Where did it all go wrong?

Can the boys learn to retain the ball for longer?
Can the boys learn to retain the ball for longer?
PremAndUp posted a link to squawka earlier that showed a few stats from the 2014/2015 season – so I thought i’d take a look and see if there is any obvious reason for why we were almost relegated…

I have taken out the the usual established Top 5 as well as those that were relegated or promoted, focusing on where we expect to finish – somewhere from 6th (on a good season) down to roughly 15th. It will not be a surprise to learn that Newcastle conceded at least 10 more goals last term than the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland, West Brom, West Ham and several other mid table sides. The reason for this appears to be a deep rooted problem that links into a significant issue for us at the other end of the pitch – scoring. Outside of the 3 relegated sides, we only outscored Villa, Sunderland and West Brom.

Outside of the To 10, there are obvious failings from certain teams that explains why they finished where they did. West Ham’s Sam Allardyce you will remember, was given a mandate of having his side be more exciting. To be fair the Hammers created (367) chances at goal, more than anybody else in this group other than Spurs (407) and Southampton (382), however they struggled to keep the ball (47% average possession), whilst Villa did not create enough chances (288), explaining their poor return of 30 league goals. Crystal Palace on the other hand could only keep the ball for 45% of the time – but managed a respectable 10th place finish thanks largely to a staggering 24 goals scored from set pieces as opposed to Newcastle’s lowly 8. Palace also worked as a team to help keep the number of conceded goals down – by undertaking 56 defensive actions per game – which is the 3rd highest outside the Top 5.

I am one of many who highlighted our lack of cutting edge when it came to set pieces – and 8 goals all season is amongst the lowest in the league – but it does not paint the whole picture. Southampton for example also only managed 8, however they excelled in keeping the ball, creating chances, scoring from free play and keeping clean sheets.

If we are honest with ourselves, then we are not content sitting in the bottom haf. So lets compare notes with Spurs, Southampton, Stoke, Swansea, Palace and Everton – who were all there or thereabouts in the Top 10… The Magpies scored less than all of those teams and conceded significantly more. Almost all of those teams managed to have a speciality over their competitors; Everton (11th in the table) had the highest shot accuracy out of the group and the joint-highest passing accuracy (83%). Southampton conceded less than everybody else (30 goals less than us), Spurs created more chances (407), scored more goals (58), won more average duels for the ball (50%) and kept possession (54%) more than anybody else. Swansea were joint-top dogs at average passing accuracy (83%) and Palace knew how to score from set pieces. Stoke were impressively consistent amongst several fields, finishing in the Top 3 of this group in chances created, average duels won and goals conceded.

So we must have something we are good at, right? Erm no, not really. Granted we did not finish in the Top 10 or 11, so we are not going to compare favorably against these sides – but surely we pushed the Top 3 or 4 in some fields at least? Nope…We were poor in every field so no need to list them. I know you want a positive – so I’ll give you one. I heard many people criticise the team for playing hoof ball. However, our average length of pass was 19 meters, which is bang on average. In fact it’s slightly above average with no other team having a shorter average passing length – the biggest being 21 meters and the guilty team being Aston Villa.

In my opinion our problem comes from possession – and what we do with the ball. Its obvious to say as much but bear with me! Every team in the Top 10 had possession over 50% per game. Spurs finished 5th. Southampton 7th and they had better possession than anybody outside the usual Top 5 with 54% and 52% respectively. We managed 49% – it does not seem like a lot of difference but we are talking about fine margins at the very top of the professional game – so small margins make big differences. Once we manage to retain the ball, we need to get into key areas and start producing opportunities. We only created 332 chances last season. Again Spurs and Southampton lead the field with 407 and 382 respectively. When we create those chances, we need to execute them better. We only managed a 43% shooting accuracy which is worse than all of the other 6 sides listed above except Stoke. I suspect this is because we lacked the cutting edge in our passing game to get close enough to goal. Too often when in possession last term, we passed sideways or backwards – partly because we had no real width in our game and no real catalyst in the middle to burst forward and open up space. Sissoko is the best we currently have in that regard, but too often he did not seem to really bust a gut or show enough desire and interest. This is why I hope the Wijnaldum rumor is true – he is exactly what we need.

