A few days have passed, but it is difficult not to still be impressed by the weekend’s performance.
It was a tough assignment to go away to a Champions League-chasing West Ham United without our three best players. Previous managers would have used that as an excuse, but Howe managed to get the players on the pitch to deliver a very assured display.
Below, we discuss three interesting stats to come out of the game.
35 touches in opposition penalty area
Outside of the traditional top six, no team achieved more penalty box touches than Newcastle. We managed to have 35 touches in West Ham’s penalty area, underlining the control we had of the game. Although we struggled to create clear cut opportunities as frequently as we’d like, we were getting into the right positions and that bodes well.
It also represents a considerable improvement on our season average of 21.6 per game. There was a feeling that our attackers were isolated in recent seasons and there was a reliance on moments of magic. The current approach in attack is more sustainable and suggests we should create more chances in the coming weeks.
Callum Wilson will be watching on and hoping that this level of territorial dominance continues when he returns. We were missing his presence in the penalty area.
Expected goals conceded (xGC) of 0.6
West Ham are a good attacking team. That is why they are challenging for a top four finish. This season, they average 1.36 xG per 90 minutes, ranking them in the top eight attacks in the division.
We managed to limit them to 0.6 xG on Saturday and they never really managed to create a clear cut chance from open play. Their best chance came from the set piece when they scored and that was more down to the delivery than poor defending.
This is the third successive game we have limited our opposition to an xG under 1. Previous to this run, we have only managed to achieve this three times. This emphasises our improvement at the back, which is mainly down to Eddie Howe’s coaching. There were doubts about his defensive organisation when he was appointed. It is too small a sample size to make a sweeping judgement, but it is encouraging.
Matt Targett 5 Shot Creating Actions – 79 touches
Last week, we underlined the importance of Kieran Trippier in our build up play. He was getting more touches than any other player on the pitch and it was difficult to see how we would adjust our approach without him.
The answer was Matt Targett. He took a prominent role from the opposite flank on Saturday, as he had 79 touches during the game, more than any other Newcastle player. He was key in our ability to progress the ball, while he offered a good option down the left wing, with his crossing ability.
In addition to his touches, he made 5 shot creating actions, more than any other player in the team. One of these was his pass into Jacob Murphy in the build-up to our goal. This underlines his creativity and the threat he can offer in open play. His set piece delivery will also be important, as he provides a left-footed option that we lack.
Although his influence was easy to see on Saturday, it may not be sustainable when Allan Saint-Maximin returns to the team. The Frenchman will look to pass to Targett less than Murphy did.