Let’s get all defensive!

Tim Krul and Robin van Persie

It’s not nice being the pessimist (or is it realist?) all of the time, but lets call a spade a spade – Arsenal deserved to win the game on Monday. If it had have been Newcastle who had 23 attempts compared to 4 and the game ended in a draw, the sticky stuff would have hit the fan!

Newcastle have never learnt their lesson over the years – Theo Walcott loves playing the Toon! He has tortured the black and whites in nigh on every game he has played in recent years, scoring goals, laying on goals and generally wreaking havoc on nearly every left back Newcastle have put out.

Having said all of that, Newcastle United did their damnest against Arsenal, and if a point had have been the outcome, it would have been a very hard fought, if not slightly fortunate one. The effort and desire of the majority of the team cannot be questioned.

However, this article does not originate from the worry regarding lack of effort or passion. More concerning is the way NUFC are shipping in goals of late, particularly away from home.

In their last 8 Premier League away games, the Mags have seeped in 20 goals. In their last 8 Premier League games overall, they’ve leaked in. That’s 2 goals per game, with the division’s average currently 1.4 – NUFC’s overall 41 conceded goals is 2 over the average.

Furthermore, those 16 goals in the last 8 is 10 more than the number of goals conceded in the first 8 games of the season. A time when our defence could do no wrong; a time when, with 3 English players, the country was raving of our superb back line and touting those players as possible England candidates.

The dreaded injury to Steven Taylor did nothing to sustain NUFC’s brilliant defensive record – in the 14 games where the Geordie boy participated, only 13 goals were conceded. That’s a ratio of 0.93 goals conceded per game. In the 14 games since, Newcastle have let in 28 – that 2 goal per game ratio cropping in again.

NUFC_Stats took a glance into the numbers for Newcastle’s defensive players this season and interrogated the whereabouts of the goals conceded in the Premier League.

Player numbers

NUFC defenders - Stats (1)

A lot of the above numbers reflect the playing time which some of the players have had, but the percentage values shine some interesting light on some defensive aspects.

It will probably come to the surprise of some, but Danny Simpson is the one that NUFC probably need more than anyone at the moment. He has the best tackle involvement and tackle win rate out of all of the Newcastle defenders.

Another surprising one, will be the ground duel success of James Perch. He has a better percentage for ground duels won than any defensive player at NUFC this season. He also happens to be Newcastle’ best defender aerially, winning only 6 aerial duels less than the ever-present Simpson, but having the best percentage again.

NUFC defenders - Stats (2)

A simply amazing statistic beams out from the above – the fact that Steven Taylor, despite missing half of the campaign thus far, has made more total and successful headed clearances than anyone at Newcastle United in the Premier League this season.

He’s also made the same amount of successful ‘total clearances’ as Argentinian centre back Fabricio Coloccini, but Danny Simpson is the ‘prevailer’ overall with 71. Mike Williamson has made just 15 fewer headed clearances than Colo from 15 less appearances.

Only the Taylor’s have made an error this season that has led to a shot, but Raylor and Simpson have made errors leading to goals from the opposition. Simpson can be let off for this though, having made 6 goal line clearances – more than any other player in the Premier League.

Where the goals have leaked

NUFC - Premier League goals conceded

Quite definitive from the graphic that the central zone between the penalty spot and the goal has been the problem area this season. However, there aren’t many that have been slid in from the angle, which probably again highlights Tim Krul’s presence this season.

Also, the number of goals conceded from outside the 18 yard box is pleasing, especially when you consider that NUFC have allowed a higher percentage of shots from that area than any other Premier League side (72%) this season.

Further to that, NUFC have conceded the least percentage of shots from the left hand side in the whole division (14%) and the 3rd least from the right (15%).

NUFC - Opposition assists

Although NUFC appear to allow a lot of crosses this season, only 6 goals have been conceded from the ‘wide flank’ area. Moreover, to concede directly from just 1 corner in 28 games so far is also pretty satisfying – on initial reflection of the goals conceded, it was thought that those aerial values would have been a lot higher.

It is that central area that causes Newcastle problems; teams have been getting right through the ‘heart’ of NUFC all season and the graphic shows that once in there, if the goal is not conceded straight by the ball holder, a teammate is usually thereabouts to help.

Goals conceded & assists in Steven Taylor's 14 games

Finally, a quick look at the goals conceded numbers for the 14 games in which Steven Taylor played shows that the problematic central area is still evident, but the amount of assists occurring in there is completely nullified.

Most fans would agree that the failure to purchase a good, experienced central defender in the January window was a big mistake. While Mike Williamson is a good contender aerially, he lacks mobility and guile on the ground and the quick, agile forwards get their way far too easily around him.

Steven Taylor has been a massive miss in the heart of Newcastle’s defence and the cover the team has at the moment is simply not good enough for a Premier League club challenging for European places.

