A lot of talk predictably about Newcastle United and their matches & performances against the ‘big six’, Chelsea last weekend and now Man City away today.
Much discussion about tactics used, with results against these six clubs also used as ‘evidence’ to support the arguments.
The malevolent presence of Mike Ashley makes it difficult to have any proper debate on whether Rafa Benitez is getting things right or wrong on the pitch, as for many supporters it as seen as being a traitor if you are in any way seen to be suggesting the manager is getting anything wrong.
This is my take on the big six, tactics and results, whether anybody sees any of it as criticism of Rafa depends on how you are looking at it.
Listed below are the 12 matches last (2017/18) season against the top six clubs, with the match result and possession stats, as well as number of corners and shots for both Newcastle and the opposition.
These stats build up a decent picture of most matches, with our eyes/common sense helping to give an overview as well.
The 2017/18 results v top six: NUFC possession stat, score, shots and corners for NUFC & opposition (NUFC stat first on both):
42% Newcastle 3 Chelsea 0 (shots 16/6 and corners 4/2)
37% Tottenham 1 Newcastle 0 (shots 14/11 and corners 4/6)
36% Newcastle 1 Man U 0 (shots 10/13 and corners 0/10)
35% Man Utd 4 Newcastle 1 (shots 12/16 and corners 4/11)
34% Chelsea 3 Newcastle 1 (shots 8/23 and corners 4/11)
32% Newcastle 1 Liverpool 1 (shots 8/17 and corners 1/5)
29% Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0 (shots 10/23 and corners 5/7)
29% Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0 (shots 7/14 and corners 3/8)
28% Newcastle 2 Arsenal 1 (shots 8/15 and corners 2/5)
27% Newcastle 0 Tottenham 2 (shots 6/18 and corners 5/7)
22% Newcastle 0 Man City 1 (shots 6/22 and corners 3/8)
19% Man City 3 Newcastle 1 (shots 6/21 and corners 0/18)
To justify Rafa’s use of ultra defensive tactics in certain matches, some Newcastle fans have pointed to the fact that Newcastle picked up 10 points in these 12 games above.
However, fair to say that when Newcastle went really really defensive, they didn’t pick up any points.
The victories over Chelsea and Man Utd were the top (42%) and third top (36%) matches for NUFC in terms of possession in these 12 matches.
The second top possession stat was at Wembley, 37% against Tottenham, Newcastle totally deserved to get a draw or better in this match, having 14 shots and 4 corners.
The fourth and fifth highest possession figures were in the defeats at Man Utd and Chelsea but Newcastle’s high pressing and ambition DID produce reward in both games, NUFC taking the lead at both places and unlucky not to get a better outcome, especially at Old Trafford where they could have been two up. The key factor in these matches was that with Lascelles missing the defence ended up falling apart, with him in the side who knows what could have happened.
The only draw came against Liverpool and that was the sixth highest possession (32%).
The 2-1 win over Arsenal at home had possession for Newcastle of only 28% but that doesn’t really tell the whole story, as when Rafa’s team went forward they did so in numbers, not really in the style of these particularly defensive games that have had such focus put on them.
Personally, I don’t blame Rafa for doing what he does against Man City up to a point, though I struggle to see why against the other five clubs Chelsea last weekend was made more difficult with certain players missing but I don’t think the blues are close to Man City in terms of threat.
Liverpool away is probably another one where it is very difficult to go there with the players we have and show much ambition, though even against them at home I think we should look to get on the front foot as much as possible.
The two home matches at St James Park so far have seen two defeats but very different matches.
I don’t think we deserved anything against Chelsea but in the Spurs defeat, Newcastle had 40% possession and 15 shots, including the two that hit the woodwork.
40% Newcastle 1 Tottenham 2 (shots 15/15 and corners 3/5)
19% Newcastle 1 Chelsea 2 (shots 6/15 and corners 4/5)
In conclusion, I think it is a bit daft to claim that you can compare playing Arsenal to taking on Man City and the relevant tactics that should be used.