cabaye showing glimmers of their previous form together. Cisse, however, fired well over. Still, up to the 12th minute Newcastle had managed 62% possession, even if most of it wasn’t in Cardiff’s third of the pitch.


Newcastle’s team was very balanced but Tiote’s dominance is obvious

It has been well documented that Newcastle’s full backs have struggled defensively and Cardiff became the third team in a row to specifically aim their attacks down one side in the hope of gaining some joy. A staggering 44% of their attacks came down the right hand side, targeting Newcastle’s left back Davide Santon.

A number of the attacks were trying to find summer signing Peter Odemwingie in behind Santon but the Italian showed his defensive nous, stepping up to make interceptions five times. Odemwingie didn’t manage to put in a meaningful cross all afternoon and when he did manage to beat Santon initially, the full back recovered well.

In truth both full backs looked to have their attacking instincts reined in somewhat from the cavalier and almost suicidal display against Everton. Both were still happy to overlap their respective wingers when the opportunity arose but they never just got forward for going forward’s sake.

Far from being a defensive rock, and helped by Cardiff looking to attack down their right, Debuchy still proved himself able to handle the duties he needed too. He made three headed clearances, five with his feet and didn’t commit a single foul all day. As the game wore on and Cardiff’s threat on Tim Krul’s goal increased, Debuchy got forward less and happily put in his defensive shift to ensure Newcastle secured all three points.


When the team sheet first came out, it wasn’t the dropping of Ben Arfa who garnered the most criticism but seeing Vurnon Anita named among the substitutes. Anita’s skill-set lends itself to a passing game, him being on the bench was part of what made Newcastle direct.

Tiote was the primary defensive midfielder and he excelled, especially in the first half where he demonstrated his strength and workrate, easily outmuscling several Cardiff midfielders and, crucially, not giving away too many fouls. In the whole game Tiote made five tackles, the most of anyone on the pitch, three interceptions and even managed to complete two dribbles. He may have given away two fouls but his smart play also let him win three and help alleviate some of the pressure that built on the Newcastle back four as Cardiff roared back into the game after half time.

Both Cabaye and Sissoko took turns breaking forward and supporting the front three with different tactics. Sissoko tried to run direct whereas Cabaye looked for the pass. Gary Medel, who racked up an astonishing 107 touches in the game, wasn’t sure which to pick up and was caught out by the switching positions and gave away three fouls, all in promising positions.


At half time Cardiff were 2-0 down and their five in midfield wasn’t working, Newcastle defended well and were happy to attack over the top of Cardiff’s midfield, allowing the front three to stretch the Bluebirds’ back four until Newcastle’s midfield had a bit more space to work. Apart from one demonstration of skill, Kim Bo-Kyung was easily Cardiff’s most ineffective player in midfield. The Korean did not offer nearly enough going forward, mustering just one shot blazed wide and only managing 24 touches of the ball as Tiote marshalled Cardiff’s link from midfield to attack very well.

At half time Kim was subbed off for last week’s match winner Jordan Mutch and Cardiff looked like a team reborn, mainly thanks to Mutch himself who was everything Cardiff had lacked in the first half and initially Newcastle struggled to marshal him. Mutch completed 87% of his passes, 11 in the attacking third. He created three chances and, somewhat remarkably, didn’t once pass backwards.

He took on his man five times, not shirking his remit of being a direct threat to Newcastle defence. He got the better of his defender four times but didn’t have the end product that would have secured Cardiff at least a point. He managed two shots in the second half, one on target. In one half Mutch got 40 touches of the ball, across 90 minutes Sissoko for Newcastle only managed 44.

Cabaye was absolutely everywhere for NUFC


After Newcastle managed to throw away a winning position twice against Hull, no Newcastle fan is going to rest easy and think the points are secured any time soon. Newcastle were in full control at half time but Cardiff’s goal, which was assisted by Mutch, soon changed the tide of the match, with Newcastle turning to last ditch defending and being blessed by Cardiff’s poor finishing.