While Danny Simpson and Davide Santon have their moments, the jury is still out on their Premier League ability, particularly Santon. Most fans seem to have made their minds up on Danny Simpson but you have to consider Man Utd’s lenient stance on his departure in the first place – would they have let a ‘European-class’ defender leave?

There isn’t anything anyone can do from now until the season’s end – here’s just hoping the season doesn’t flutter out into a mediocre placed finishing campaign, when so much hard work and endeavour has gone into getting the club where they are at present.

Norwich next, and Newcastle owe them one, BIG TIME!

97 thoughts on “Let’s get all defensive!

  1. Rorycn

    Is that not your modern day winger. Lennon, Nani Walcott all frustrating when you listen to their supporters. It is not just our wingers. The wide men have more duties than say 30 years ago. Then there job was just to attack. Now they have to be the complete footballer


  2. RORYCN – see your point but i feel you are describing the symptoms not the cause, which is that their collective game is diluted by the constant need to regress and shore up our weak defensive line. I think Jonas is the indicator of this malaise in that his game in particular has turned from a once tricky winger into a covering MF. Only Tiote is happy because that should be his job alone, instead it’s all hands to the pump when we are being got at.


  3. One reason why the coaching staff may want simmo to push up is because he’s actually a half decent crosser….and for countless games earlier this season Obertan would get close to the byline but never be able to deliver a cross, so he’d have to put it back to someone to actually cross in and that was basically always Simmo….be a bit different if we play benny on the right though, no need for crosses..


  4. If by some sort of freak that is Bayern, Real and Barca disappear off the planet and Chelsea win the champions league. Fourth place in the league would only be an europa league place. Would love to see old ‘Arry’s face if it did happen. Only a dream


  5. Not sure on what would happen if Chelski won CL. Do they get qualification for next year?


  6. TLR – they wouldn’t qualify as cup holders. Only qualify from lge pos.
    each year is a new start.
    Dont worry tho they wont be winning the CL imo.
    Interesting to see cech time wasting at the end there. lol


  7. Dont know what is going on with Torres, he cant hit a cows arse with a banjo since moving down there.
    beggars belief how very average he looks. Has he changed his boot sponsor or summit? 😆


  8. terry trying to redeem his horrible personality by offering condolences to belgian schoolchildren families – presenters completely ignore his comments


  9. Beardsley-he was shite during the world cup and even slightly before, although he didn’t seem as bad at liverpool he was never like he was.

    I maintain that its what he did to his hair prior to the world cup. Once he gets it full length and as girly as it was before he’ll come good again 😉


  10. Yeah and Chelsea have no chance, makes me laugh when any English commentator even mentions it as a possibility.


  11. The knock on effects of that Chelsea game for our season is incredible.

    Simmo gets way too much stick, someone commented saying he is our second best defender atm, couldn’t agree more, he may not be European class, but good quality right backs are in short supply.
    We have 5 English right backs at the top seven clubs (Jones or Smalling/Richards/Walker/Simpson/Johnson) yet we see it as a weak point for our national team, which leads us to the question for those moaning about him, who to replace Simpson?
    I know many claim Pieters is the solution (and swap Santon over), but Santon has yet to adapt, and tbh Pieters was awful against England and took backing off to unprecedented levels.

    Can’t fault Willo for effort, simply isn’t good enough, i would be happy with him as 4th choice centre back.

    Wings need investment or/and the whole formation needs to be worked on, probably in the summer.

    4-2-3-1 I think is what we’ll see next year, would love to see it now but i think Santon would get destroyed and I think Pardew will want to work the tactic into the ground before properly implementing it.


  12. I was actually tempted to write an article on Simmo defending him but I suppose I won’t bother now as Statto seems to have convinced people if not to stop slagging him off then to at least give it a rest in regards to the constant abuse he seems to get.


  13. Interesting read. Only two chances or assists @right defensive mid field. Five however created from right defensive mid. 😯


  14. @Solano

    Just because you suggest that other RB’s are not top notch does not justify that Simmo is no worse.
    For me, Walker for Spurs is twice the player anyway.

    As for Santon, it’s my understanding that LB is his preferred position despite him being right footed.
    He needs to master his preferred position before they even experiment with him playing on the right.

    The only point I do agree with is Willo.
    He’s been extremely exposed this season.


  15. ” 4-2-3-1 I think is what we’ll see next year, would love to see it now but i think Santon would get destroyed and I think Pardew will want to work the tactic into the ground before properly implementing it.”

    I totally agree with what you are saying here Solano, but, I don’t really see the need for us to ‘work into the ground’ any attempt at trying different formations or tactics. Yes, practising any changes will obviously help, but presumably we’ve worked our current formation into the ground and its just not working for us at the moment. On current form something NEEDS to change.


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