Five games in, 9 points on the board and a brilliant start to life back in the Premier League. Whilst points are what matters, there’s been a promising trend that I’ve seen develop in each and every one of our 5 performances so far – despite two defeats.
We’ve stifled the opposition. Spurs may have beaten us, and the high-flying Huddersfield too, but I’ve seen a theme develop, seeing us concede possession to the opposing side yet offer them very few openings.
The average amount of possession we’ve conceded to the opposing side is a staggering 62% so far this season. It sounds ominous yet we’ve won more than we’ve lost, scored more than we’ve conceded and had more shots on target than we’ve received.
This stat below helps illustrate my point. Aside from Tottenham’s late flurry against our tired ten men on the opening day, we are yet to concede a goal from inside the box this season, with the only other goals we have conceded thus far being long range efforts from Aaron Mooy and Xherdan Shaqiri – the sort of moments of quality you can sometimes do little about at this level.
Spurs may have defeated us at St. James’, but I can barely remember a moment – when we had 11 men on the pitch – where we afforded them too much space and a clear opening at goal. Yes they went on to win 2-0 after eventually wearing us down, but this is a slick Spurs side whose last three Premier League away days have included 4-1, 7-1 and 3-0 wins, with the latter coming in big spending Everton’s back yard – a team that appears far better equipped than ours, yet competed far less capably.
Then Huddersfield. This time we weren’t nearly as convincing in defeat, but again we seemed to stifle the opposition to an extent. Huddersfield were on the back of a 3-0 win at Palace and I expected them to be full of beans, creating chances and causing havoc, but as poor as we were, we were still fairly well set and they rarely exposed us. It took a wonderful goal from Aaron Mooy to break the deadlock that day and without that moment of magic I’m pretty certain we’d have came away with a clean sheet.
Admittedly, West Ham were awful, but the likes of Hernandez, Antonio, Ayew and Lanzini mustered just three shots on goal all game after we handed them 63% of the ball.
Swansea away was a similar tale. I expected them to come out firing on the back of their first win of the season at Palace the week prior, but they too failed to find a way of penetrating our solid banks for four despite 62% of possession. In both games we had half the amount of the possession both West Ham and Swansea ‘enjoyed’, yet double the shots, two clean sheets and four goals to their 0.
Then finally Stoke last Saturday. They had quality in there side and arrived with momentum after a 2-2 draw against Manchester United. They may have caused us more problems than others have so this season, but again managed just 4 shots on goal after almost 60% possession.
We’ve been energetic, efficient, organised with and without the ball and have limited teams to very few shots inside our own box despite handing them a hefty amount of possession. We’ve stifled teams attacking play and that to me is the product of our tenacity, togetherness and Benitez’s tactical nous – three factors that should put us in great stead to stay up this season.
After three wins on the spin, we travel to the Amex on Sunday and Thunderbolt Online Casino are offering pretty generous odds on another NUFC win given our form – not forgetting what went down on the South Coast last time we met!