Mike Williamson, although not the most technically able centre back, demonstrated time and again why he was preferred over unreliable Frenchman Yanga-Mbiwa. He may have only made one tackle (defensive partner Collocini made four) but at the end of 90 minutes Williamson had made a staggering 18 clearances and 13 with his head. He also won 9/10 aerial duels, although you’d have to back the English centre back against the short Frazier Campbell.

Coloccini’s reading of the game is far better than Williamson and it shows in the statistics of Newcastle’s captain. The Argentine made five interceptions, cutting out the through ball to Campbell by reading the play ahead of him and positioning himself very well. He may have got some fans worried when he allowed a long ball to bounce near Newcastle’s box, a defensive cardinal sin, but from then on he was a composed head as Cardiff dragged themselves back into the match.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact of all is Newcastle, for all the last ditch defending required at times when Cardiff did find their way through the Magpies back four, didn’t earn a single yellow card and only gave away eight fouls.


Newcastle’s first change saw Jonas Gutierrez come on for goalscorer Loic Remy. Alan Pardew had hoped to take off Cabaye, having seen the Frenchman turn in an excellent performance dictating Newcastle’s attack and contributing defensively. Unfortunately, Remy felt a slight injury and Pardew was forced to adapt his change. Nominally Newcastle persisted with the same formation but in reality Gutierrez offered much less going forward and tucked into the defence more. In his 30 minutes Gutierrez only managed one shot, not a single cross or take on. He did, however, manage two tackles and one clearance. But that will be just what Alan Pardew wanted.

With the pressure growing on Newcastle as the minutes wore on, the away fans chanted his name over and over and, finally, Alan Pardew beckoned Hatem Ben Arfa from the bench with just five minutes to play. He came on for fellow Frenchman Yohan Cabaye and didn’t have much time to offer an attacking threat, he took on his man twice, beating him once, but other than that was very quiet. He got 100% pass completion, from his one pass.


Loic Remy will earn all the plaudits for his two expertly taken goals but it was Yohan Cabaye who really ran the game for Newcastle, his redemption from the summer transfer debacle now all but complete with the former Lille player looking back to his best and delivering one of his best performances in a black and white shirt. He thundered a free kick against the bar towards the end of the second half but he also showed defensive and attacking awareness. Despite playing high up the pitch on certain occasions, he still managed three tackles, drew three fouls and created two chances.

His low pass completion rating (73%) doesn’t tell the whole story, his remit was to attempt long balls over the top and he did, consistently, keeping the Cardiff back four on their toes and attempting to feed Newcastle’s front three.


Before the game Alan Pardew begged for consistency; for his team to deliver a performance over 90 minutes and not just in one half or the other. The Magpies didn’t manage that against Cardiff, going significantly off the ball in the second half but, thanks to the three points, Pardew is unlikely to care too much.

Newcastle now head into the international break looking comfortable in mid-table with a tough match against Liverpool scheduled in a fortnight. The Magpies will hope to regain some pride there after the 6-0 mauling at home last season, which is still a raw subject for many NUFC fans. Coutinho, Newcastle’s nemesis on that occasion, is likely to return to the team for Liverpool then and he will have to be closely watched, along with Liverpool’s deadly duo of Sturridge and Suarez if Newcastle are to have any hope of getting three points.

Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Turner, Caulker, Taylor, Gunnarson, Medel, Bo-Kyung (Mutch 46), Odemwingie (Matnard 81), Campbell (Bellamy 66), Whittingham

Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Tiote, Cabaye (Ben Arfa 86), Sissoko, Gouffran, Cisse, Remy (Jonas 71)

Unused Subs: Elliot, Dummett, Mapou, Anita, Sammy Ameobi

Ref: Kevin Friend

Crowd: 27,538

Follow Tom on Twitter @WeeklyNewsBay.



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