Swansea v Newcastle Match Report – Most Complete Tactics, Stats and Analysis
Swansea v Newcastle Match Report
Swansea 3 Newcastle 0
Wednesday 4 December 7.45pm
On paper at least there can hardly have been a better time to play Swansea. The South Wales team were without star strikers Michu and Wilfried Bony – the latter of which many Newcastle fans clamoured for after a red hot season in the Eredevise last year.
Not only that but the Swans also were in poor form, slouching in the bottom half of the table and with only one win at home all season. Combined with the Europa League meaning an already depleted squad had to play three games in six days and Newcastle fans may have been over-optimistic the trip to the Liberty Stadium, could see three points and the Magpies magnificent November form continue into a busy December.
It wasn’t to be for the Magpies and Swansea soared to a comfortable 3-0 win, with Newcastle looking thoroughly ordinary, if not worse, for large swathes of the game.
It is well documented Alan Pardew hates to change a winning side and against Swansea he was no different. The Newcastle manager has been lucky with injuries so far this season and was able to name an unchanged line up, with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa having to settle for a place amongst the substitues.
Crucially for Newcastle, Pardew was without the attacking options of Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse on the bench. The former had picked up an illness and didn’t travel while the latter picked up a heel injury in the warm up and was replaced on the bench by Paul Dummett. The injuries meant Newcastle’s only attacking options on the bench were the much-maligned Gabriel Obertan and unproven Sammy Ameobi.
Swansea on the other hand have been blighted by injuries and fitness issues to several key players so once again manager Michael Laudrup was without his first choice 11. The only change from Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester City was Michel Vorm returning between the sticks, facing off against his Dutch compatriot and challenger for the national No. 1 jersey.
Swansea lined up in 4-2-3-1, with 22 year old Alvaro leading the line. The erratic but occasionally brilliant Jonjo Shelvey lined up in the number 10 role.
SWANSEA DOMINATE POSSESSION
If it wasn’t obvious from the formation, it was obvious from the kick off – Newcastle weren’t going to compete with Swansea in a battle of possession. Pardew was happy for his side to concede the possession battle, defend deep and strike on the counter attack. It worked two seasons ago when Cisse scored twice to give Newcastle a comfortable 2-0 win despite losing the possession battle 70-30.
That was Swansea under Brendan Rodgers however and Laudrup has brought a dynamism and variation to the Swans attack, meaning defending deep is a risky strategy. Not only that but the defensive partnership of Ashley Williams and Chico Flores is a formidable one.
The first 20 minutes was the flow of the game in a microcosm. Swansea completed a mammoth 213 passes, to Newcastle’s paltry 33 – by the end of the game this had evened out somewhat, but Swansea still managed 697 to Newcastle’s 333.
By the end of the game, such was Swansea’s domination of the midfield, De Guzman had racked up 130 touches of the ball and had 94% pass accuracy. It wasn’t all just sideways wandering either, he also made four key passes and four accurate crosses. A performance to be proud of in the centre of midfield along with Jose Canas.
An advantage of workhorses like Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran is that they’re positionally quite flexible and Pardew demonstrated that on Wednesday night. Realising Swansea possessed little threat down the flanks (their play was quite narrow and normally dangerous full back Angel Rangel continues to nurse an injury) and that Cabaye and Tiote were being swamped in midfield, he switched to a 4-3-3. Sissoko partnered Tiote and Cabaye in midfield while Gouffran pushed slightly higher up, in an effort to help Newcastle’s counter attacks.
Proof that they weren’t working was demonstrated early on when Cabaye beat a challenge and cantered into space but both Ameobi and Remy had come short for the ball. Cabaye attempted a glory shot from the halfway line and the attack broke down. Gouffran, with his unfathomable work rate, would provide a further attacking outlet.
Pardew was unlucky in actual fact because shortly after the switch (in the 29th minute) Alvaro had to be replaced with Nathan Dyer. Dyer offered much more of a threat coming off the wing and it was from here where he popped up with the first goal on the stroke of half time.
20 year old Ben Davies, who played well all game, getting 93 touches and making two tackles, crossed into the box and Tim Krul failed to get a significant hand on the ball, which fell to Dyer to coolly slot home. A cruel time to concede but no more than Swansea deserved for their first half display.
Newcastle had been thoroughly outplayed but still managed nine shots – the only dangerous one being a Loic Remy header wonderfully saved by Vorm at full stretch, other than that Newcastle had looked lacklustre.
Despite losing the midfield battle so badly, even after the formation switch, Pardew refused to make changes at half time. The introduction of Vurnon Anita, one of Newcastle’s most technically gifted players, might have evened things out in the middle of the park but he was overlooked.
