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Newcastle United can’t take the pressure – Here’s the proof

10 months ago

Steve Bruce and his Newcastle United team are of course now very much under the spotlight.

A horrific four month run has seen only two wins in twenty games.

Newcastle United drawing five and losing a massive thirteen of these last twenty games, the net result being two cup exits and on the brink of dropping into the relegation zone with only nine Premier League matches remaining.

There is so much wrong at St James Park under Steve Bruce, the over the top negative tactics used in the vast majority of matches simply inviting the opposition to take control and score the first goal.

In only seven of the twenty nine Premier League games so far, have Newcastle United scored in the first half, plus one of those seven was Luke Shaw scoring an own goal when Man Utd won 4-1 at St James Park.

In contrast, opposition teams invited to take control and attack have scored in the first half in fifteen of the twenty nine games against NUFC.

The latest example was of course Brighton’s stroll to victory in the last match, winning 3-0 after having 75% possession in the first half and the only surprise that it too until just before half-time to make their absolute superiority convert into the opening goal.

These are the stats on the average possession for each of the 20 Premier League clubs this season, the first column the average possession in home PL matches, the second column for away matches, then overall average possession for home and away (table via Transfermarkt):

As you can see, only West Brom have lower average possession, their 37.4% marginally worse than Newcastle’s 39.7%.

When it comes to away matches, Newcastle United are the very worst, only 36.0%. Steve Bruce going to real extremes at away games no matter who the opposition is, as witnessed by games such as that last one at Brighton.

Those basic possession stats tell us plenty but a new set of stats published earlier today (Saturday 27 March 2021) really illustrate exactly what happens in matches when it comes to retaining possession…or not.

A table has been published by ‘The Other 14’ (who specialise on stats/tables etc on the 14 clubs who aren’t the ‘Big Six’) which shows the Premier League clubs who have been most successful at retaining possession after opponent pressure::

As you can see, Newcastle United players are the very worst when it comes to retaining possession under pressure, only managing it 67.1% of the time.

Interesting to look at the stats more closely,  as we then see Newcastle United players have been under pressure only 3,475 times so far, with only three clubs having that happen on fewer occasions – West Brom, Sheff Utd and Burnley. The bottom two clubs and then Burnley, who have a very distinct style of hitting long to the big forwards, meaning far less times they have midfielders in particular in possession and being pressured.

The low number of times for Newcastle United when players are put under pressure, is partly to do with such low possession on average in games but also to do with the very negative style, constantly playing the ball backwards and midfield players such as Shelvey, Hendrick and Hayden all so unwilling to get further up the pitch to allow the opposition to have a chance of pressurising them.

The main culprit of course is the man in charge, Steve Bruce dictating and formation, plus the coaches at the training ground working to his ‘plan’, whatever that is…

Interesting to see that Fulham and Brighton, Newcastle’s biggest relegation rivals, are both far higher when it comes to average possession in matches and also far better when it comes to retaining possession when under pressure.

A difficult relegation run-in coming up…


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