Sep 27, 2010

Match Report: Stoke (H)

"I wonder if Nikolai Valuev is available on a free..."

26.09.2010 – Sunday 4:10pm
Barclays Premier League

Newcastle United – 1

Nolan (pen)

Stoke – 2

Jones, Perch (OG)

Location: St James
MOM: Fabricio Coloccini
NUFC Performance: 2/10

If you can’t play football, just throw it into the net

I have a lot of time for Tony Pulis, I think he is a sound, hard working man and largely one of good integrity.  He is however a liar.  Simple.  Every time he tries to convince the world that his Stoke team (average height 9ft f#ckin’ 7’) are not a long ball team and one that can now compete at the highest level playing well crafted, passing based football, he is simply lying.  I’ve got nothing against the man for wanting to deceive his rivals – Sam Allardyce has been trying to convince England that he is not only worthy of the title ‘manager’, but that he is also god himself.  This routine horse sh#t that emanates from the fattest manager since Barry Fry is very easy to spot to the nation’s ears as it is so obviously fanciful.  But Pulis’s utterings that Stoke have long since cast off their brutish and crude tactics has caught a number of people off guard. 

The fact this match was broadcast live on Sky should prove clearly and without any doubt that Stoke are still as sophisticated as an entire series of Jeremy Kyle.  Indeed, why play football when you can just throw the f#ckin’ ball into the back of the net.  Why practice technique, passing triangles, ball control and positional interchanging play when you can just buy 10 of the biggest, tallest lumps of drooling mass, combined with 1 freak of nature that can throw a ball from here to the other side of the f#ckin’ moon, and bombard the opposition into submission using tactics straight from the Napoleonic wars?  Stoke did try to play football in the first half, I have no problem giving them their dues for trying – but in doing this they posed absolutely no threat to Newcastle’s goal.

Indeed, despite Newcastle looking just as fruitless in attack there we arrived ahead at half time looking good for a dour and drab, but welcome 1-0 win.  Little changed in the early exchanges of the second half, that was until the introduction of Ricardo Fuller and shortly afterwards, everyone’s favourite circus escapee, Rory f#ckin’ Delap.  From there onwards Stoke reverted back to the most effective and disgusting tactic ever seen in the Premiership.  Just throw the ball from anywhere inside the opponents half and throw any limb possible towards the ball until it’s bundled, along with any player / official that gets in the way, across the line.  Ridiculous.  But astonishingly effective. 

It’s flabbergasting that despite doing this for nigh on 2 seasons now not a single Premiership manager has found an effective solution to it.  And this is supposed to be the best league in the world… Mind you, one thing this tactic does not include is the kind of hypnotism that would first see a player run the ball out of play inside their own half while under full control and no pressure whatsoever, then less than 2 minutes later direct a bullet a header into their own net.  For this ineptitude you need the spectacularly talentless James Perch. 

From 1-0 to 1-2 down with less than 5 minutes remaining in a game we were coasting.  Amazing naivety.  Nothing can or should disguise this being Newcastle’s worst performance of the season so far, especially following the excellent results at Everton and Chelsea in the course of the 8 days previous.  Hopefully, like reliving the years of an adolescent teen there will be a lessons learned quickly.  If all else fails I suggest breaking the bank for Rory Delap…

Sep 27, 2010

Stoke (H) in 5 key points

26.09.2010 – Sunday 4.00pm
Barclays Premier League

Newcastle 1
Nolan (pen) 43

Stoke 2
Jones 67, Perch (og) 85

Following 2 excellent away wins against Everton and Chelsea (Carling Cup), Newcastle resumed their Premiership campaign with a home game against Stoke, hoping to build on their recent good form and climb up to 5th place with a win.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the case as they endured a disappointing 2-1 defeat to a determined Stoke side. Newcastle opened the scoring in the 43rd minute through a Kevin Nolan penalty, correctly awarded after Robert Huth had barged Andy Carroll over in the box. The goal extending Stoke’s unwanted run of trailing at half-time in every league match so far this season.

However, unlike in the Everton game, Newcastle were unable to hang on to the lead and struggled to deal with a number of Stoke set pieces. A headed equalizer from Kenwyne Jones from a Dean Whitehead free kick on 67 minutes, was followed with a ridiculous James Perch own goal 5 minutes from time, rising unchallenged at the front post to direct a bullet header into his own net from a Matt Etherington corner. This proved to be the match winner as Newcastle were unable to find a goal in the remaining 5 minutes plus 6 minutes of added time.

Here at Leazes Terrace we take a look at the 5 key points to analyse where it went wrong for Newcastle:

1. Square pegs in round holes

After resting 9 of his usual first 11 in the midweek Carling Cup clash against Chelsea, Chris Hughton brought back his ‘Premier League’ players and fielded the same starting 11 that were victorious in the previous Premier League game against Everton. James Perch also returned to the side after serving his 1 game suspension against Chelsea having picked up 5 yellow cards in the opening 5 Premier League games.

