So it wasn’t quite to be that Newcastle United make it into the Champions League but my god, do we REALLY care?! I guess the ‘ambition-lovers’ amongst us could say they do and with it being a possibly, there will be some who are a little disappointed, especially with the performance that was given on Sunday.
But, overall, and in real perspective, the Europa League is a monumental achievement for NUFC this season. Finishing 5th in the English Premier League is no mean feat at all. Out-doing teams like Chelsea and Liverpool just two seasons after being in the Championship is close to miraculous!
Most will point the credit in the direction of Alan Pardew. The Barclays’ and LMA ‘Manager of the Season’ has had a superb campaign and has been accepted by the majority of the Geordie faithful after his somewhat apprehensive establishment.
Some will say that Pardew has done well, but the recruitment done by the club and the work of backroom staff like Graham Carr should take a lot of the plaudits. Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Davide Santon and of course Papiss Cisse, to name but a few, have been pivotal to the success, while players like Cheik Tiote, Fabricio Coloccini, Tim Krul and Jonas Gutierrez have been given the incentive to stay and play well alongside the incomings.
Statistically though, what is it that has actually been different for Newcastle this season and so compelling compared to last season? NUFC_Stats looked into the comparative numbers…
The basic league data doesn’t show anything we don’t already know – concede less goals, win more games! But, in the context of it all, with just a +5 goal difference this season, it just goes to show how Newcastle have dug out games this season and that they have that so-important ability to hold onto points and see games out now.
Having said, there is still work to be done on the mentality of going behind. When Newcastle have lost games this seasons, they’ve generally done it with style and Alan Pardew is still to win a game as Newcastle manager in the Premier League after going behind!
At look at some of the percentage-based data and what makes very interesting reading is that all of the ‘duel’ values are down on last season. NUFC are 1% down on ground 50-50 duel wins, 1% down on tackle success and 4% down on aerial wins. Certainly with the aerial data, it could be said NUFC have played a very different style to last season, especially with the exit of Andy Carroll and Joey Barton, but the ‘battle-type’ stats are surprising.
Cross and shot accuracy are also down on the last campaign, the 4-3-3 system probably having a big say in the crossing stats but shooting is shooting – another surprising number considering the quality Newcastle now have in attacking areas.
Pass accuracy is slightly better than last season, again, probably down to the style of play and quality of players but the best piece of information from all of the above is the chance conversion rate. That old cliché, ‘goals win games’ fits NUFC’s bill down to a ‘T’ this season – in Ba and Cisse, Newcastle have two of the league’s best predators this season and on countless occasions the pair have shown that they only need minimal chances to make their mark.
Newcastle nearly doubled last seasons clean sheets this season, with the superb Tim Krul the second highest clean sheet keeper in the Premier League after Joe Hart with 15. NUFC also improved on their goals conceded per game – just 1.34 let in this campaign compared to 1.5 last time.
A pleasing stat is the number of official defensive errors produced by Newcastle this season compared to last, but surprisingly NUFC have lost possession more times than they did in 2010/11 – with pass accuracy and average possession being higher than last time, one would expect that not to be the case.
Even the most critical of football enthusiasts would find it hard to argue with Newcastle’s attacking prowess this season. Compared to last season, where going forward the team were very one dimensional in their play, NUFC fans have watched Newcastle ‘slice’ teams open with quick and fluent counter attacking play, especially in the 4-3-3 set up, and moments of breath-taking individual brilliance.
However, that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the numbers for the attacking play this season. NUFC have actually created less chances and less shots compared to last season, although their goal assists are up. One would have predicted probably the opposite considering the aforementioned individual play observed at Newcastle this season and the quality in the team behind the front line.
There aren’t too many surprises with crosses and set play assists – Newcastle haven’t utilised the long ball and direct play methods nearly as much as last season and even Alan Pardew himself has criticised NUFC’s lack of authority from set play situations. Only Swansea (7) and Aston Villa (3) scored less goals than NUFC (8) this season in the Premier League from set pieces, severely deficient for a team with European ambitions.
All-in-all, and whether the statistics agree or not, this has been a wondrous season from Newcastle United Football Club. No one seen this type of achievement coming – after the departure of the so-called ‘top players’ at the club, many had NUFC destined for a survival scrap.
But, Alan Pardew, his staff, the players and the hierarchy at the club deserve mass credit for the hard work and support they have given this season. Clever recruitment, stringent financial decisions and terrific man/team management have this club back where they belong.
Statistically? Well, scoring goals and stopping goals! Less chances created and less shots than last season, but more goals means that the quality Newcastle have had in front of goal this campaign has been of the highest order.
Nearly double the amount of clean sheets from last season and an improvement on goals per game conceded speaks volumes of Newcastle’s development and there is no doubt the club will be initiating talk now on how to progress in that department further.
Here’s hoping that form is continued into next season and the battle for some shiny silverware at some stage!