Sep 19, 2010

Match Report: Everton (A)


Can I have a view with that post please?


18.09.2010 – Saturday 3:00pm

Barclays Premier League

Everton – 0

-

Newcastle United – 1

Ben Arfa

Location: Goodison Park
MOM: Hatem Ben Arfa
NUFC Performance: 9/10

Rocky 0 – 1 Rocket!

I wonder if Sly Stallone was watching this game.  Surely with the obscene amount of cash he’s made from being filmed having big muscles, a deep voice and zero sophistication he could set up a live feed to Goodison Park to watch his beloved Everton at any point in between filming the latest Hollywood blow-em-up b#llocks.  No idea why he would want to?  In reality, neither have I – who would want to gaze longingly at a stadium constructed 70% out of rotting wood and carved around the local council houses. But in case you’re wondering may I cast your mind back to this…

Good old Rocky himself is apparently an Everton fan! Genuinely as well, and in no way would that relate to any past, present or future film promotion…  I say good luck to the man anyway – it makes a change to the standard Americanism of supporting either Manchester Rovers or Chelsea All Stars.  The people’s champ seems to slot quite well with Everton’s self professed ‘people’s club’ tagging.  However, the chances that he was actually watching are about as likely as seeing John Prescott pose topless in playboy magazine. If he had been watching he would be quickly changing his chang beer for a brown ale as the blue half of Merseyside failed to turn up at any point and created the easiest away victory for a Newcastle side since the thrashing of Ipswich on their own parish just less than a year earlier.

Newcastle, as standard these days, started cautiously, sizing up their opponent, jabbing at the Everton skin here and there to locate weaknesses.  Soon it became apparent the ‘people’s club’ had a person missing at right back and the ever energetic Jose Enrique started to maraud up the left flank with the debutant Ben Arfa linking well and creating headaches of his own.  Despite this the game was lacking a serious break through, which came in some style just before the stroke of half time.  An industrious run infield by the tireless Routledge found Ben Arfa on his left – Everton defenders quite happy to deal with a potential cross showed him outside and effectively said ‘go on new kid – you think your all that, have a shot then…’.  He duly replied and set off a rocket from roughly 25 yards flying into the top corner of the net.

An Everton fight back was expected in the second half and despite having the home advantage, which included the hapless and ridiculous referee Andre Marriner (6 years too long as top flight referee) – whose insistence of giving Everton a free kick every time one of their players hit the deck was only bettered by his two howlers that would have had Stevie Wonder rubbing his eyes in disbelief.  The first being a Fellaini elbow on Williamson which was seen and deemed only a yellow card (in keeping with the physical abuse we had against Wolves) and the second, a clumsy but clean take down on Nolan as he bared down on goal, again with a clear, close view of the challenge, yet inexplicably waved on.

Despite an attempted injury time fight back we hung on fairly comfortably and registered our first away win of the season.  On another point, although it was disappointing to see Harper injured after a clumsy but not malicious challenge from Beckford, I look forward to seeing Tim Krul have his chance to prove himself at the highest level.

Sep 19, 2010

Everton (A) in 5 key points

18.09.2010 – Saturday 3.00pm
Barclays Premier League

Hatem Ben Arfa celebrating goal against EvertonEverton 0

Newcastle 1
Ben Arfa 45

After a disappointing home defeat against Blackpool in their last game, Newcastle travelled to Goodison Park for their Premier League tie against Everton. On a ground where they have struggled in the past, a point would have been seen as a good result.

However, Newcastle exceeded all expectations and left with all 3 points following a fantastic 1-0 victory. After conceding a goal at the end of the 1st half the previous week, Newcastle popped up with a 45th minute goal of their own, courtesy of a stunning 25 yard strike from Marseille loanee Hatem Ben Arfa, which proved to be decisive as the only goal of the game.

