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Match Reports

Tactics, Stats & Analysis From Newcastle v Crystal Palace

8 years ago
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Newcastle v Crystal Palace Match Report

Newcastle United 1 Crystal Palace 0    Saturday 22 March 3pm

Going into Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace, Newcastle United were yet to score – at all – without Loic Remy on the pitch.

The on-loan striker has been vital for Newcastle’s attack this season with misfiring Papiss Cisse continuing to frustrate and Shola Ameobi drifting nearer and nearer the exit door (his contract expires in the summer).

Against Fulham last weekend Newcastle were abject, awful and deserved to be beaten (despite the Cottagers not exactly pulling up trees themselves). Once again Alan Pardew would not in the stadium and assistant John Carver would be the go to man on the touchline.

FORMATIONS

Surprisingly, considering just how poor the Magpies were against Fulham, Pardew named an unchanged side with Luuk De Jong continuing in something of a second striker role while Cisse played more advanced, on the last line of defence. For all his effort (and consistent shots on target) De Jong has yet to score since arriving on Tyneside. Most of his efforts are far too weak and are easily saved, despite his high accuracy.

For all his hard work, De Jong is being played in a position where he doesn’t get on the ball in the box enough.

Crystal Palace, reinvented under Tony Pulis, were suffering a derth of striking talent themselves and so instead went for a 4-5-1 with Cameron Jerome leading the line. Marouane Chamakh is injured and Glenn Murray’s return after a horrific injury in last season’s play offs continue.

Tom Ince, on loan from Blackpool and heavily sought after by Toon fans in the January transfer window, was on the bench. Newcastle on the other hand were able to give Hatem Ben Arfa a space on the bench, at the expense of exciting youngster Adam Armstrong.

GAME SETTLES DOWN

Palace’s two banks of four were very rigid and uncompromising. De Jong is not really the sort of player to exploit the space between the lines and he struggled despite a great deal of industry. Both Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran once again were inclined to come narrow in possession. This works well with marauding overlapping full backs such as Mathieu Debuchy and Davide Santon, however both were absent due to injury.

Dummet, young and inexperienced, seemed loathe to get forward too much, especially with Palace looking to counter frequently and Jason Puncheon looking like their most dangerous player (three dribbles and three key passes). The Eagles seemed to get the most joy down Newcastle’s left, attacking down that side a massive 49% of the time.

On Newcastle’s right, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa looked  assured defensively for the most part but hesitant of going forward. Generally in the first half Newcastle looked comfortable but they struggled to generate anything clear cut, one counter by Newcastle saw an ambitious Cisse volley, after a great ball from Sissoko (more on which later) saved by Speroni. Another well worked chance by Cisse later saw him blast the ball straight at the Palace goal keeper with De Jong heading over. Newcastle had the better of the chances but weren’t able to generate anything clean cut and lacked composure.

MAGPIES MIDFIELD MATURING

When any team loses a player of Yohan Cabaye’s quality it will suffer. Since the loss of the Frenchman to free spending Paris Saint Germain the Magpies have struggled to create many clear cut chances and impose themselves on games – Newcastle fans will not need reminding Cabaye was industrious as well as inspiring.

Gouffran drifted inside too often and was well handled by Jedinak.

Anita and Tiote, however, are at least starting to find their feet as a duo. The Dutchman was excellent in possession and was always looking for the ball. Once again the pair looked solid defensively (it says a lot about Newcastle that the pair didn’t have to make a single tackle or interception between them) but now they are starting to offer more going forward. Anita racked up a mammoth 119 touches, bettered only by Tiote’s 155. Kagisho Dikgacoi and Mile Jedinak only had 90 touches together. Anita, however, did lose possession 24 times yesterday, five more than Sissoko and six more than Cisse

The lack of key passes will concern Pardew (just one) but Palace have been drilled into a well-organised team who looked happy for much of the game to settle for a point. Most of Newcastle’s creation came down the wing with Sissoko seemingly picking up the creative mantle left by Cabaye.

The former Toulouse defensive midfielder, converted by Pardew into an industrious winger, had a great game (three tackles, four key passes, one shot on target and three interceptions). Taken off very late into the game, Sissoko, who was man of the match against Hull two games ago, appears to have taken it on himself to replace Cabaye’s creativity. Three goals and five assists is a poor return on 30 games – but for some wayward finishing he would have a much more respectable total. An average of 2.3 key passes a game is the highest in the Newcastle squad (his replacement, Sylvain Marveaux is second highest) as is his assist number.

SECOND HALF

Pardew has been criticised by some fans for poor team talks at half time as the side regularly come out looking worse than when they went in. The banned manager can hardly be to blame for Saturday when Palace came out in the second half looking far stronger, albeit briefly, and for once looking capable of stringing more than two passes together (their average pass sequence was three by the end of the game, to Newcastle’s six).

At the start of the second half Yannick Bolasie was able to bring the ball down well, cut inside and skim the ball off the top of the bar with Tim Krul beaten. Yanga-Mbiwa had been outmuscled for the first ball, which will worry some fans who get nightmares of his first half performance against Everton.

SUBSTITUTIONS

The first change of the game was by Newcastle, De Jong coming off for Ben Arfa in the 59th minute. The withdrawn role does not seem to suit the on loan striker – finding himself with his back to goal more often than he would like – he was not able to receive a single ball in the box. De Jong struggled in the air, winning just 33% of his aerial battles and managed only one shot (a header over the bar from a Speroni parry in the first half).

