Lessons Learnt From Stoke v Newcastle?
Stoke v Newcastle Match Report
Stoke 1 Newcastle 0 Saturday 12 April 3pm
Going into the game against the Potters, animosity towards Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew was threatening to reach fever pitch, with fans no long excusing poor performances simply because of Yohan Cabaye’s departure.
Pardew’s go to excuse thus far in 2014 is “lacking creativity” but many Newcastle fans simply blame a lack of desire from a squad who have been on holiday since January with a top half place virtually secured and the bonus that goes with it.
Stoke meanwhile have taken a while to find themselves under Mark Hughes, but the Welshman is now seeing dividends, with his side accompanying Pulis-esque defence with a passing game going forward. One thing was for sure going into the game against the Potters, the Magpies would not be in for as easy a ride as Boxing Day – when Stoke had two players sent off and lost 5-1 at St James’s.
Pardew made a tactical gamble at the Britannia, starting with three centre backs of Steve Taylor, Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini. The wing-backs were Paul Dummett at left back and Vurnon Anita at right back.
Yoan Gouffran, Cheick Tiote and Dan Gosling were a midfield trio with Shola Ameobi partnering Papiss Cisse up front.
It was a bold move from the manager, with a defence leaking goals and up front no firing without Loic Remy, the Londoner had spoke of going “back to basics” in front of goal but this formation was anything but – with several players looking uncomfortable, not knowing what defensive work to do and when to go forward.
Stoke started well with Newcastle’s full/wing-backs playing far too deep and Stoke’s full backs able to get on top of them and keep them pinned back, even when the Magpies were in possession. Both Geoff Cameron and Erik Pieters had good games, neither having to do too much defensive work in the first half and able to get several crosses into target man Peter Crouch, who played well.
In the 42nd minute – with Newcastle yet to get a shot on target despite a couple of good chances – Pieters scored for the first time in the Premier League when his intended cross from the left drifted over the head of Tim Krul and found the goalkeeper’s top left-hand corner.
Immediately the chants started from the large away support and Pardew, sitting in the stands for the sixth game of his seven game ban, looked anxious.
NEWCASTLE POOR IN ATTACK – AGAIN
It was a case of one step forward, two steps back for Cisse – after playing well last week with several well taken shots, here he looked anonymous again, managing just one shot all game. With just 43 touches he ranked the lowest out of any attacker on the pitch. Credit to Nigerian international Ameobi, he made one tackle and actually won three dribbles, but the pair looked on different pages for much of the game.
Pardew has at least appeared to concede that Gouffran has struggled as a winger, hindered with too much defensive work and inclined to cut inside. Here, as part of the three man midfield, he was given licence to run from deep. But he didn’t. He looked tired almost from the outset and despite 74 touches (Tiote had a massive 101), like many of the Newcastle players he just didn’t know how to unlock the Stoke defence. Five through balls were attempted but only two came to present a good chance – which in the end was well blocked.
STOKE TARGET FULL BACKS
Although not renowned for his tactical prowess, Mark Hughes was able to see Newcastle’s obvious weakness – the flanks. Stoke attacked 44% down the right side, 38% down the left and just 18% down the middle – although 70% of their shots came from the middle, with both full backs crossing effectively when they got into dangerous positions.
Marko Arnautovic had particular fun when squaring up against the defensively unsure Anita. The former Inter Milan player – who has grown to be a key man for Hughes, made a nuisance of himself all game. He had two shots, one on target, four key passes, two dribbles and even forced one turnover with his good work rate.
On the 60th minute Pardew took off Taylor for Yanga-Mbiwa with the former Montpellier man filling in at right back and Newcastle reverting back to 4-4-2. Anita was now, once again, playing as winger.
Hughes, who played conservative all game, took off the more adventurous Steven Ireland, who played well against Tiote (the Ivorian only managing two tackles). Adam managed only 57% pass accuracy but he played deeper than Ireland had and was more willing to track back.
In the 73rd minute Pardew made a double change – Gosling for Ben Arfa and youngster Adam Armstrong coming on for Cisse – once again Gouffran stayed on the pitch despite not playing too well. Ben Arfa made just nine touches, as did Armstrong. They were anonymous.
Crouch, then Charlie Adam, missed chances to double Stoke’s lead after the break. Travelling supporters implored that their team attacked. But a spell of pressure never arrived and meekly, Newcastle’s miserable run continued.
Once again it was a Newcastle performance almost entirely bereft of any real quality with the Magpies struggling for large swathes of the game to break down Stoke’s organised back four. Although both full/wing-backs were not adventurous enough going forward to make Pardew’s back three gamble work. Still, Dummett, who has been uninspiring but solid when given chances this season, looked accomplished defensively.
He made five tackles, more than any other Newcastle defender (and equal with Dan Gosling). Not only that but when he did have the courage to go forward he completed four dribbles, again the most for any player in black and white. He also won three turn overs and made three effective clearances.
Pardew’s gamble worked defensively, with Stoke not threatening Newcastle’s goal too much (just five shots with three on target including the goal) – although Crouch should have scored when he hit the post early on.
Going forward however, Newcastle were simply dreadful – with Asmir Begovic only having to make one save all 90 minutes. They may have made 13 shots to Stoke’s 10 – but they never looked like scoring.
A fluke goal by one-time Newcastle target Pieters was enough to see Stoke secure an easy three points. For Pardew, the fans anger towards him reached new levels, with several chants demanding he be shown the door after a truly awful start to 2014.
Newcastle United have now scored the least goals out of any club in all four divisions since the turn of the year. Nine.
Fans might not be at panic stations for this season but unless summer investment is made, they are likely to be very worried come August.
Newcastle: Krul, Anita, Steven Taylor (Mapou 61), Coloccini, Williamson, Dummett, Tiote, Gosling (Ben Arfa 73), Gouffran, Shola, Cisse (Armstrong 74)
Unused Subs: Elliot, Haidara, De Jong, Bigirimana
Ref: Mike Jones
You can follow Tom on Twitter @WeeklyNewsBay
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]