In terms of goals conceded, it is no coincidence that Spurs top the bill again with 50% of their duels won. We only managed 47%. This means we lack bite in midfield as well as at the back. We have Anita, Colback, Sissoko etc on the books but do any of them have a specific position that they excel at? Tiote has been a big miss and if we had his influence in front of the back 4 then I believe we would have conceded far less. If he is leaving, we need to employ someone like Colback to just sit there putting the tackles in and keeping his passing game simple so that we have a foundation to work off and build up momentum. Again, take out the relegated sides and the Top 5 and Newcastle as a unit had the lowest defensive actions per game (48) than almost everybody else. Most of the Top 10 had somewhere in the mid to high 50’s – so what’s going on there?

Not only were we not attacking with any kind of purpose, we were also not chasing back or getting into defensive positions when we should have been. Is the whole squad lazy? I doubt it. I reckon it’s a case of poor coaching and players not knowing what the hell to do due to a bad system in place. A new coaching team with experience of football on the Continent combined with experience of winning things here at home should see a big improvement from our current squad. Step forwards Steve McClaren and his team. Add a couple of well planned additions to the playing staff (Matip, Austin/Mitrovic, Wijnaldum anyone?) and we should achieve a few small percentage increases in the above fields, which in turn will yield big results come the end of the season.

About Shamrock

Like everyone here, support Newcastle United. Not the easiest side to feel good about at times, but it's our side!

783 thoughts on “Where did it all go wrong?

  1. Stu – agreed. I would want Colo replaced this summer and give Dummett a chance. I don’t think we will address everything this summer – but I reckon that 22 players I’ve put up can get us 8-10th this season. Get some more money in next season and strengthen those weak areas.

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  2. Great start if we get Wig and Mis in but only a start,I would like another striker and two c/be,ime greedy git but imo we need them,wonder who this unknown player some rags are talking about also coming?
    I see Cabaye says he turned down toon to go to palace, (I don’t think so mate)

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  3. Id like to see Perez have a reduced role and some one come in for him.. he was good in a poor set up last season but not some one we should be starting just yet..

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  4. Actually, looking at that – maybe the priority should be strengthening full back rather than CB?!
    We would have 5 CBs – Matip, Colo, Saylor, Willo, Lascelles.
    But full back wise we’d have Janmaat as the only right back, and Dummett and Haidara as LB.

    I would get rid of Willo (Dummett can cover that) and get a first choice LB and back up RB.

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  5. AMF bring back the old Aussie I say,where is the guy gone that used to like a bit of banter and a joke,and some footy crack and let’s not forget used to beat poor old Richietoon with a stick lol,is he still out there or stuck in the bush

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  6. Ice, lets be honest, there has been a drastic shortage of banter and laughter on here mate… lets hope Steve can liven things up a bit. . 😉
    Sharpy 😆

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  7. So this window I hope for a back up RB, 2 CBs and a purple LB, Wijnaldum and Mitrovic. that’s 6 in for me.

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  8. Long way to go, but get Wij confirmed, plus Mitrovic then focus on the proper centre we desperately need and let Austin decide then if he still wants to stay in Wiltshire

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  9. Sharpy – i’m assuming CIsse out, so hoping for Wij, Mitrovic, plus another striker, and a first choice CB. Then a couple to back up in defence. I think Dummett is the first choice LB in the club’s eyes…

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  10. Loic Remy odds falling on a move to Palace. If they snap him up, I’d be surprised of thy went in for Austin too…

    Got a feeling Austin will be Hammers bound. Shame.

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  11. I still think that Dutch guy will be cheaper than Austin so we will focus on him. However I would live it if the club signed GW and Mitrovic and then said to Austin “Make your mind up, do you want to move here or not? If not we go for someone else.”