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

1. Return to the 4-5-1 ‘away’ formation

After an unsuccessful 4-4-2 formation in the previous game, Chris Hughton returned to the 4-5-1 formation which was largely used in away games last season in the Championship and which has proved successful this season against Aston Villa and Wolves.

As we predicted following the Blackpool defeat, Tiote and Ben Arfa came in for Smith and Gutierrez, while Nolan dropped back into midfield to make up the midfield 5, something that the Newcastle players appear to be more comfortable with. It also gave Newcastle a numerical advantage in midfield where they were able to enjoy and retain posession, 55% compared to Everton’s 45%, while also using the numerical advantage in midfield to pressurise the Everton players in posession, with the midfield making 14 interceptions and 20 tackles. They also combined well to stifle one of Everton’s danger men Marouane Fellaini who only managed to complete 10 passes.

2. Nolan’s return to the midfield

Kevin Nolan returned to the midfield to take up his position as the most forward man in the central midfield 3. This is a position which Nolan seems to relish and where he can have more of an impact on the game. It allows him to act as the link man between the midfield and forward(s), timing his runs to perfection and rarely getting caught offside (take note Shola), this should have resulted in a penalty award against Everton if it weren’t for the ineptness of referee Andre Marriner failing to spot a blatant foul on him in the box.

Nolan’s contribution was highlighted by the fact he completed 36 passes and 6 tackles, compared to the previous game against Blackpool where he was played out of position as a forward and only completed 13 passes and 0 tackles, lending strength to the argument that he works better as an attacking midfield player.

3. Jose Enrique owns the left hand side

A key performer last year in the Championship, Jose Enrique has carried on his excellent form in the Premier League and was in top form again against Everton.

As well as being difficult to get past thanks to his pace and frame, Enrique displayed his passing ability, completing 42 passes, while also successfully and accurately finding a Newcastle teammate with 6 clearances. Enrique was also keen to get forward and bring the ball out of defence, something which is highlighted by the fact that 57% of his passes were made around the half way line.

‘Get some paint on your boots son’ were the words of wisdom that I was given back in my left wing days, to emphasise the point that I should’ve been closer to the touchline. Perhaps Enrique was given similar advice, against Everton he spent 98% of the game in the left quadrant of the pitch, if it’s not broke then don’t try and fix it right?

4. Joey Barton excellent in midfield

Joey Barton continued his excellent start to the season and was dominant in the midfield. He was key in breaking up the Everton attacks, making 3 tackles and 2 interceptions, while also making forward runs when in possession and keeping the ball moving in midfield, completing 39 passes. It’s testament to Barton that he is now arguably 1 of the first names on the teamsheet following a disappointing and injury-prone first 3 years at the club. A real contender for man of the match.

5. Promising full debuts from new boys

There is a common excuse belief that players from abroad need a ‘settling in’ period in English football. This notion didn’t apply to Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa who both slotted into the team at ease on their full debuts.

Tiote had a solid game in the centre of midfield and was key in Newcastle retaining possession, completing an impressive 100% of attempted passes: 43 attempted, 43 completed as well as breaking up play with 3 tackles.

Ben Arfa capped a promising debut with a fantastic goal. Playing as a winger he demonstrated his ability to run at and beat the opposition, while offering a outlet on the counter attack. Ben Arfa has been compared to other French ex-Newcastle players: Ginola and Robert, 2 players who were excellent going forward but were criticised for their defensive side of the game, this doesn’t seem to be an issue for Ben Arfa who showed his ability to ‘get stuck in’ by completing 7 tackles and making 5 interceptions.

At the end of the day..

This was a superb result for Newcastle and an excellent way to bounceback following the disappointment of the previous game against Blackpool.

Newcastle were the better team throughout, enjoying more possession 55% to Everton’s 45% and more shots on target 4 to Everton’s 3, and were good value for the win.

