Norwich vs Newcastle Match Report – Most Complete Tactics, Stats and Analysis
Norwich vs Newcastle Match Report
Norwich 0 Newcastle United 0 Wednesday 28 January 7.45pm
Going into the fixture in East Anglia, all the supporters worst fears were being realised.
On Monday Alan Pardew had said he was “not confident” of keeping star midfielder Yohan Cabaye and less than 12 hours later a fee had been agreed between Newcastle United and Paris Saint Germain (undisclosed as yet but roughly £20m).
Newcastle’s creative hub and midfield lynchpin was to leave the team camp at Norwich to fly over to the French capital for a medical. Supporters were in outrage that the club had agreed to sell a fan favourite, especially with no replacement confirmed – although negotiations for hot prospect Clement Grenier are still ongoing. The show, however, must go on and Newcastle had a game against Norwich to tackle.
Having crashed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle once again, the Newcastle squad benefited from a warm weather break in Abu Dhabi to prepare for the end of the season.
With no Cabaye, Pardew was still boosted by the return of Mathieu Debuchy, the right back having served a three match suspension after being sent off against West Bromwich Albion for a two footed tackle. It was Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa who dropped to the bench, with Pardew persisting with English centre back duo of Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor.
In midfield Vurnon Anita and Cheick Tiote covered the back four, with Moussa Sissoko coming in off the wing to instead play in the central role that Cabaye had made his own.
In Sissoko’s place Pardew chanced his arm. Yoan Gouffran was suffering from a thigh complaint so Newcastle would have to go with two new wingers. Step forward out of the cold, Hatem Ben Arfa and Sammy Ameobi. The latter of which has scarcely featured for Newcastle’s first team this season.
Former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton opted to start with both strikers signed in the summer, Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, both of which attracted interested from the Geordie media, but seemingly not the club.
It was 4-4-2 for Norwich with Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass on either wingm with Bradley Johnson and Leroy Fer (another player Newcastle have been linked with in the past) in centre midfield.
NORWICH POOR IN POSSESSION
When playing in a 4-4-2 it’s important your wingers are either supremely talented (to threaten opposition full backs into staying defensive) or full of energy (to track back when full backs overlap). With Pilkington and Snodgrass Norwich had neither and struggled to get any attacks going.
Snodgrass and Johnson were two of Norwich’s worst players in possession, both averaging just 58% pass accuracy. The latter made only one tackle while giving away three fouls and being dispossessed once before his sending off.
With Newcastle so thoroughly dominant in the opening exchanges (53-47% possession flatters Norwich) it’s a minor miracle all of Norwich’s back four managed to get through 90 minutes making only five tackles (Anita and Tiote made that together).
The defenders did manage to block a massive nine shots (Newcastle’s back four only had to handle three between them).
SANTON AND DEBUCHY EXCEL
With neither of Norwich’s wingers offering any real threat going forward (four dribbles combined all game) Newcastle’s full backs were able to do what they do best – attack. Debuchy, obviously chomping at the bit after his forced absencem was particularly brilliant. The former Lille right back may have given away four fouls (the most for any Newcastle player) but he also made three tackles, completed one dribble, made five interceptions and won 67% of his aerial duels.
On the other side, Santon was equally adept in dealing with any attacking threats. He may have made just two tackles but he didn’t give away a single foul and completed 80% of his passes and won 80% of his aerial duels. His three shots may have been off target, or blocked, but his offensive threat was another string to the bow of Newcastle’s attack.
SISSOKO THRIVES IN ATTACKING ROLE
Since arriving at Newcastle last January a lot of questions have been asked about the best position for Sissoko, with the Frenchman playing a defensive role for Toulouse. Pardew appeared to have converted him into a quasi-box-to-box winger. Against Norwich he was used in the number 10 position and he thrived.
He created a massive six chances for his team-mates last night, no Newcastle player has created more in a single game all season – even the departed Cabaye. It wasn’t just his attacking work, Sissoko also made three tackles (level with Tiote). Considering his strength and build it was surprising to see him dispossessed four times but if this is the start of a regular role off the striker then Newcastle fans can be encouraged.
Despite Newcastle looking so threatening going forward their finishing was abysmal. Remy had eight shots – only two of which were on target, meanwhile Ben Arfa had one shot punched away by John Ruddy shortly before missing what can only be described as a sitter (five shots with just one on target is a poor return).
It’s a miracle he survived as long as he did, managing just 17 touches of the ball, but in the 71st minute Van Wolfswinkel was taken off. He had managed just one shot, one foul and one tackle in an anonymous performance, which saw him drop deeper to try and get more involved but thoroughly failing thanks to Tiote marshalling him. Also taken off was Pilkington, who had started brightly but tired as the game went on.
In their place came Nathon Redmond and Johan Elmander, and although they did provide some fresh legs for the Yellows, they weren’t able to pose any consistent threat against Newcastle.
Pardew was forced into his first change of the night with Ben Arfa, far from match fit having spent several games on the bench, struggling with cramp in the 75th minute and was withdrawn for Shola Ameobi, Newcastle going 4-4-2 for the last 15 minutes in an attempt to grab the win they deserved.
Ameobi struggled to give any impact, being pinged once for a foul and winning just one out of three aerial duels.
In the 82nd minute Newcastle – perhaps well aware they should have been at least two goals up – were frustrated as they failed to create clear cut chances in the second half as easily as they had in the first. These boiled over after Remy was fouled by Johnson. The two squared up and Remy motioned forward with his head. Chris Foy decided the best course of action was to send the pair off, meaning Remy, Newcastle’s only striker with a respectable goal record for this season, will miss the Tyne-Wear derby this weekend.
Although Debuchy ran him a very close second, the real stand out performer for the Magpies was Ben Arfa, with Cabaye’s absence perhaps meaning the mercurial forward will get more of a role in the second half of the season.
The former Marseille player was electric from the start and only his own and Remy’s poor finishing stopped Newcastle returning to Tyneside with all three points. Before being taken off with cramp, Ben Arfa had attempted seven take ons and had five shots, both a high for either team. He may have turned over possession three times but he also won it back four and was fouled a further three times. It was obvious from the opening 10 minutes that Hughton, who signed Ben Arfa on loan for Newcastle, knew where the threat would be.
It’s a huge shame he wasn’t able to convert any of his chances but a performance of this quality will have Sunderland worried for Saturday’s imminent derby match.
Newcastle were thoroughly dominant in the first half and should have scored at least two or three times but were thwarted by the woodwork. Such poor quality finishing will doubtless be punished on Saturday, when chances against an in form Sunderland will likely be few and far between.
The loan signing of Luuk De Jong should give Newcastle’s strike force a much needed boost, especially with Remy now facing a three match ban for his stupid, if harshly punished squaring up with Johnson.
With Newcastle out of the cup competitions and coasting towards a mid-table finish, Saturday is perhaps the biggest game for Newcastle fans for the rest of the season and Pardew, whose track record in derbies is poor, will face a storm should the Magpies fail to win.
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Taylor, Williamson, Santon, Sissoko, Tiote, Anita, Ben Arfa (Shola 75) Sammy Ameobi (Haidara 87), Remy
Unused Subs: Elliot, Dummett, Mapou, Gosling, Armstrong
Ref: Chris Foy
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