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  12. GTE – yeah mate, if Cisse goes I would expect Dost rather than Austin to be honest. Only coz I don’t think Austin wants to come rather than us favouring him. I would agree on Dummett as I believe he has also been give the no. 3 shirt with his new contract. I’ve said many times on here that Dummett is my cult hero, so I truly hope he does become first choice. My only worry is there is little experience at LB going into this season – but I suppose there is only one way to gain that experience.

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  13. As long as Willo goes and Saylor has a reduced bench role, I am not too stressed with our defense if we get another quality CB. The new lad JL is an unknown quantity but it will be interesting to see how he goes… can’t be worse than Willo, surely..

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  14. Stu, Sharpy – completely agree on Austin, we shoiuld get to a position where his advisers know we can walk away, and make ourselves a better footballing prospect at the same time.

    Sharpy, on the LB scenario, there’s no way we’regoing to have a top-7 or 8 competitive squad this coming season, Mc himself is saying three windows. I’ve always thought that building a team is a three year process. I’d want to see the squad in better shape to compete for 8th-12th this season, (line in SBR’s first two seasons) and stradily build towards being more competitive (i.e. replacing Colo, upgrading at full back) the following summer – and not just selling off any hald decent prospect and not replacing.

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  15. Aussie – Leeds were interested in Willo at one stage – I was hopeful we could offer Willo & £3m for young Sam Byram.

    I take it we all think the Thauvin deal has gone now … (I hope so anyway)

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  16. Our CB’s were a disorganized, disinterested, injury prone rabble last season. .. it is certainly the area of greatest concern if you ask me.. LB can be covered somewhat but we certainly need some fresh ideas/players in the cb position. .

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  17. GTE – yeah I said similar @751 mate. It will take time and as Mc has said, it’s also about getting the right player, who aren’t always available every window. But the good thing with this GW deal is that the club now seem to be showing that they are prepared to pay the money for the right player.
    We’ve been accused of shopping in the bargain basket in previous seasons, and rightly so. But we have still got some very decent players in doing that – now we need to add that quality.
    As I also said earlier, I want to see how much more the likes of Cabella, SDJ, Aarons and Riviere has to offer.

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  18. SM has started well but to ban swearing is a joke it will not work imo and could cause a bit upset,nice he sent two players home for being two min late,they only work part time ffs,although this new coach wants them back in the afternoon too,good on yer

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  19. Sharpy: I was thinking we would offer Willo AND 3 mil to Leeds just to take him.

    I really do hope that this is a new beginning and the fatman is getting out his wallet. There is nobody that can tell me that the football over the last 6 months was anything other than dire. If you didn’t complain about having to watch that then you did not register a pulse.

    But, onwards and upwards. I always wondered why Ashley didn’t invest in us. He has the helicopter, yacht and private jet and what else do you do with the 4th Billion?

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  20. Wijnaldum looking likely then! That would be a big signing. Interesting though as he plays in a similar role to the one that Cabaye was mostly deployed in and also fairly similar to SDJ. Will SDJ play ahead of him? When he’s fit…

    He’d be a cracking signing from all I’ve read anyway.

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  21. I wonder what language they are all swearing in? Does Schteve know any Dutch or does he just have the accent? Neuken hel and putain l’enfer.

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  22. It is now looking like we got so close to the abyss that even fatty realised we were close to the abyss. It will be unicorns and rainbows from me from now on.

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  23. This has been my favourite day on this site for a long time 😆
    It was getting pretty difficult trying to convince you lot things would get better 😎

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  24. Call me contrary but with some headline signings to establish intent, I am happy for the new gaffer to run his eye over the squad before replacing any others, apart from a new CB. A tall CB has been the weak link as Saylor is so brittle. It was the injuries and Williamson as backup that made us suffer. We simply bought Colo’s replacement too early and not his partner! Need his partner this window and Colo’s replacement the next. Can’t have both in this window as defence is a team effort moreso than attack and changes in that area need to be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

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