Credit must go to Chris Hughton for getting the tactics and team selection spot on, as well as looking to have strengthened the team with some shrewd signings in Ben Arfa and Tiote. Newcastle’s defence has come under a lot of criticism in recent years but there seems to be a strong understanding between the back four and they must share some of the credit for preventing Everton from scoring and achieving a 2nd Premier League clean sheet of the season. Interestingly, Coloccini made 0 tackles for the 2nd game running.

The next game against Chelsea in the Carling Cup will presumably see Hughton rest a few of his first team players ahead of the home game next Sunday against Stoke, where it is likely the same side that started this game will be named except for Krul in for the injured Harper as well as a replacement for Perch who will begin a suspension following his 5th booking in 5 games.

ps – this was the Liverpool Echo’s take on the game:

Worryingly, Everton were outplayed by a visiting side with less supposedly world-class players and one which was largely unchanged from the team relegated two seasons ago

Firstly, I can’t think of 1 single world class player that Everton have. Secondly this Newcastle team had 8 changes to it from the team that played against Aston Villa on the day Newcastle were relegated, hardly largely unchanged

Sep 13, 2010

Match Report: Blackpool (H)

Holland - the poor man's Blackpool

11.09.2010 – Saturday 3:00pm

Barclays Premier League

Newcastle United – 0

-

Blackpool – 2

Adam (pen), Campbell

Location: St James
MOM: Charlie Adam
NUFC Performance: 3/10

Expecting the expected…

Of course it was going to happen.  Like a fat lass heading for a free buffet, you could see this coming from a mile away.  Football, and in particular Newcastle United, is so unpredictable it has paradoxically become predictable.  We came into this match on the back of a solid point (and miraculously no broken bones) at the cage fighting ring that is Molineux, and the sound spanking of Aston Villa, playing a team that no shorter than 4 league home matches previously we had rang a comfortable 4-1 win against.  Of course we’ll pick up 3 points again – sure Blackpool are on the crest of a wave and fear no-one as their premiership life flourishes to the satisfaction of genuine lovers of football, but we are a newly promoted team also and have the benefit of knowing what to expect of Blackpool.  What we failed to expect however was the expected.

Before this season started I made the bold (and frankly ridiculous) statement that ‘no team in the premiership had an excuse to lose to Blackpool at home’.  After seeing them surge late into the playoffs after being generally decent but not a genuine threat to the head end of the Championship table, there was no reason to expect that their tenure in the world’s most overrated league would be anything other than a long, hard slog – the kind of which would make a long bleak winter mining iron ore in the depths of Siberia look more appealing.  However, I fell into the same trap that found me in the company of Soccer Saturday’s finest ‘experts’ (a term used upon these men so loosely it would be more accurate to describe them all as piano playing Bolivian sock merchants) in brashly underplaying the little new addition’s chance of success.  I have recognised my heinous mistake and have since punished myself duly by watching and re-watching our deserved reverse at the hands of Blackpool (I tried telling myself we were playing Holland instead, but that held no weight as this team clad in orange were actually playing football and not kicking us up a f#ckin’ height).

Regardless, it was just one of those days for Newcastle.  We deserved to lose, no doubt, I mean, howay – we couldn’t score – you don’t score you don’t win, it’s not hard to work that out.  But if we had scored any of our early chances, Nolan’s 1 on 1, Williamson’s header off the post, then I thoroughly believe the day would have been different.  But having Alan Smith on the pitch always equals liability and having the oaf in your own box with the opposition in possession has a direct route towards a penalty being award. I’m guessing on his tackling performances he’s been mentoring James Perch… 0-1 down at half time – not the best of scenarios but huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf after smoking a 200 sleeve got us nowhere in the 2nd half as the ball just couldn’t find the back of the net through a combination of over confidence, weak shooting and an alert Matt Gilks.  Ultimately our frantic pressing lead to leaving a grand total of no players at the back to defend a Blackpool counter, with Dudley-Johnson Campbell (he’s has never and will never be a ‘DJ’) slotting a fine finish in the Leazes goal to leave us staring at our first real, and thoroughly disappointing defeat of the season.  Should have seen it coming…

