Everton v Newcastle – The Most Complete Tactics, Stats & Analysis
Everton 3 Newcastle 2
Monday 30 September 8pm
It’s an overused cliche, older perhaps than football itself, but Newcastle’s visit to Goodison Park on Monday night couldn’t have been more a game of two halves. The Magpies turned in a first half performance that was shambolic, embarrassing and insulting to the fans who had paid hard-earned money to travel to Merseyside on a Monday night and cheer on their team.
Alan Pardew called Newcastle’s first half defensive performance “disturbing”, to fans a better word would be “alarming”. Once upon a time under Pardew, Newcastle had a defence that was at least somewhat feared (when Newcastle started the season two years ago unbeaten in 10 games). That is but a fanciful memory now, with Newcastle’s defence all too frequently looking entirely lost at sea and attackers probably licking their lips at the prospect of taking the Magpies on.
Alan Pardew made the brave decision to drop Papiss Cisse from the starting line-up, owing perhaps to both his lack of form in the Premiership (he’s not scored in his last 11 games) and the fact he played 90 minutes against Leeds in midweek. Drafted in to replace him was Yoan Gouffran with Loic Remy played through the middle and Gouffran & Ben Arfa flanking him on the left and right respectively.
Also gone from the starting line-up was Yohan Cabaye. The former Lille man had picked up a groin injury against Hull last weekend and Pardew decided not to risk him from the start but instead have him as an option for the bench. In his place was Tiote, making only his second Premiership start of the season after Manchester City – another performance shambolic in patches.
Sky weren’t exactly sure how Newcastle were going to line up at the starting whistle – first they thought it would be a 4-4-2 with Sissoko and Hatem Ben Arfa on the wings but once they looked at in the studio they thought it would be more of a 4-2-3-1, albeit with Gouffran in the no. 10 role. Both were wrong.
In reality Newcastle attempted to play a 4-3-3 with Sissoko pushed slightly further forward than his fellow midfielders Anita and Tiote. On the face of it, this was a midfield with a little added steel in an attempt to compete with Everton’s swift passing game. The reality however, was more than a little different.
EVERTON START STRONG
Newcastle can make no excuses from their first half performance – they were thoroughly outplayed in almost every single department. The defence looked lost but where did it all go wrong? Chief among Newcastle’s problems were, and are, the two full-backs. Santon and Debuchy have come under increasing criticism from fans and pundits with several performances well below par, especially from two players with more than 20 international caps between them. The problem against Everton was obvious: they did too much attacking and not enough defending.
Both the Italian and the Frenchman are very offensive full-backs, as most will be aware. The problem is the pair need to know when to attack and when to defend. This was most obviously evident in Everton’s first goal, which was almost a catalogue of errors for the Newcastle defence.
Santon was caught high up the pitch and too tight to his man by the lightning quick Kevin Mirallas and once the Belgian was past his man, there was no catching him. Coloccini was then unsure to stay with his man or watch Lukaku, in the end he did neither. Centre-back partner Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa also didn’t know what to do and Mirallas was able to pass to Lukaku who slotted past Tim Krul before the Dutchman even had time to react.
1-0 within 10 minutes and Newcastle’s high defensive line had already let the ball into the net before this but the ‘goal’ called back for offside.
NEWCASTLE GAMEPLAN FALLS TO PIECES
Looking at Newcastle’s starting line-up, you might believe Newcastle were going to attempt a counter-attacking game. Gouffran, Remy and Ben Arfa up front should offer a threat in behind the defence, Pardew spoke of the defence sitting deep (presumably in an attempt to soak up pressure and not allow players like Mirallas in behind). There was no evidence of that from the first whistle.
Newcastle played quite high up the pitch, especially the full-backs, and were caught out early on. It should have proved a stark warning for the back four. It didn’t.
A depressing point for many fans will be just how much this performance reminded them of last season. Utter indifference to the point of embarrassment, followed by an all too late rally once the game had already gone against the Magpies.
On Monday night, Newcastle couldn’t deal with Everton’s high pressing game, with attacks all too often petering out, the ball recycled back to Krul who put his foot through the ball in a more direct manner and Remy, much like Cisse, isn’t going to win a frequent number of aerial duels (on Monday night he won just 13% against the almost impervious duo of Distin and Jagielka).
Once again Ben Arfa looked disinterested in showing any kind of fight or mettle. A few early direct runs were easily dealt with by Seamus Coleman (who performed excellently all night, making seven tackles, winning five dribbles and never losing an aerial battle) and after that Ben Arfa gave up putting the fight to either full-back, instead drifting centrally.
He worked Howard once just before the half-time whistle but Pardew had obviously not seen enough going forward, or back, and subbed him off in place of compatriot Yohan Cabaye.
DEBUCHY TARGETED AGAIN
After Hull successfully targeted Mathieu Debuchy last weekend, Everton were at it again on Monday night – 41% of their attacks came down their left (with just 27% down the middle), attempting to catch Debuchy high up the pitch when he bombed forward, attempting to provide Newcastle’s attacks with width.