Despite replacing a player in a quasi-number-10 role, Ben Arfa was put out onto the wing with Gouffran instead going into the centre, to partner Cisse.

Ben Arfa immediately looked dangerous and his ability to beat a man was something Newcastle sorely miss without him (the closest they have is Sissoko and he tends to power through defenders rather than use his guile). Initially frustrated not to see much of the ball, his effort whilst in possession is never in doubt, without though is another matter.

By this late into the second half Palace had stopped even attempting to counter attack and, thankfully, Ben Arfa wasn’t given much defending to do. Soon after his arrival Bolasie, who had played well, was taken off for the more defensive minded Barry Bannan – who made three tackles in his 23 minutes on the pitch, one more than Bolasie in his 67 minutes.

Soon after Sissoko found Cisse with a fantastic through ball (similar to Cabaye’s against Stoke in the 11-12 season) but Speroni rushed out quick to block. Gouffran, who hadn’t found any space since moving centrally with Jedinak marshalling him, was taken off for Shola Ameobi. The striker hasn’t scored for 15 months now and didn’t look like breaking his duck, failing to threaten the Palace defence and with Newcastle playing much of the game on the floor (7.5% of passes were long compared to 17% of Palace) his inclusion didn’t seem to add much to the game.

Pulis then took off Cameron Jerome who, for all his hard work (three tackles is no mean feat for a striker), did not manage a shot on target. Glenn Murray came on but Palace who were sitting so deep all Murray could do was chase down long clearances. Guédioura came on to replace the tiring Puncheon in the 80th minute.

The last substitution of the game saw Sissoko, unlucky not to have at least one assist to his name, withdrawn for Marveaux.

NEWCASTLE PUSH

As the game got closer and closer to the end, Newcastle got closer and closer to breaking the deadlock. In the 91st minute Tiote – given licence once again by the crowd – let fly with a thunderous effort which cannoned back off the bar. Yanga-Mbiwa was calm enough to roll it to Cisse who missed the ball entirely. With so little time left it looked like that might be it for Newcastle, who would’ve registered just one point against strugglers Fulham and Palace.

In a very similar way to the Aston Villa game last month, it looked for all the world like Newcastle would once again huff and puff and fail to blow the house down. It was not to be however. It was Remy against the Villains, here it was Cisse who scored in the 94th minute. Ben Arfa cut inside onto his preferred left foot and stabbed a beautiful cross onto Cisse’s head. The Senegalese striker has developed a wonderful habit of scoring late in the game (last season’s games against Fulham and Anzhi Makachkala come to mind) and this time didn’t miss with probably one of his hardest chances of the day.

Cisse, who has suffered intense criticism from sections of the crowd for failing to be onside, immediately looked for a flag but there was none forthcoming and Newcastle, deservedly, belatedly, secured three points. Ben Arfa had made the difference. In his 30 minutes he created three chances, bettered only by Sissoko.

STAR PLAYER

A tough choice to make given Newcastle were so thoroughly dominant possession-wise. Looking at the match statistically some would say Tiote was the star man but his wasteful shooting (bar a deflection at the end) hindered rather than helped his team.

The real star wasn’t in attack (although fans will make a case for Ben Arfa changing the game) but in defence – Mike Williamson. His renaissance this season continues. Partnering captain Fabricio Collocini in the centre of defence he was immovable – three tackles, two interceptions and seven clearances, demonstrate just how effective he was at shutting down Palace counter attacks.

Williamson put in another strong defensive performance, as did Coloccini.

Not only that but he was clearly told to conserve possession more, managing 89% pass accuracy and winning 60% of his aerial battles. Compare Coloccini and Williamson’s pass accuracy (95% and 89% respectively) when compared to the Eagles pair of Damien Delaney and Scott Dann (59% and 63%), says a lot about the type of football Pulis has drilled into the players.

CONCLUSION

Although statistics say a lot about football matches, they do not tell you the full story. Newcastle had far superior possession (73%-27%), forced Palace into more tackles (17-31) and restricted the visitors to a single shot on target but it was far from easy for the Magpies, owing to some poor finishing and a lack of creativity. Newcastle’s shot statistics may make for pretty reading (eight on target) but Julian Speroni never found himself overwhelmed (although his reactions were tested by Cisse).

A huge step in the right direction when compared to last week but Newcastle were far from comfortable for large swathes of the game, despite Palace ceding possession so readily. The introduction of Shola Ameobi was perhaps the game’s most disappointing aspect. With a contract rapidly running out and Newcastle with little to play for (bar the supporters obviously) it would have been welcome to see Armstrong given more time on the pitch (as it was he wasn’t even on the bench).

Also, in Davide Santon’s absence it would seem Dummett has made the left back position his own. Massadio Haidara has done little wrong when in a black and white shirt (apart from finding himself on the receiving end of some atrocious challenges), he’s another who should be afforded the opportunity to show what he’s capable of before the end of the season, although Everton will provide a stiff challenge.

Newcastle: Krul, Mapou, Coloccini, Williamson, Dummett, Sissoko (Marveaux 88), Tiote, Anita, Gouffran (Shola 76), De Jong (Ben Arfa 58), Cisse

Unused Subs: Alnwick, Gosling, Haidara, Steven Taylor

Ref: Lee Probert

Crowd: 51,588

You can follow Tom on Twitter @WeeklyNewsBay

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