In this new feature for the blog, we’ll be picking out a few key stats following each Newcastle game – starting with a look at on our 3-1 win over Everton on Tuesday night.
Newcastle 2.69 – 0.82 Everton
The expected goals (xG) provides huge insight into the improvement under Eddie Howe. The win over Everton brought our highest single match xG for and our second lowest xG against. This underlines improvements in denying goal-scoring opportunities and an improvement in our own chance creation.
This is using the xG data provided by Understat, but it does vary depending on what source is used.
There are some sceptics of xG data, but in this case, it supports what everyone saw with their own eyes. This was the best performance of the season and there is progress being made in both halves of the pitch.
There has been an upwards trend in our xG data under Howe. In recent matches against Watford and Leeds, we were competing with both teams, but the xG against remained over 1 and our xG for was around the same figure.
If we can maintain our performance level and our expected data at the level of the Everton game, the second half of the season should be a lot more enjoyable.
6.95 Passes per defensive action (PPDA)
One of the most noticeable improvements was our desire to press and unsettle the Everton players at every opportunity. This is an obvious development that Howe is trying to add to our game and the fruits were evident on Tuesday night.
It takes a lot of positional coaching and fitness to develop a coherent press. Although it isn’t perfect yet, there are improvements being made on a weekly basis. Joe Willock and Joelinton were both excellent, while Allan Saint-Maximin, Chris Wood and Ryan Fraser all contributed in a positive manner.
This is no small achievement from Howe, as the club currently sit in 19th position for PPDA. This metric measures the amount of opposition passes per defensive action. The lower this number, the more aggressive the team is in trying to win the ball back.
To provide context, we sit in 19th place for PPDA overall, averaging 14.28 PPDA this season. Only Wolves (15.15) have a higher number.
Against Everton, we had a PPDA of 6.95. This is a significant improvement on our season average and underlines the improvement in our off-the-ball work.
Allan Saint-Maximin’s Durability
We have just moved into February and Allan Saint-Maximin’s minutes for the season in the Premier League reached 1891. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is now the most number of minutes he has played in a single Premier League season.
It is likely that he will long surpass his previous most of 1874 in his debut campaign in 2019/20. Last season, he played just 1568 minutes.
Since his arrival in England, he has struggled to avoid niggly injuries. Although he hasn’t suffered many big injuries, he has regularly suffered from short term muscle injuries and it has prevented him from building momentum on the pitch.
Steve Bruce’s training schedule may be blamed, but it would be too simplistic to attribute it to that alone. Saint-Maximin was avoiding injuries at the start of the season, while Bruce remained in situ.
It looks like he has been doing his own conditioning, as he looks fitter than he has ever been and it is resulting to a freer playing style on the pitch.
Availability is the best ability. Long may the Frenchman’s injury-free run continue.
Stats taken from understat