This time, thankfully for Newcastle (and for the neutral), the Frenchman was up to the task. Debuchy, who was caught out of position but recovered on a number of occasions, made five tackles, won 67% of his aerial duels and completed 87% of his passes. He also had 96 touches of the ball, second only to Cheick Tiote’s mammoth 100 touches.
4-3-3 may be what the fans clamour for in an attacking sense but its weaknesses defensively are all too easy for opponents to see – width. Especially with full-backs, as discussed before, who are so keen to get forward.
A DEFENDER OUT OF SORTS
If you were to be brutally honest, all of Newcastle’s defence was out of sorts in the first half, with Everton looking dangerous every time they got the ball. Not a single Newcastle player, even Coloccini who drastically improved in the second half, failed to portray any kind of composure or capability in defence.
Chief villain for the first half’s pantomime defending has to be Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. He had a truly torrid first half and was shanked off at half-time and was perhaps the chief subject of Alan Pardew’s post-match “disturbing performance” comment.
Questions have to be asked about how a defender with several international caps, once linked to AC Milan for an eye-wateringly high fee and who captained his side to the league title over big spenders PSG, can perform so poorly when faced with the English game.
Mbiwa was directly responsible for Everton’s second and third goals. For the second, a hopeful punt up the field by Yanga-Mbiwa was ably dealt with by Sylvain Distin, the returned header finding the feet of Lukaku in acres of space behind Newcastle’s midfield. Lukaku had time to run at the defence before slotting the ball through to Barkley who finished with aplomb. Yanga-Mbiwa had also failed to track Barkley’s run in behind the defence, offering less than a paltry resistance.
And where to begin with Everton’s third goal? If a goalkeeper gets an assist then that is route one football. A long ball up field simply wasn’t dealt with by either of Newcastle’s centre-backs and Lukaku had the composure and strength to deliver a cut-throat finish and have Newcastle once again thinking more about damage control and less about returning to St James’ with any points.
It was painfully obvious to all watching that Newcastle needed to change not only their tactics but their players. Off went the awful Yanga-Mbiwa, replaced with the oft-maligned Mike Williamson, and off went luxury player Ben Arfa in place of Yohan Cabaye, his groin risked for the greater good – Newcastle’s pride.
The formation was more of a 4-4-2, Sissoko on the wing (albeit nominally with the powerhouse often drifting inside to help shackle Everton’s midfield) and Newcastle started the second half as they should’ve started the first, Anita slid a perfectly-weighted pass through for Gouffran who agonisingly hit the post. There was life in the Magpies yet.
Williamson’s arrival also dramatically shored up the defence (he won every single aerial battle) but even Newcastle fans would concede that Everton somewhat took their foot off the gas going forward. That said, Lukaku still proved more than a handful for both Coloccini and Williamson.
Key to Newcastle’s revival was doubtless the arrival of Yohan Cabaye and not just for his wonder goal, which he casually dispatched into the top corner, sparking hopes of a Newcastle fightback. Despite frequently holding the top of his leg, Cabaye turned in an excellent performance, pinging passes across the pitch, showing a lot more ambition in attack than Tiote and Anita had provided on their own. The Frenchman also made two tackles
BULL IN A CHINA SHOP
Newcastle fans are undecided on Cheick Tiote. The Ivorian was a true force to be reckoned with 18 months ago, Chelsea were sniffing around him and Newcastle’s midfield of Cabaye and Tiote were considered one of the best in the Premier League. Last season was a nightmare of injuries and poor performances. Against Everton he looked fit and somewhat back to his best, although still far too keen to both give away fouls (four in total, the most for any Newcastle player) and get booked.
That said, Tiote made seven tackles as he did his utmost to cover for Vurnon Anita’s defensive frailties. Tiote also racked up 100 touches, the most for any outfield player on either side. He also completed 91% of his passes and made one shot on target, even if it was a hopeful long distance drive. At least this one was on target and not like his other attempts which often sail into row z.
Mark Twain once said: “’There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” If you were to look at just the statistics, you’d be tempted to call Debuchy the man of the match but to anyone who watched the game, Cabaye’s influence in dragging his team back into the contest can’t be overstated.
He grabbed a goal (easily the pick of them on the night) and got a secondary assist to Remy’s late scramble into the net, even if it was a hopeful punt towards the far post (Debuchy demonstrating again his ability in the air).
Newcastle’s second half performance was like another team, with the defence actually looking like they might belong in the division and the attack actually having some teeth, albeit far from a fearsome bite.
But there can be no excuses for a first half performance even worse than last weekend’s second-half against Hull. If Newcastle can perform relatively competently for 90 minutes the Magpies will have no fear of relegation but these same things were said last season and Newcastle flirted all too closely to the drop then, only saved in reality by a couple of late goals.
Everton were at times untouchable in the first half, the combination of Lukaku and Barkley proving irresistible – not that Newcastle attempted much resistance. The second-half performance restored some pride on Tyneside but the alarm bells are still ringing loud and clear in the ears of the Toon Army.
Newcastle’s defence has now conceded six goals in two games, expect Yanga-Mbiwa to be benched, or perhaps played at full-back for next week’s crunch match against Cardiff. Pardew will want a defence with more mettle and Taylor and Williamson, for all their technical deficiencies, at least have that.
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