Newcastle v Stoke Match Report – Most Complete Tactics, Stats and Analysis
Newcastle v Stoke Match Report
Newcastle United 5 Stoke City 1 Thursday 26 December 3pm
Newcastle United’s quick run of festive fixtures kicked off on Boxing Day against Stoke City with three points unable to see them climb the table, though it could see them gain on other top four outsiders Everton.
Stoke City were unbeaten in four games going into the showdown on December 26 with Newcastle and, had it not been for a thoroughly bizarre ten minutes towards the end of the first half, they may well have maintained that record against a Newcastle United side who looked sluggish and tactically unprepared in the opening stages.
With Cheick Tiote suspended for one game after picking up five yellow cards, the talk on the Tyne was whether Hatem Ben Arfa would be introduced to the starting 11 following some impressive performances off the bench, not least of which happened against Crystal Palace where he showcased his attacking talent, provided a direct threat and converted a penalty.
Manager Alan Pardew decided a game at home against Stoke was as good as opportunity as any to restore Ben Arfa back into the attacking line up. Moussa Sissoko, who had been excelling on the right wing with his strength and workrate, was moved to the middle alongside Anita (a very little & large duo) with Yohan Cabaye, one of the many shining lights of this Newcastle season so far, in a more advanced number 10 role.
The back five remained the same and Loic Remy, who had struggled for goals in his previous three Newcastle games, kept his place up front with Shola Ameobi and Papiss Cisse continuing to warm the bench. Also in the 18 was Steven Taylor – the local lad has found a first team place increasingly hard to come by after his idiotic sending off against Manchester City – with rumours continuing to link him to Queens Park Rangers.
Stoke lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Charlie Adam in the number 10 role supporting Peter Crouch in attack. Erik Pieters, once heavily linked with the Magpies and good friends with Tim Krul, lined up at left back while Liverpool loanee Oussama Assaidi continued on the left wing after impressing in recent games.
Asmir Begovic was out of the game with a broken finger that could see him miss up to six weeks of football so former Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson stepped between the sticks, wearing red and white at St James’s Park once more.
DOUBLE PIVOT FAILS
Although creating one good chance in the opening five minutes (a Sissoko shot from outside the box) Newcastle did not start well and once Stoke got a rhythm to their passing (after about 10 minutes of fairly drab football with Stoke continually looking for Peter Crouch with long balls) they were in control of the game and a lot of it stemmed from confusion between Anita and Sissoko in the middle of the park.
When Stoke were in possession, one of the pair should have pushed out to help close Steven Nzonzi and Glen Whelan down, but they both seemed unsure of who should take the lead, meaning Cabaye was covering far too much ground very early on trying to pressure both.
When Newcastle did manage to recover possession they found it very tough to break Stoke down. Cabaye was well marshalled between Whelan, Nzonzi and Shawcross as the three communicated where the Frenchman was at all times in order to limit his playing capability (perhaps remembering when the former Lille man tore them to pieces towards the end of the 2011/12 season).
Charlie Adam, for all his critics, was excellent at using his physicality against Anita in particular, with the diminutive Dutchman finding it hard to get his usual passing game going.
The Magpies tried everything to manufacture themselves more space in midfield. A shortlived attempt saw Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini widen during a Krul kick off and Anita drop into a back three to pick the ball up – meaning Mathieu Debuchy and Davide Santon could push forward. Adam hassled Anita very well, meaning all he could do was square it to Williamson and Newcastle were back at square one.
STOKE LOOK DANGEROUS
Mark Hughes may have come to Stoke with the remit of playing attractive football but that doesn’t mean he’s left behind all of Tony Pulis’s work at the Potters. Peter Crouch, as a lone striker, was targeted a lot in the early stages and while Newcastle challenged him well the lanky frontman grew into the game. The Magpies were able to stifle his influence somewhat by winning a great deal of his knockdowns (Crouch, despite winning 67% of his aerial battles, managed only 58% pass completion).
Despite repeated attempts at long balls (Stoke had a massive 62 to Newcastle’s 42 even with the overall possession statistics heavily favouring Newcastle) Stoke looked most dangerous passing the ball with Newcastle unable to close them down effectively.
A sighter by Adam in the 28th minute should have been a warning for the back four but just a minute later the ball was in the back of the Newcastle goal. Assaidi, who had the beating of Debuchy for much of the first half, managed to get the right back isolated after some slick passing in the Stoke midfield. He cut inside on his right foot and powered a shot past Krul. It was no more than Stoke deserved.
Newcastle tried to make use of their attacking width with diagonal balls to their full backs and wingers but they were often overhit and saw attacks fizzle out. Cabaye meanwhile was being so well marked he was forced deeper and deeper to find space with the ball. As a result Pardew, seeing his key playmaker was exhausting himself, placed Cabaye alongside Anita in the middle and Sissoko went more advanced, with his added physicality better at combatting tight marking.