Sep 13, 2010

Blackpool (H) in 5 key points

11.09.2010 – Saturday 3.00pm
Barclays Premier League

Charlie Adam and Luke Varney celebratingNewcastle 0

Blackpool 2
Adam 45 (pen)
DJ Campbell 90

After a promising start to the season with 4 points from 9, Newcastle’s 4th game of the season brought a home tie against Blackpool, a team they beat 4-1 last season at St James’ and who finished 32 points worse off in the league. It was a game that Newcastle fans identified as one which they should be winning if they are to stay in the Premier League and without being overly unrealistic (take note sky), it was one which they expected to win.

However, this was a different Blackpool side to the one faced last season, a more organised and resilient side, strengthened by 13 astute signings over the summer by manager, Ian Holloway (and they say Harry Redknapp is the wheeler dealer..). It was also one which left St James’ Park with all 3 points following a 2-0 victory with goals at the end of each half; a penalty in the 45th minute by Charlie Adam and a counter attacking DJ Campbell goal in the 90th minute.

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

1. Newcastle’s change of formation fails to pay off

The 4-5-1 that Chris Hughton has adopted this season has had a relative degree of success, especially in the previous two games against Aston Villa and Wolves. The midfield trio of Nolan, Barton and Smith have combined effectively to pressurise and shut down opposition attacks, while Nolan in particular has got forward well to support lone front man Andy Carroll.

However adapting the formation to 4-4-2 for this game left the midfield short of numbers in the middle and highlighted a few weaknesses in the team.

2. Kevin Nolan ineffective up front

Pushing Kevin Nolan into a centre forward position highlighted his lack of pace and positional unawareness.  When the ball was flicked on by Carroll, Nolan either didn’t have the pace to get onto the pass or wasn’t in the right place to receive it. This isn’t being critical of Kevin Nolan as a player, on another day he could have had a goal and an assist, but more that he was played out of position and was unable to adapt and have an impact on the game.

This was highlighted by the fact he only completed 13 passes (compared to Barton’s 46) and had 1 shot on target. If Nolan is to play, he is more effective from an attacking midfield position where he can link up with the other midfielders while choosing his moments to get forward to support the attack, as he did well in the previous games against Wolves and Aston Villa where he completed an average of 18 passes and had 3 shots on target.

3. Alan Smith unable to stamp authority in midfield

Alan Smith struggled in the 2 man midfield against the 3 man midfield of Blackpool, he sat deep but was unable to break up the play, conceding more fouls (1 free kick, 1 penalty) than he did tackles (1), whilst also unable to make a telling contribution going forward, completing only 18 passes, again compared to Barton’s 46.

Again if we look at Smith’s stats in the previous games against Wolves and Aston Villa, we can see that he averaged more completed passes (24) and more tackles (2), suggesting that he may work better as part of a 3 man midfield.

4. Newcastle’s poor wing play

Both Newcastle wingers had poor games and struggled to create anything of note. Jonas Gutierrez attempted 6 crosses into the box with 0 reaching a Newcastle player.  Whilst on the other side Wayne Routledge only managed to complete 2 crosses into the box. Both players failing to turn the possession they had into goal-scoring chances for the forwards.

Shola Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa appeared in the second half replacing Gutierrez and Routledge, however although Ben Arfa showed some positive and direct touches while in possession of the ball, neither could grab an assist or get on the scoresheet. If Newcastle are to play with Andy Carroll as a front man they must utilise his aerial ability with better crosses into the box.

5. Blackpool defending in numbers

After going a goal up at the end of first half, the second half saw Blackpool revert from their 4-3-3 formation to a 4-5-1 with each of the midfielders behind the ball while Newcastle attacked, leaving DJ Campbell on his own up front to chase down any lose balls that made it his way.