However, although this was the same starting 11 that beat Everton and looked on paper to be a 4-5-1, it was actually more of a 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2 with Kevin Nolan being pushed further up the field to support Andy Carroll. This was the same formation that was used in the previous home defeat against Blackpool and the issues that we highlighted then were evident again.

Kevin Nolan is not a centre forward and trying to play him there has a deterimental affect on his and the team’s performance. He has less impact in this position, highlighted by the fact he completed only 22 passes and made 2 tackles, compared to the previous game against Everton where he played in midfield and completed 36 passes and 6 tackles.

With Nolan unable to work the 2nd forward role, this left Andy Carroll isolated with little to work with and he was only able to manage 1 shot on target and completed only 9 passes.

2. Newcastle’s failure to convert possession into chances

Newcastle enjoyed the majority of possession 64% to Stoke’s 36% and completed 366 passes to Stoke’s 144 passes, however they were unable to convert this possession into goal scoring opportunities.

5 out of Newcastle’s 9 goals in the Premier League this season have been scored following crosses into the box. However poor crossing from Newcastle  prevented any more goals being scored this way, this is emphasised by the fact that Wayne Routledge attempted 8 crosses into the box, yet didn’t find a team mate with 1. Not the first time we have seen these type of numbers from Routledge, against Blackpool he attempted 6 crosses, yet 0 found a teammate.

3. Stifling Stoke

Newcastle struggled all game to find a way past the excellent Stoke defence, only managing 2 shots on target in open play and needing a penalty to find the breakthrough goal.

The Stoke back 4 completed a combined 10 tackles and 43 clearances as well as using their height to dominate in the air, especially Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross, both 6″3 and who made light work of everything that came into the box, making 13 clearances and 15 clearance respectively.

4. Successful Stoke substitutions

Early in the second half with the game tight and Newcastle enjoying the majority of possession, Tony Pulis opted to use his substitute’s bench, bringing on Ricardo Fuller for Salif Diao in the 50th minute, which was shortly followed by Rory Delap replacing Glenn Whelan in the 57th minute. 2 positive substitutions that ultimately changed the game.

Stoke have been labeled as a route one team, happy to hit it high and direct to their front men at the earliest opportunity. With the Sky cameras on them yesterday they attempted to dispel this theory by lining up with a 4-5-1 formation and, up until the substitutions, attempted to play ‘the right way’ by keeping the ball on the ground.

However with the substitutions came a change of formation and mentality, Stoke changed to their usual 4-4-2 formation and reverted back to their route one tactics. They launched the ball into the box as often as possible to Kenwyne Jones and Ricardo Fuller while also utilizing the long throw abilities of Rory Delap, who interestingly only attempted 10 passes while on the pitch, of which 7 were throw ins.

Stoke were positive with their substitutions in looking for the equalizer, then the winner and their route one tactics were justified with both goals coming from crosses into the Newcastle box.

5. Unsuccessful Newcastle substitutions

While Tony Pulis successfully utilized his plan B, Chris Hughton displayed some tactical naivety and struggled to get his substitutions right.

In pushing for a 2nd goal, Hughton replaced Hatem Ben Arfa just after the hour mark with Jonas Gutierrez. A surprising substitution, as if any player looked like creating a 2nd goal it was Ben Arfa with his direct and pacey runs at the Stoke defence, as well as his accurate passing – 28 passes completed out of 32 attempted. He also appears to have a better final ball than Gutierrez, although that is hardly an earth-shaking revelation.

As the Stoke onslaught continued, there was no Newcastle change made to deal with the continued aerial balls into the box, and after 2 warnings when Kenwyne Jones hit the post and then the bar, it was criminal that the same player then grabbed the equalizer following an aerial ball into the box. With Sol Campbell (6”2) on the bench, an option for Hughton would have been to bring him on for Coloccini (6”0) to deal with the aerial threat of Kenwyne Jones (6”1½).

After Stoke had equalized, Hughton pushed for a Newcastle 2nd, replacing Cheick Tiote with Shola Ameobi, bringing Kevin Nolan back into midfield. This was an equally surprising substitution with Tiote being arguably Newcastle’s best player with 36 completed passes, 4 interceptions and 4 tackles. With Kevin Nolan having a quiet game up front, surely it would have been a better option to do a direct swap for Ameobi, rather than re-jig the team to compromise Nolan and taking off the best player in the process.

At the end of the day..

This was a hugely disappointing result for Newcastle, especially following the excellent victories away to Everton and Chelsea. Stoke and Blackpool were 2 games that Newcastle fans would have hoped to get 4-6 points out of; 0 points from these games at this early stage of the season is concerning.

However, in fairness, Newcastle will consider themselves unfortunate to lose, having enjoyed more possession 64% to Stoke’s 36% and when considering that Stoke only managed 1 shot on target. Nevertheless Stoke were the more ambitious side in the second half and their ambition was rewarded with the 3 points.

