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Match Reports

Newcastle vs Sunderland Tactics, Stats and Analysis

8 years ago

Newcastle v Sunderland Match Report

Newcastle United 0 Sunderland 3    Saturday 1 February 12.45pm

Going into the Tyne Wear derby things looked bad for Newcastle United. Their best player had been sold days prior, the transfer window shut without any kind of replacement crossing the threshold and star players Fabricio Collocini, Yoan Gouffran and Loic Remy were unavailable (the former two with injury, the latter with a suspension).

Sunderland on the other hand had a wildly successful January, and headed into the game on Saturday lunchtime unbeaten in their last seven, and having qualified for the final of the Capital One Cup. Likewise January has been successful for them, loaning out deadwood and bringing in players to challenge the first 11 (Liam Bridcutt, Oscar Ustari and Ignacio Scocco).

Newcastle were too happy to shoot from distance after failing to penetrate Sunderland’s back four

With a depleted roster to choose from, Alan Pardew had one key decision to make: to start derby hero Shola Ameobi (who hadn’t scored for more than a year) or new loan arrival Luuk De Jong. Ameobi’s goal record in derbies speaks for itself, however his performances thus far this season haven’t suggested he was capable of leading the line on his own. Nonetheless Pardew put faith in the Nigerian-born Geordie and hoped Hatem Ben Arfa, deployed in the number 10 role, would support him.

The rest of the team largely picked itself with the same 10 as Norwich, Sammy Ameobi starting for only the second time in the league after impressing with his display against the Canaries. In defence Pardew kept faith in Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor, despite the fact Newcastle had failed to record a clean sheet in their previous six games at St James’s Park.

Sunderland gave a debut to Bridcutt in midfield while the much maligned Jozy Altidore was given the striking role. Fabio Borini, who scored the winner in the game against Newcastle at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season, was deloyed on the left wing and bang-in-form Adam Johnson played on the right, the winger having scored or assisted Sunderland’s last seven goals.


Both sides had chances in the early forays, Debuchy dragging a shot wide and Marcus Alonso glancing a free header over the bar, but Newcastle were guilty of letting the occasion get the better of them, giving away five fouls in the first 15 minutes as they struggled to contain Sunderland’s expansive play.

Vurnon Anita, usually so reliable, struggled to get into the game as both Taylor and Williamson attempted to create chances and start attacks themselves, often without success. Williamson, who has been praised in recent months, was particularly guilty of squandering possession with just 55% pass accuracy.

For Sunderland Bridcutt, playing in his first game for the Black Cats, was much more involved, marking Ben Arfa almost out of the game entirely (no dribbles, no shots, two fouls) and helping recycle possession well. When he did sense danger the free kicks he gave away (three fouls) were wasted by Newcastle.


With the aged Wes Brown and John O’Shea in defence, Newcastle would have done well to get either back pedalling and running toward their own goal. Because of Shola Ameobi’s immobility both Brown and O’Shea looked composed and competent all game, easily able to head away most danger. The only time O’Shea looked in trouble was when Sammy Ameobi turned him, and was about to run in behind only for O’Shea to show his experience and give away a hand ball. Having been booked so early on, Newcastle could have targeted the Irishman and attempted to make him give away a cynical foul, but from then on O’Shea only had to make one tackle. So did Brown. Newcastle’s centre backs on the other hand had to make five. And still conceded three goals.

Sunderland’s attacks down the wings were effective and frequent

Pardew was obviously keen for Newcastle’s full backs to help provide some penetration (hence Mathieu Debuchy finding himself so far forward for the game’s first shot) but both Davide Santon and the Frenchman struggled in the first half. Santon, trusted with set-piece duties following Cabaye’s departure, struggled to create any chances while Debuchy turned in arguably his worst performance all season, misjudging the ball in the air and frequently losing out in 50-50 challenges.

Sunderland targeted both Newcastle’s full backs to great effect with Borini and Johnson posing continued threats (just 25% of Sunderland’s attacks came down the middle whereas 42% came down the left and 33% down the right). Newcastle however attacked mostly down the middle (with both full backs struggling) and looked listless.

The Black Cats first goal came from the right wing with Johnson flicking over a nice pass to Phil Bardsley. Anita was guilty of a clumsy foul and Borini converted the spot kick. Sunderland deserved it with Newcastle looking rushed in possession and scared out of it.

The second goal came quickly afterwards with Altidore, who turned in a terrific performance against both Williamson and Taylor, flicking a nice pass into the path of Colback who ran straight at Newcastle. His deflected shot went into the path of Johnson who slotted home. Newcastle were 2-0 down with scarcely 20 minutes on the clock.


