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Is owning the ball vital for Newcastle United?

6 years ago
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Is owning the ball vital for Newcastle United?

In other words, is it essential to have a certain level of possession to get any kind of success.

When I saw the (lack of) possession statistics for the recent matches with Spurs and Liverpool it got me thinking.

In both games Newcastle only had around a third of the possession (33% and 35% respectively) during play, with an even more severe breakdown against Manchester City in the League Cup when United only had 30% of the ball.

Obviously the most important statistic is that we won all three matches.

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However, in the bigger picture it is surely common sense that in general the team that has more of the possession will win more matches. The old saying ringing true, if the other team don’t have the ball then they can’t score.

So with ten matches now played in the Premier League I thought I’d examine what possession Newcastle had over the games and how it related to results (using data from BBC Sport);

44% v Manchester City (0-2)

60% v Aston Villa (0-0)

64% v Crystal Palace (3-3)

50% v Southampton (0-4)

63% v Hull (2-2)

56% v Stoke (0-1)

37% v Swansea (2-2)

51% v Leicester (1-0)

33% v Tottenham (2-1)

35% v Liverpool (1-0)

Looking at the matches where Newcastle had a majority of the possession, I thought it was interesting that in those five matches United only lost one, a dour game at Stoke that nobody really deserved to love.

In the other four, Newcastle beat Leicester and had draws with Hull, Palace and Villa. In fact in those last three named matches, United had at least 60% possession and clearly dominated play, yet didn’t win any of the three. I think all three of those matches could and should have been won if Newcastle had had a decent attacking threat on the pitch, in all three games United struggled to create with the two goals against Hull courtesy of a late rescue act by Cisse and all three against Palace carrying a large element of luck.

In the other games, how we registered half the possession against Southampton is beyond me and can only have come about once they slackened off once they’d won the game, allowing United easy possession. While anybody who saw the Swansea match will surely agree it was a real smash and grab act with the home side’s dominant possession deserving of all three points.

What is heartening is that Swansea aside (no surprise with their extreme possession style), Newcastle have managed to at least match all of the other clubs outside the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City.where Pardew set them up to counter-attack.

I don’t think I can see any time in the foreseeable future when Newcastle relentlessly batter teams such as happened under much of Sir Bobby and Kevin Keegan’s time at Newcastle. Wave after wave of attacks had you believing a goal was coming any time and it usually did.

Under Pardew, even the season Newcastle finished fifth in the league was characterised by a counter-attacking style, with the team only really opening up for a five or six match period later in the season when the likes of Cisse, Ba, Ben Arfa and Cabaye were dominating games.

I accept that maybe when you play Chelsea and Manchester City you have to look at safety first but I do think that against anybody else, Newcastle United surely have to go out and try to at least match them in terms of possession. The wins over Spurs and Liverpool came via very few shots on target and are unlikely to be repeated very often – what those game said show was that there is little to fear in the Premier League if you try and go on the foot front and have players getting into the box who can finish.

Possession isn’t the whole story but without it you are generally knackered..

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