NUFC – A creativity comparison

I think we can all admit that Newcastle haven’t exactly set the league alight this season! Following on from the successes of last season and attempting to show further progress was always going to be a tough ask.

But, few would have predicted that the Magpies would have given us such lacklustre and unimaginative displays in their first 12 games in the Barclays Premier League – none more so than the last two defeats at home (the last time that happened was the dreaded relegation season!).

The question is though, ‘what exactly is the cause?’ Alan Pardew? There will be some that continue to question his team selection, tactics and comments regarding the team at times. Or is it personnel? Have the latest batch of injuries and suspensions just stretched our squad so much, that the barrel-scrapings simply can’t cut it in Europe’s toughest division? Or is it purely down to the players on the field? The Cabaye’s, Cisse’s and Tiote’s have not started with the same impact they had for so long last campaign.

Last season, despite our accomplishments, there were questions around the team’s ability to create at times. And, as only a defensive midfielder was acquired (in the main) in the summer transfer window, I wanted to know to what extent NUFC compete with the other sides in the Premier League in terms of creativity. Why? Because game after game this season I have watched a one dimensional team struggle to do anything with the ball in the final third, other than float aimless lofted/crossed balls into a bunch of players that have yet to score from a free kick, corner or even cross (Ba’s ‘handball’ hardly counts) this season.

Unless Yohan Cabaye or Hatem Ben Arfa are ‘firing on all cylinders’, who ACTUALLY fashions goal scoring opportunities for our frontmen? At present, Ben Arfa (1.9) and Cabaye (1.8) produce more chances per game than any other NUFC player in the league – after that… Vurnon Anita (1.1)! Consider the fact that Leighton Baines is the Premier League’s top chance creator currently with 4.2 per game and that really puts Newcastle’s creativity into perspective! But, it wasn’t about the individuals on this occasion, I wanted to look at teams in general. So, here’s the numbers…

Premier League 2012/13 – Creativity figures

What I decided to do, to put a more conclusive spin on this, was to award each side in the top 3 of each category numerically, 5 points, and each side in the bottom 3, -5 points. Where a side didn’t feature in either of these, they remained at 0. So, a team without any values in the top3 or bottom 3 would end up with a ‘Points Total’ of 0.

On first glance, it is quite clear to see that, despite not performing to their expected level this season so far, Manchester City are still top of the pile in terms of their creation, having values in the top 3 of the Premier League in 5 out of the 6 criteria. Everton’s fine start to the season is also highlighted, with 4 out of 6 values in the top 3.

In the reverse, it is Sunderland who languish at the bottom in the creativity stakes – 5 out of 6 of their numbers reside in the bottom 3! It is similar at Reading. They have 4 out of their 6 values which are within the lowest 3 in the entire division.

As for Newcastle, a pretty ‘average’ picture is painted. They sit 9th out of 20 for total chances created, which divides to 8th for open play but 5th for chances from set plays! (Just 4 Premier League players playing 80+ mins per game create a set play chance more frequent than Yohan Cabaye).

9 teams have produced fewer ‘clear cut chances’ than us and 7 teams have produced fewer assists so far, but the most worrying figure is the aforementioned stat regarding set plays – NUFC are the ONLY side in the whole of the Premier League this season that have yet to score from a set play. The last time we did that, was away to Wolves last season (Demba Ba header).

Those that have watched NUFC in the league this season will point the finger towards the actual set play routines, which appears, consistently, to involve a hopeful loft into Mike Williamson in the hope that he can win the first ball and create an attempt. However, I have yet to see this work once! So, a look into the set play stats was needed…

NUFC Premier League 2012/13 – Set play stats

40% of those ‘hopeful’ lofted freekicks and corners have managed to find a black & white shirt, while just 7 chances in 12 games have been created by free kicks alone! It’s a similar story for corners, where the vast majority are ‘peeled’ into the box but very rarely do we win the first ball. Because of that, not 1 chance has been created with a corner this season in the top flight. We’ve had just 5 shots directly at goal from free kicks and we’ve only managed 7 shots directly after a set play (the 7 chances mentioned).

All in all, the general creativity figures are not as bad as first thought. However, they certainly don’t read like that of a team pushing to secure European qualification again, or better still, Champion’s League. The most concerning of this information is our set play statistics. Alan Pardew spoke at the back end of last season about his worry over this aspect of the team, but nothing at all appears to have been done about it!

Against Swansea, Hatem Ben Arfa took what was probably the best corner we’ve seen all season – he shot at goal! We need to ‘mix up’ our ideas, changing the taker more regularly and work on some shorter, more clever and well thought out ideas.

Mastering the set piece is a big part of the modern day game and can account for a large quantity of goals – very important goals at times. To not have that in your locker as a team, can leave you at a real deficit. We don’t want to be left behind!

32 thoughts on “NUFC – A creativity comparison

  1. Have to say our set pieces have been awful all season! On another note hope we win tonight and get through, but I am a little tired of the Europa league being used as an excuse for our poor league form, being tired both physically and mentally! what a load of crap, pards has been changing over half the team each time, and if your telling me that its mentally to big an ask for professional footballers to get their head right to allow them two play 2 games in a week, then we truly are in trouble!!!!