Looking at the shooting statistics one might think this was an even game. However,  Newcastle, who struggled to get any penetration into Sunderland’s box, were too happy to shoot from long range with Vito Mannone having to make 10 saves – but no difficult ones. Ameobi Sr was particularly guilty with the front man having a go from range rather than causing trouble inside the box.

A massive 57% of the Magpies 28 shots came from outside the box, for Sunderland it was just 38%. Only Tiote’s curling effort in the second half came close to troubling Mannone. Newcastle were left to lament the absence of Cabaye’s ability to threaten the goalkeeper from long range.

By half time Newcastle had given away a massive 14 fouls as they struggled to contain Sunderland, with the Black Cats only having to make four tackles. Pardew’s game plan had backfired, despite possession at 50-50.


At half time and two goals down, Pardew decided to change his formation. 4-2-3-1 was failing badly with Ameobi isolated and outmuscled and Ben Arfa swamped. Off came Sammy Ameobi, despite his solid work rate and generally strong performance (three dribbles, 83% pass completion and one tackle) and on, for his debut, came De Jong as Pardew gambled and went 4-4-2.

The Magpies improved at the start of the second half, with Ben Arfa finding more success out wide and De Jong’s movement forcing the Sunderland back four deeper. However much they tried however, they simply could not create a clear cut chance with De Jong not trusting his left foot when in space and allowing O’Shea to step up and make the interception.

His shooting was accurate (three on target out of four compared to Ameobi’s three out of nine) but tame and easily dealt with. Newcastle – dominating the match for the first time, needed a goal but Sunderland withstood the pressure and, once they gathered themselves, were able to take the sting out of the game with some accurate passing.

Johnson was having such joy against Santon, Pardew knew he had to make a change – Dummett came on for the Italian in the 64th minute in a like for like swap.

Anita came off in the 74th minute for forgotten man Sylvain Marveaux but it was too late – Marveaux only managed 16 touches and wasn’t able to trouble Sunderland at all.

Sebastian Larsson and Craig Gardner came on for Sunderland as they comfortably saw out the game, with Altidore missing a golden oppurtunity to kill the game off in the 75th minute when one on one with Krul.

Ben Arfa was swamped in midfield and lost the ball in the heart of midfield. Sunderland, whose counter attacking was a threat all game, were clinical and Jack Colback (who was brilliant all game with five tackles, 81% pass completion and just one foul) fired the ball past Krul. 3-0 and it was officially a humiliation.


It was a day to forget for all of Newcastle’s starting 11 but the one player who didn’t do too badly, at least from a defensive perspective, was Sissoko. The former Toulouse man struggled going forward, being too hesitant and not composed enough when afforded space in the attacking third. He did, however, put in a fine defensive shift. He made five tackles (albeit while giving away three fouls) and completed 85% of his passes. He beat his man twice but then failed to offer anything else.

His lack of experience on the wing was exploited by Sunderland, as the game wore on he drifted inside far too often and, with Debuchy and Santon having such poor games, Newcastle’s threat from wide positions was nullified almost entirely. Gouffran, with his phenomenal work rate, would have perhaps changed things with his pace and ability to get full backs on the turn.


Given the job of creating Hatem Ben Arfa was poor and easily marked

Newcastle’s attacking was far too predictable, relying on Ben Arfa to provide flair who was easily marked out of the game, mostly by Bridcutt. A sobering defeat for the Magpies and one which will heap pressure on Pardew, director of football Joe Kinnear and owner Mike Ashley, who failed to spend any money for the second transfer window in a row.

It’s easy to point to the absence of Cabaye but it was obvious that Newcastle really missed their star man, both from a set-piece perspective and for composure and steel further up the pitch (you wouldn’t see Cabaye outmuscled for the third goal the same way Ben Arfa was).

Newcastle’s previous two fixtures were both winnable on paper and if they had they would be just two points off fifth. From this showing at least Newcastle will limp home until the end of the season and all the optimism that surrounded the club in October and November (with wins recorded against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United) will be forgotten. It doesn’t seem too long ago Newcastle were the form team in the Premier League, now the club are second bottom, with only bottom of the table Fulham below them.

Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Taylor, Williamson, Santon (Dummett 64), Sissoko, Tiote, Anita (Marveaux 74), Ben Arfa, Sammy Ameobi (De Jong 46), Shola

Unused Subs: Elliot, Haidara, Mapou, Armstrong

Ref: Phil Dowd

Crowd: 52,280

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