Newcastle’s biggest crime was coughing up the ball once in possession. In the first half Swansea’s pass completion was a near perfect 94%. Newcastle’s was 73%. Jonathan De Guzman managed more touches of the ball than Sissoko, Cabaye and Tiote put together, with Swansea passing rings, rather than running them, around Newcastle.
SWANSEA’S STALWART DEFENCE
Although Newcastle didn’t offer much of a threat going forward bar one spell at the start of the second half, Swansea’s centre back pairing of Williams and Chico Flores still deserve praise. Both of theirs positioning was excellent but Chico was simply imperious in the air, winning 100% of his aerial battles. Combine that with more than 100 touches, four tackles and a mammoth eight interceptions, it was easy to see why Swansea looked so comfortable.
Both full backs performed well – knowing Swansea would dominate possession allowed them to push up and when Newcastle did attack both of them looked comfortable and confident. They made two tackles each and Davies in particular was no nonsense in the brief spells Newcastle looked dangerous at start of the first half – he made six clearances away from danger.
Mathieu Debuchy had an unlucky game. He may get some blame for the unfortunate own goal which ended the game as a contest but other than that he was excellent. He made six tackles, three interceptions and only gave away one foul after venting his frustration at Newcastle not being awarded a penalty. He even earned the respect of Swansea fans after not going down when “headbutted” by Jonjo Shelvey.
Newcastle’s real saving grace in what was a poor performance was Cheick Tiote. The Ivorian may have been overwhelmed in midfield but he tried he level best in a game that would have simply drifted by others. He made seven tackles, the most of anyone on the pitch, and two interceptions. He also won three dribbles and managed 89% pass accuracy – both statistics the highest of any Newcastle player.
His midfield parter Cabaye didn’t perform badly either with both managing better after the switch to 4-3-3 but keeping possession and creating sustained pressure was elusive for Newcastle – whose attacks were more similar to a flash in the pan rather than a grilling.
A TRUE NO. 10 PERFORMANCE
Newcastle fans may find it easy to hate Jonjo Shelvey but on Wednesday night he looked like exactly the sort of player he threatened to be when he first burst onto the scene with Liverpool.
Despite the risk of a marauding Tiote hacking him down at any minute, Shelvey thrived with his team so dominant in possession. He managed 98 touches, a conservative number compared to his midfield team mates but he always looked dangerous with the ball. He managed six shots, two of which were on target, one of which was the final goal.
He also put in a defensive shift, making four tackles, level with Chico Flores. Shelvey proved adept at floating around in between Swansea’s attack and midfield, leaving Tiote chasing shadows occasionally as he popped up on both the left and the right to receive possession.
As previously said, Dyer’s arrival changed Swansea’s attack and gave them both a direct threat for the first time and something to think about from the wings as well. Dyer played well, winning three dribbles and drawing two fouls but was also dispossessed three times.
The lack of Ben Arfa and Cisse on the bench came back to haunt Newcastle as Pardew tried to chase the game in the second half. Bit part player since his signing in January, Massadio Haidara came on for Davide Santon but the Frenchman’s attacking game isn’t too different from Santon’s, only that Haidara is left footed and should be more reliable at delivering a ball rather than cutting inside and shooting. Despite being brought on in the 57th minute with a lot still to play for the match almost drifted Haidara by, although it was shortly after his introduction that Newcastle should have had a penalty with Loic Remy’s goal-bound shot blocked by an arm.
Directly after Debuchy’s unfortunate own goal Gabriel Obertan came on for Shola Ameobi. Ameobi, never known for his work rate, was perhaps tired from the quick turnaround following Saturday’s game and Obertan, once upon a time, did offer a threat on the counter (away to Blackburn two seasons ago most memorably when his goal wrapped up a 2-0 win).
Gouffran went up front with Remy and Obertan went to the wing but the newly introduced former Manchester United man wasn’t able to get on the ball often enough to change the tide of the game.
Yanga-Mbiwa for Williamson was perhaps a more sentimental change than anything, Williamson had performed well, once again proving dependable for the most clearances (five).
A funny game all in all. Swansea won the match at a canter and Newcastle never really threatened too much but nonetheless it’s easy to feel the scoreline doesn’t reflect the performance. Newcastle were hard done by one particularly harsh penalty non-decision but truth be told they didn’t deserve anything from the match.
An even tougher away game to Manchester United awaits on the weekend but with the Red Devils currently undergoing one of their worst starts to a season in living memory, all hope won’t be extinguished that Newcastle can bring a result back to St James’s Park.
Now that Newcastle have lost, Pardew can feel more comfortable making changes to his starting 11. Ben Arfa could threaten the first team providing he shakes off his illness, with his direct running something sorely missing from Wednesday night’s display.
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson (Mapou 77), Santon (Haidara 56), Sissoko, Tiote, Cabaye, Gouffran, Shola (Obertan 68), Remy
Unused Subs: Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Anita, Dummett
Ref: Howard Webb
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