Newcastle 1 Swansea 2 : Story Of A Match
Blogger, philosopher, lifelong mate, never wants a passer-by to pass him by. Blogging at www.holtamania.com on all things Norwich and here with monthly Story of a Match pieces, bre...
It was another frustrating weekend for Newcastle fans as their club went down 1-2 at home to the visiting Swansea. Today on the blog Matt Wallace once again offers his unique match analysis. It's the Story of a Match.
Swansea and Newcastle are two teams who received almost universal praise last season for their unexpected success and approach to the game, yet this season have had to contend with new, more difficult circumstances.
For Swansea it was a change in manager and departure of key personnel, while Newcastle have the more arduous campaign with added Europa League games and more scrutiny. When they met on Saturday, it was a good chance to take a look at how they’ve adapted to their new circumstances, and how they’re shaping up for the rest of the season.
The main talking point coming from the lineups was the enforced absence of Papiss Cisse, a victim of Senegal’s enforcement of FIFA regulations after he failed to show for the midweek international (rightly or wrongly). This led to a rare start for Sammy Ameobi to the left of Demba Ba. Coloccini’s continued absence meant Mike Williamson partnered Steven Taylor, while for Swansea it was the first start of the season for Itay Shechter.
A pattern became clear fairly early on in the game with Newcastle having the majority of possession but struggling to force a way through a well organised Swansea defence, with Swansea offering quite a potent threat on the counter attack. This was helped by Newcastle holding quite a high line up the pitch, as can be seen with the average player positions in the above picture. Newcastle, in blue, are almost playing in line with the centre circle while Swansea are much deeper, inviting pressure but dealing with it comfortably.
Newcastle were able to hold a particularly high line because they knew they were able to rely on Tiote to be disciplined in front of the defence and try to marshall any Swansea counter attacks. While Swansea did have plenty of joy on the counter and it only looked a matter of time until they scored, Tiote’s defensive contribution was big, intercepting the ball 9 times and relieving the pressure on his defence. In comparison, the next highest player, of either team, had just 2 interceptions.
It goes without saying, though, that Newcastle’s approach play wasn’t great. They regularly resorted to long passes, aware that with both Tiote and Anita in midfield they didn’t really stand a chance against the more cultured Pablo, Michu and, yes, Britton. The ball was often swept from side to side or hit long to Ba in an attempt to gain territory but once it reached that area, they struggled. Chances were often half chances, and Swansea didn’t have too much to worry about.
Ba and Ameobi
Here you can see the contribution of Ba and, later, Shola Ameobi. Ba was regularly hit with long passes that he went up against Monk or Williams with, and often won, but at that point his only real options were Ferguson or Ben Arfa. While Ben Arfa was excellent, they were unable to turn this tactic into a genuine thread. The pattern continued when Ameobi came on as he was delivered long passes but was unable to turn them into anything threatening. The length of the arrows shows the size of the long balls sent to Ba and Ameobi respectively.
By contrast, Swansea had less of the ball but always packed more punch, and this was exemplified by Pablo Hernandez. He was the most threatening player in a while shirt (though Michu had a good game), and he was all over the pitch directing play – he would pull deep, come wide and burst through the middle. He led Swansea in creating chances, and put in a peach of a cross for Michu to head in. With players of their class Swansea are more incisive than under Rodgers and are now showing themselves to be a team of Laudrup’s creation.
Indeed, the majority of starters on Saturday were signed by the new man, and it offered a glimpse of how he’s making the team evolve. Rather than use possession as a broadly defensive tactic, as Rodgers did with mopolosing the ball but offering limited goal threat, Laudrup cares less for the amount of time spent with the ball, but more for what they do with it. They still love to play attractive football full of short passing and individual skill, but possession for the sake of it is now cherished less than incisive, attacking play.
Hatem Ben Arfa would fit like a dream into the Swansea system, as for Newcastle he was a rare glimmer of hope in an otherwise unremarkable performance. On the ball he had moments of attacking intent, bursting past players and using his undoubted skill to create chances, but he was generally unassisted by his colleagues. Newcastle have done well to accommodate Ben Arfa’s unique abilities and generally poor defensive contribution, but they must be aware that he’s unable to win them games on his own. Saturday was an example of him doing all the right things, but the rest of the team unable to meet his standards.
The Final Word
Ultimately the image on the top left defines Newcastle’s afternoon. Despite having more of the ball, more passes, more chances and more shots, they quite deservedly lost. They were unable to turn their approach play into goals and their finishing left a lot to be desired. Perhaps this wasn’t helped by using Ba more as a workhorse than as a finisher, and on another day he would have eaten up chances from Ben Arfa or Cabaye or Cisse, but Saturday showed the relative lack of depth at Newcastle and how they can be reduced, fairly quickly, into an ordinary looking side.
Credit, of course, has to go to Swansea and their admirable defending, summed up by Ashley Williams four blocks and his generally excellent reading of the game. While Williams struggles in the air and was second best in that department to Ba all afternoon, the rest of his game was fine and he, along with Monk, looked pretty comfortable.
Overall it was a game that showed you more about Swansea than Newcastle. Fans in the North East will be aware that the squad had some pretty key men out, are going through a tougher season and there is much more to come. Bad days happen, and they’ll improve.
For Swansea, it was a sign of progress under Laudrup, a sign of a team dealing with a tough away trip without much fuss and being calm and efficient. Plenty to like.
To read more of Matt's work, visit his blog Holtamania.com
Also dont forget to follow him on Twitter : @Holtamania
And to do your own match analysis visit FourFourTwo.com StatsZone and download their StatsZone App today.
You must be logged in to post a comment! Sign up + or log in in the top right corner.
The Swansea line up showed that they didn't went for keeping possession and that counter-attacks were their best weapon, especially when having explosive players like Michu, Hernandez and Dyer, and when Ki was out - but was surprised when hearing that Newcastle only had 51% of the ball possession in the match. I'm even more surprised to hear that Swansea only had 41% ball possession against Southampton,
I agree that the difference between Rodgers and Laudrup is the ball possession strategy. Rodgers wants to keep the ball, Laudrup wants to attack with the ball. I'm beginning to see Swansea as a miniature Dortmund.
I am curious and excited to see how Laudrup is going to approach the next home match against Liverpool who clearly under Rodgers' Reign will opt for the ball possession tactic; they had most of the possession against Wigan, Chelsea and Newcastle.