As mentioned following the Blackpool game, hopefully Chris Hughton will review this game and will be working on his choice of tactics, team selection and the crossing of his wingers. If a 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2 formation is to be used then the right players must be selected, ie. a centre forward who can play alongside Carroll rather than a midfielder shoehorned into a position he is uncomfortable in.

Something that must be addressed following this game is to show awareness of opposition threats and adapt tactics to curtail the opposition’s strengths.  This isn’t the Championship where Newcastle knew as long as they played better than the opposition they would most likely win. This game proves that in the Premier League, where any team can beat any other on their day, being the best team isn’t always good enough, it requires the ability to create and score while managing the opposition’s threats. Without resorting to Sam Allardyce levels of negativity, Hughton has to show some caution to potential opposition dangers and adapt his tactics accordingly, not doing so as in the Stoke game is criminal and can prove the small difference between winning, losing or drawing games in the Premier League.

Newcastle’s next game is a difficult trip to Eastlands to face Manchester City. I expect a return to the 4-5-1 away formation which has been reasonably successful away from home this season, with Nolan dropping back into midfield.  Hopefully James Perch will be given a rest from first team action, in his first 6 games he has been booked 5 times and scored an own goal, perhaps being replaced at right back by Ryan Taylor.

Whoever it is that plays at right back can expect a torrid time against either James Milner, Adam Johnson or David Silva so another option for Hughton is to protect his right back by selecting Jonas Gutierrez in the right midfield position rather than Wayne Routledge. Out of the 2, Gutierrez offers more support to the defence, he can often be seen covering for Jose Enrique when playing left midfield, and his defensive qualities are highlighted by the 5 tackles he completed against Stoke in the short time he was on the pitch, compared to the 2 tackles made by Routledge.

PS – Coloccini made 1 tackle today, his 1st in 3 games!

Sep 24, 2010

CALL A PRESS CONFERENCE!


Denis Wise could never get a seat high enough...

Football clubs of the English premiership! Are you sick of having to reveal your new purchases to the world’s baying and drooling media?  Do you tire of the tedium of having to reveal your latest £400,000 a week superflop to your jobless fans who spend their days endlessly hanging around your stadium clad in full kit, salivating at the club shop window? Or are you just short of chairs, a table and a room bigger enough to hold 10 of the shoutiest men and enough photographers out-do a strobe light system at an Ibiza super club?  Either way, we have the solution for you….

Introducing the all new generic press conference statement!

For just £6,000,000 a transfer window you can present your newest acquisitions with their finest hacked to bits hair cut without exposing their preschool levels of coherence and intellect, and all before they become the flops of tomorrow and reach their ultimate but timely home on the latest red headed daily rag’s 100 worst signings of all time (since the last time).  Just read (or find a literate adult and get them to read) the statement below to Mr Johnny Honest Journalist and all your PR problems are solved…

MANAGER: “It’s a pleasure to have <INSERT PLAYER HERE> at the club – I’ve been tracking him for some time.  He is a very good, fast / strong / tough / young / old head with a good touch / shot / pass on him. (delete as applicable)

PLAYER: “It is a dream to be at <INSERT CLUB HERE>< INSERT CLUB HERE> was my first choice.  <INSERT CITY HERE> is a great place to live and I am very happy to be here.  I am looking forward to working with <INSERT MANAGER HERE>, he is a great tactician and has a huge respect in the game.  I have followed English football and I believe <INSERT CLUB HERE> have incredible fans who are so loyal and I look forward to playing in the big derby against <INSERT RIVAL CLUB HERE>.  I can’t wait to get playing and show the fans what I can do.

….

Sound familiar….does to me.  Don’t know why they waste our and their own, already heavily wasted time.  Interesting people are hard to find in football these days.  RIP Brian Clough.

Sep 24, 2010

Things they said..and probably shouldn’t have #5

Didier Drogba

21 September 2010

What is it about the Carling Cup? It certainly seems to bring out the delusion/ambition in some people. Following the comments from Rafael Van Der Vaart and Steve Bruce, next up was Didier Drogba.

When asked whether Chelsea could win the 4 competitions they are participating in this season, he had this to say:

“It’s very difficult, this is a very difficult things to achieve, Why not? If we do it it will be an amazing season”

Why not? You said it yourself Dider – it’s very difficult, and when a Chelsea team consisting of 6 first team players can’t beat a Newcastle team including 10 changes from the previous game then that’s why not.

Sep 23, 2010

Things they said..and probably shouldn’t have #4

Steve BruceSteve Bruce

21 September 2010

Following on from Rafael Van Der Vaart’s revelation that Spurs were a bigger club than Arsenal, Steve Bruce provided us with this piece of insight in the run up to the Carling Cup 3rd Round:

“We’ve got a home tie against Premier League opposition – we want to try and get through to the next round, it’s as simple as that. We are capable of winning the trophy. We can win five or six games; any team in the Premier League can do that.

Woah! hold your horses there Steve – Sunderland win five or six games…Thankfully this delusion was brought to a prompt end when a full strength Sunderland side suffered a 2-1 defeat against bottom of the league West Ham.

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