Now, before people jump on this quicker than a sacking in the Chelsea boardroom just because it has ‘weaknesses’ in the title, the article is not aimed at slashing any NUFC throats or criticising anything that has gone on this season.
The aim here, was to highlight statistical statements regarding Newcastle United in the Premier League this season and look at what needs strengthening/improving to consolidate on the season gone and continue being a force in the English top flight.
There is absolutely no doubt that this season has been nothing short of amazing for us Newcastle fans, but every team has its shortcomings. NUFC_Stats looked at some statistical statements from this season and some of the things NUFC can be doing to get a little closer to that elusive Champion’s League spot in the next campaign.
The last article highlighted the difference between last season’s shots, assists, chances created and chance conversion rate and it was shown that although NUFC had less shots at goal, their chance conversion was slightly better. That is down really to the composure of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.
Having said that, to finish above only 6 teams in terms of having shots this season is quite surprising and shows once again how important it has been for us to have quality up top. Even when having shots though, 12 teams have been superior than NUFC for hitting the target.
It just goes to show the margins in the Premier League – without a good frontline, these kind of statistics could see a club languishing dangerously close to the bottom, but real ability and finishing prowess makes a huge difference. Newcastle have managed the 6th most open play goals this season (37) and the 4th most from fast breaks (4).
It’s not just about scoring goals though – NUFC have been immensely strong at the back at times this season which is vitally important in our division and they finished 12th for the number shots conceded per game on average (14.3).
Alan Pardew himself recently paid tribute to this one saying that he has been disappointed with the threat NUFC have had from these situations. And, it is quite an eyebrow-lifting stat when you consider the ability Newcastle’s attacking line have had this season and the quality of set piece takers they now have in their ranks.
But, when you see City (19) & Man Utd (18) as 2 of the top 3 for goals from set plays, then the benefits of having that in your locker as a team in the Premier League are quite prominent.
Some may argue that this isn’t a weakness of NUFC’s play, certainly in the latter of this campaign, and that it is a by-product of the switch to the more attacking 4-3-3 formation that was implemented.
However, crossing is still an integral part of the modern game, especially with players like Ba & Cisse who feed off good service as they have shown on countless occasions this season. And, it hasn’t just been the number of crosses that Newcastle have produced that has been of slight concern, but their quality at times.
The fact that Yohan Cabaye, as a central attacking player, has produced more crosses than any other Newcastle United player in the Premier League this season, tells its own story!
A somewhat ironic statement this one, considering the result and performance of both teams at the Liberty Stadium this season, but again, for a team with European aspirations, NUFC need to take more control of games, keeping the ball for longer periods and knowing how & when to change the tempo of play to suit themselves.
Having a low percentage of play in the opposition’s half means that when chances arise, you have to take them. The conversion rate numbers compared to number of shots in general have shown that that has been NUFC’s strength this season. However, next season, when teams know more about how Newcastle play, particularly individuals like Papiss Cisse, it will become more difficult a task to score the quantity of goals that were notched this time around.
Furthermore, Newcastle feature 12th for average possession (46.8%), 14th for short passes per game (331) and 12th for pass success rate (76.7%) – all areas that will have no doubt been highlighted by NUFC’s backroom staff and looking to work on as we speak.
It probably won’t surprise too many people this one – Newcastle have been inconsistent with their choice of personnel on the right hand side this season and even when Hatem Ben Arfa’s selection became a certainty, he wasn’t going to change that being a left footer who likes to cut inside.
Right-foot dominant teams will always produce their shots from central and left areas more so than their right and NUFC are exactly that, with HBA & Tim Krul the only natural left footers in the starting X1 this season.
Ironically, Newcastle have actually conceded the lowest percentage of shots in the entire top flight from the right hand side this season; just 13% coming from that side.
This stat was touched on in the last article – when Newcastle have lost games, particularly away from home this season, they have done it in style! The mentality of the team definitely has question marks hanging over it, as going a goal down has appeared to have a very detrimental effect on the whole team outlook.
Alan Pardew is still searching for his first win as Newcastle manager after going behind and when conceding more than 1 goal in the Premier League this season, only Spurs gained fewer points (2). NUFC also lost the most games in the division (4) by conceding 4+ goals and were 1 of just 4 teams failing to score 4+ in a game.
Again, this is not a swipe at any of the Newcastle team or management – simply a highlight of some of the areas that NUFC need to strengthen to ensure they progress on their terrific successes this season.
The question is how? The priority at this stage is definitely going to be to hang onto the ones that helped make this season so vibrant, but if that fails, then replacing them will take priority.
If not though, more recruitment of the same nature as the superstars that have walked through the door of late may well just lift the Mags to real stardom next season!