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Rafa Benitez accused of boring tactics – Is it reality or do these Newcastle and Brighton statistics say something else?

3 years ago
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A recurring theme this season has seen Rafa Benitez accused of overly negative tactics.

That goes for especially the pundits/experts…but also a good number of Newcastle fans.

Even those fans are of course still overwhelmingly supportive of Rafa but the feeling is for many of them, that at times Newcastle do sit back too much – especially early in games.

It is all relative of course and only a fool would expect Newcastle to have the same threat and emphasis on attack, as say the likes of Liverpool, Man City and others who have far more resources at the moment, including better (and invariably more expensive) players.

How best then to measure just whether Rafa Benitez has indeed been too much on the defensive?

Well, I think for starters you need to look for clubs/teams that it is fair to compare Newcastle with at the moment.

Simply in terms of goals scored, Newcastle have more (30) than both of the other promoted clubs – Brighton with 28 and Huddersfield 25 (Last season it was Newcastle 85, Brighton 74 and Huddersfield 56).

I want to concentrate more though on Brighton when compared with Newcastle, as after all next to nothing could separate them last season in the Championship.

The same this season in terms of results, Chris Hughton’s team currently on 34 points, two higher than Rafa’s side.

What I thought worth looking at, was the comparison on how the two teams (Newcastle and Brighton) performed in the first half of games in general.

The perception for many is that Rafa Benitez sets his team out not to concede and then if things going ok, try to get more into the game as it progresses. So do the stats back this up as compared to Brighton, who I haven’t seen getting major criticism from pundits for not being attacking enough.

In the 30 PL games so far, Newcastle have scored in the first half in 13 matches, Brighton in 10.

(Last season in the Championship, it was Newcastle scoring in the first half of 46 games, Brighton 22 times)

In the 30 PL games so far, Newcastle have scored 15 times in the first half, Brighton 12 times.

(Last season in the Championship, it was Newcastle 37 times in 46 games, Brighton 25 times)

I think that part of the reason why some Newcastle fans have maybe been overly critical is because they generally see a lot more home games than away.

Of the 13 games where Newcastle have scored in the first half, only 6 have been at home and 7 away, whereas you would usually expect better figures and to be more dominant at home. As a comparison, Brighton have scored in the first half of 10 PL games this season, 6 at home and 4 away.

In terms of scoring goals once again Newcastle buck the normal trend, having scored the same number of goals (15) home and away in total, whereas for Brighton it is 21 goals at home, 7 away.

So despite both David Wagner and Chris Hughton being supported far more in the transfer market than Rafa Benitez has been, the Newcastle boss is clearly putting on a more attacking front than his comparable rivals, especially Brighton.

Both this season and last, Newcastle have scored more goals overall than Brighton AND scored in more games in the first half both season, plus more first half goals in both campaigns.

This isn’t to say that Rafa Benitez/Newcastle are the finished article BUT the stats do back up the fact that the criticism of the NUFC boss has been off target based on the full 30 games this season (and last), rather than cherry picking games such as against Man City.
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