  2. Statto them stats dont make for good reading,but they highlight and back up what a lot of us have been saying.
    We really need to sort our shit out but I cant see that happening anytime soon


  3. I find that hard to believe as piss poor as the corners have been on the whole. Im pretty sure Saylor and Willamson nearly scored from corners against norwich, Thought we nearly scored from one at the sos and shola certainly headed a decent chance wide from a corner against west ham.

    Thats still worse than shite a dozen games in like, I thought Marveauxs set pieces against brugge were half decent wouldnt mind seeing a bit more of him now Cabayes out for a while…


  4. Im sorry if this comes off all simple but and for stating the obvious but to win games you need to score goals and to score goals we need to create chances. I think it was JJ the other day who said we have only created 12 chances for Cisse so far this season which is not good enough. I would like to see young Ferguson get some game time as he seems to be able to really whip in a good cross. I would go with Ba up front with Ben Arfa playing behind him and go with Ferguson and Marv out wide to ry creat a few more chances.


  5. “‘We’ve lost so many players to injuries and we’ve lost rhythm because of lack of time to work on the training pitch due to playing so many matches, explained Pardew.”

    Biggest shower of shit I’ve ever heard coming out of Pardew’s mouth.

    If we are suffering with injuries then its his fault for not having the balls to admit we should have invested more during the summer.

    If there’s no fluency then he is clearly out of his depth. No top manager struggles to get his team to play the football he wants when there are MORE games. LESS games I would understand.

    Championship sides play 46 games plus cup games in a season with smaller squads. Are our players that unfit they can’t play two games a week???

    Never see Wenger or Fergie complain about this, yet despite the rotation and different players put out each week they all seem to know their job and play with understanding.

    If he can’t get players to understand each other then he is out of his depth for a club in Europe.

    I’m am getting so tired of excuses. He needs to stop the excuses and get things right.


  6. Here’s a goofy thought: Why not try getting the guys who were supplying Cisse’s assists in the Bundesliga at Freiburg? A couple of them are young and would probably be cheap. They ought to know how to supply Papiss, since they shipped service in to him for his 22 goal season…


  7. Our set pieces were awful for all of last year too. I’ve said it for a while now, unless we have a shot directly (which we’re decent at) then we’re just terrible. Maybe our problem this season is spending so much time trying to learn new training ground routines that the lads have forgotten how to play a simple pass 😉


  8. Didnt pardew actually say something about bringing a specialist coach to work on set pieces; Im assuming that idea got the thumbs down from the chuckle brothers. For the sake of a grand or so a week the club are blocking a whole dimension of attacking threat (our main threat when we first came back up)

    Pardew and his staff must take some blame for the predictable chip to Willo shit though, Stoke at west ham showed some innovation from set plays even with all their height you cant hoy the ball to back stick all the time and hope you win the first ball…


  9. I think the whole set pieces thing is baloney. What we lack all over the team, in defence and attack are players who actually attack the ball in the air. Saylor used to be good at it but seems to have lost it now since the achilles. He hardly leaves the ground these days. Willo’s ability is limited at everything and our main strikers aren’t good in the air. The rest are dwarves.


  10. JJ – that sentence from Ap is right. It’s not the amount of games it’s the lack of training pitch time with the first team. My solution, and here I agree with you about players who can play twice a week – we were fine in the Champ, is to play our strongest 11 in every game. Problem solved. Tactics and fluency restored.


  11. Corners and set pieces are a big part of attacking playing, and with us being so poor at both, we must be a dream to play against.
    The 4-4-2 formation Pardew seems to favour does not suit our most offensive players and leaves us looking very disjointed.
    As well as Santon has played this season, he does not have much of a left foot for whipping in crosses. Simpson lacks composure when it comes to crossing. Jonas, as hard as he works, is not a left footed player and Benny, well as brilliant as he is is more a dribbler than a crosser of the ball. Finally, Cabaye has been so poor with his corners has been terrible.
    Pardew has to improve this part of our game and instead of using Willo as a target, use him as a decoy and have others like Taylor, Jonas and Santon – taller players as the threat, Cabaye or Benny on the edge of the box waiting for clearance


  12. Stats ,brilliant work as ever mate ,look forward to your articles.
    Just 20 accurate corners from 63 is crap as is no chances from corners too. just 13 clear cut chances from open play is also dire , to not have scored one goal from set play is truly shocking . God only knows what’s going on on the training pitch ,whatever it is it ain’t working to our advantage.
    Hopeing for a win tonight but would take a win sunday over tonight anyday. HWTL. 😉


  13. I wonder who takes most of our set pieces? 😯 Cabaye 😯 With 2 assists and being the designated set piece taker he really should have more. I suppose it is Shola’s fault


  14. Georgio @10 – the only problem with that is that I’m not sure there would be a lot of quality crossers of the ball in Pardews strongest 11. Santon would likely still be LB and Jonas would likely still be on the left side. Simpson would likely still be at RB and Krul and the CBs distribution would still be very poor.