Whelan was having a good game up to his sending off and can be satisfied both his bookings were soft. The first was for kicking the ball away after a foul on Sissoko while the second saw him hack at the legs of Cabaye. Perhaps referee Martin Atkinson could have been more lenient and simply given Whelan a final talking to (he had after all only committed two fouls) but instead sent him off and Stoke were in trouble, with Mark Hughes sent to the stands shortly afterward.
Just minutes later Anita played a perfectly weighted pass for Remy who was hauled down by Marc Wilson in the penalty area and it was the marching orders for him too. Remy missed the penalty but just minutes later, following a debatable handball appeal against Williamson, Ben Arfa laid the ball on for Remy who scored, owing to a deflection.
At the start of the first half, with Newcastle now facing just eight outfield players, Pardew knew he didn’t need five in midfield so Anita, who had struggled with just 28 touches in the first half (albeit making one terrific pass to draw the second red card of the game), was withdrawn for Shola Ameobi as Newcastle reverted to a more traditional 4-4-2.
Ameobi turned in far from his best performance and didn’t offer much in attack, managing just 15 touches and one shot – despite Newcastle dominating possession and overrunning the Stoke defence. The issue, really, was that Newcastle didn’t need to go direct and were passing the ball to create chances – meaning Ameobi’s immobility was exposed.
Stoke replaced Assaidi, probably their most dangerous player, with Andy Wilkinson to try and maintain their one point. It didn’t last very long as Yoan Gouffran soon nestled a shot in the bottom left corner after Ben Arfa looked to have ran the ball out of play – although the official failed to call the decision.
Wilkinson was overwhelmed by sheer numbers as much as the rest of the Stoke defence. He only managed 50% pass accuracy – a crime when possession was so hard to come by – and made one tackle. Stoke, after half time, were playing a kind of 4-3-1 with long balls becoming even more of a prominent tactic, with little to show for it.
After Remy headed in a third for Newcastle in the 56th minute, Mark Hughes could see no points were coming out of the game and it was all going to be about saving face. Crouch was withdrawn for Wilson Palacios and Stoke played a 4-4-0 with Jonathan Walters attempting to get forward when possible but offering little if no threat.
By this point in the game Newcastle were well on top and were passing the ball about with pomp. With no strikers to pressure the centre backs they were able to come forward with the ball and draw out Stoke’s midfielders.
Santon, who had a solid if unspectacular game, was replaced with Massadio Haidara. Haidara had little defensive duty (he made just one tackle) but he was more of a threat going forward than Santon with his width (Santon cuts inside often and the middle was already flooded with Stoke sitting deep) and crosses producing a glut of chances, none of which were converted.
In the 66th minute some intricate football in Stoke’s box saw Debuchy lay on a nice pass for Cabaye who simply stroked the ball past Sorenson, who was left with no chance. Newcastle were now 4-1 up and the contest was over.
Newcastle’s formation was very fluid. The back four remained (albeit with both full backs getting forward frequently) but Sissoko and Cabaye were the only real midfielders. Gouffran and Remy worked fluidly around Ameboi with Ben Arfa remaining on the right.
The introduction of Papiss Cisse saw Newcastle play a sort of 4-2-4. In the 80th minute a bad touch by Ben Arfa saw him win a penalty. Nominated penalty taker Yohan Cabaye let strike partner Papiss Cisse convert the spot kick.
From then on Newcastle were on autopilot with Cabaye (115 touches, 93% pass accuracy, five shots, one goal and three interceptions) playing the full 90 minutes but capable of resting his legs somewhat for the very tough visit of Arsenal in just 72 hours time.
Although some will argue he should be dropped for the forthcoming fixture against Arsenal at home, the star player on Thursday afternoon was undoubtedly Hatem Ben Arfa.
The winger was direct and a constant threat, both before and after the sendings off. He attempted a massive 12 dribbles, the next highest being Debuchy’s two. He hit the woodwork twice, won a penalty and, with his 87 touches, got himself heavily involved in almost all of Newcastle’s attacks; bagging an assist to go with his constant probing shots – he made five all game.
Ben Arfa may have been dispossessed four times as he was doubled up on early by Stoke’s defence but he forced three turnovers himself. He will perhaps be frustrated if he is dropped against Arsenal but Tiote is sure to be restored to the first team line up in an attempt to shackle big-money signing Mesut Ozil.
There can be no doubting that the two sendings off changed the game with Newcastle also getting the benefit of the doubt on a number of other decisions (some fans may well be worried the team have now cashed in all their luck in this game).
Newcastle played as well as can be expected for a team playing against nine men. Stoke offered next to no threat in the second half (no shots on target and only one off target) and Hughes’s attempt to rescue a point from the game was never likely to succeed.
Next up, league leaders Arsenal will offer a much tougher challenge with a rested Tiote a welcome addition back into the line up. If Newcastle are to maintain their challenge for European football they will need to at least get themselves a point.
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon (Haidara 61), Sissoko, Anita (Shola 46), Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Gouffran (Cisse 72), Remy
Unused Subs: Elliot, Mapou, Steven Taylor, Obertan,
Ref: Martin Atkinson
Crowd: 51,665 (600 Away)
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