    Michael12 – I understand why you single Cabaye out, and you’re right to done so, but Benny’s isn’t much better like. That said, what’s more worrying for me is that at no. 3 is Anita 😯 – how many games has he actually played this season?!!
    Where’s Santon, Jonas, Simpson or Fergie?!.
    We have wide men within the squad in players like Obertan, Marv, Fergie and arguably Jonas – only he’s a right footed people out on the left.
    My point is that even with his small squad, Pardew has options. He just doesn’t seem to use them.
    He had a winning formation at the end of last season and chose to change it, and we have never looked right since.


  15. We’ve missed Raylor’s set pieces as well. That aside though we must increase our depth in January. Surely Ashley can see a lot of his young central midfielders just haven’t cut it, either due to injuries or form or both. I’m thinking particularly of Gosling but what to do with Vuckic? How many games has he missed with injuries in the last 4 seasons? It must be an incredible number. How can we continue to hope for Abeid to break through when Bigi is already getting far more playing team with the senior team? What is going on at our club? Things just don’t smell right at all. Is there a far bigger problem in the dressing room than we know about? If Cisse had at least 6 or 7 goals by now we would probably be in the top 6 but how long can we carry him the way he is playing? I hope we see something better from him today. At least time your runs properly and get in some decent positions Cisse!


  16. Well those stats make great reading……. 😕

    Our set pieces have been awful for a long time. They were last season as well. As much as Raylor can take the odd decent free kick i certainly dont think his corners were at all threatening. As with our corners now they generally hit the first man or fly strait over the top. You would think one of our players could get a few into the “danger zone”. Joey Barton for me was the last decent corner taker we had. That might of been something to do with Carroll being in the box at the time though.


  17. Geordie Two – I wonder how much of that is down to Pardews defence minded tactics though. You’re right that we have a lot of attacking young players but look at the players Pardew sticks with. Bigi, Anita and Perch all seem to get the nod over attacking players. He’s made the likes of Jonas and Cabaye more defence minded and even when he played Obertan at the start of last season, he had him working back to help the full back out.
    Are these players not breaking through coz they aren’t good enough, or is it that Pardew isn’t giving them the chance, coz if they were that poor, surely the reserves would be getting turned over more regularly.


  18. Good comments Oblong. It seems that corners are becoming a lost art around the league in general. The number of poor corners per game is quite amazing. Supposedly top players putting balls directly out or 15 yards too long. Amazing. The lack of 2 footed players is really telling as well. It helps Ben Arfa look like a genius because he can play with both feet. What’s happening at the earlier ages? Are players not pushed to develop 2 footed skills? I don’t see too many on Barcelona who can’t play with either foot but it is rare in the Prem and usually it is the foreign players who do it best. All in all our season is becoming much as I feared it would. Too many matches for a thin squad, especially once injuries took hold, a reversion to the mean as far as points are concerned and most worryingly terrible home form (which I didn’t expect). Pardew looks at a loss to be honest. Let’s hope for a much better performance today but it is the Southampton game I am most worried about.


  19. Very interesting Sharpy17. Yes I have to agree it looks like our focus has become more defensive yet our goal difference is poor and we have allowed some shockers this season. Our attack looks completely ragged in the Prem. No free flow to it at all with the exception of Ben Arfa and Ba. Most of the other players look lost as if there is no real team plan for attack except boot the ball up the pitch and hope we can attack directly from it. The number of knock-downs to other attackers has been abysmal as well if we are going to play that style (which I hate).


  20. Anyway enough of that for now 😆
    ..I’m looking forward to tonights game. I think its a good chance for us to get a good result and build confidence within the team. It is also a great chance for a few to stake a claim for the weekend. I hope to see Marveaux playing in the Cabaye type role through the middle. For me he looks lost out on the left and he has looked better in the middle. I also think he has the passing range to create chances and bring others into the game which we have missed of late.

    Id go for:

    GK Krul
    RB Tavernier
    CB Collo
    CB Good
    LB Santon
    DM Anita
    CM Jonas
    AM Marveaux
    RW Sammy
    ST Cisse
    LW Ben Arfa

    Subs: Elliott, Taylor, Simpson, Bigi, Amilfatano, Ba, Shola


  21. I think Pardew really wants this one Oblong. I think we’ll see:
    Simpson Willo Colo Santon
    Anita Tiote Jonas Sammy
    Ben Arfa Cisse
    If not Ben Arfa then Shola to start with Cisse. Marveaux to come in if Sammy is not playing well.


  22. @ Geaordie Two.

    Dont even get me started on players not able to play with both feet. Im not asking them to be putting passes on a 2p from 40 yards with thier weak foot but it annoys me when you see them miss chances or put the team into bother because they are trying so hard to get the ball on thier good foot it boils my piss. Your not telling me professional footballers cant swing a peg at it every now and again.


  23. I think everyone that has anything to do with newcastle needs a good result tonight. Whatever team we put out i just hope we go for it and look good while we do it. 😎


  24. Thats a good read Wellington.
    So he has a football brain, which is good. He just needs time to settle in and make the Defensive midfield his own and get an understanding with the forwards and attacking midfielders.


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