Blackpool spent the majority of the second 45 camped in their own half, a stat which is highlighted by the fact that Fabricio Coloccini didn’t make a single tackle or block in the whole game, and was left relatively unchallenged to complete 33 out of 34 attempted passes.

A combination of good organisation and dogged and disciplined defending in numbers proved successful as Newcastle were unable to find a way through. Blackpool also showed a real desire not to concede, the defence making 8 blocks in the penalty area, and goalkeeper Matt Gilks in seemingly unbeatable form. A worthy man of the match winner. Gilks’ shot stopping abilities are highlighted by the fact that after 4 games of the premiership season he has recorded the most saves in the Premier League with 20 so far.

At the end of the day..

This was an unexpected and very disappointing result for Newcastle, it was a game that on paper Newcastle should have won, yet to quote Sir Bobby, ‘games aren’t played on paper’.  The fans shouldn’t be too disheartened however, Newcastle had the majority of possession and created the most chances and on another day it could have been a different outcome had Nolan, Barton and Carroll taken their chances. Yes, this was an opportunity lost and a reality check but this game has to be put to one side, the season is decided over 38 games not after a 0-2 defeat or a 6-0 win.

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 4-4-2 formation is to be used then the right players must be selected, ie. a midfielder who can play as part of a 2 man midfield and a centre forward who can play alongside Carroll.

After keeping faith with the same team for the opening four games of the season, this defeat gives Hughton the opportunity to make changes, perhaps replacing the disappointing Smith and Gutierrez for Tiote and Ben Arfa from the start, while probably returning to the 4-5-1 ‘away’ formation seeing Nolan drop back into midfield. Lovenkrands’ inclusion is also worth considering as he brings pace and movement to compliment Andy Carroll’s strength and aerial ability.

Interestingly James Perch kept up his 100% record of being booked in every game this season, the only player to hold this record in the Premier League – played 4, booked 4.

PS – If you would like to see the game again for yourself, you can buy the celebratory DVD from the official Blackpool FC website for £5. No word yet on the open top bus parade..

Sep 9, 2010

Second Generation Glory Hunting

Sven Goran ErikssonIt’s not uncommon nowadays to see a football supporter in Newcastle wearing a Manchester United or Chelsea replica shirt. The first thought that comes into my mind is, ‘look at that glory hunting little sh*t, supporting the best team in the league’. Now it may well be that the wearer is from the city of the team that they support, in that case, fair play they are being loyal to, and supporting their local team.

However, if they aren’t from the city of the team they support, have no obvious allegiance to the team and the team just happens to be the best in the league, to me they’re a gloryhunter:

‘But they were the first team that I saw play live’
‘But they play the most entertaining football’
‘But Manchester is my favourite word and United is my second favourite’

Sorry mate, you’re a glory hunter.

However, there is one reason which usually waives the stigma of glory hunting by putting the blame firmly at the door of the father. I have heard this reason given by my mate and ex-England manager Sven Goran Eriksson (two different people… although both support Liverpool having not being born there):

‘Why do I support Liverpool when I’ve been born in raised in Newcastle/Sweden? Because my dad did’

Usually the response to this is along the lines of, ‘oh right, fair enough’, and the questioning stops, we take it as an acceptable reason to be a glory hunter. However, it is not, the probing must continue.

This was how the conversation went with my mate as I’m not on speaking terms with Sven, we haven’t fallen out, I just don’t know him:

‘You know you said you support Liverpool because your dad does?’
‘Yes’
‘Well was he from Liverpool’
‘No, Newcastle as well’
‘So why does he support Liverpool?’
‘Probably because they were the best team when he was growing up in the 70s’
‘So he lived in Newcastle? he supported Liverpool who were the best team when he was growing up? he’s a glory hunter! And by following in his footsteps, and using him as your excuse for your glory hunting ways – you are a second generation glory hunter! You’re glory hunting through your dad!’

Maybe the conversation didn’t go as smoothly as that to highlight my point, but the facts are correct and I had caught my first second generation glory hunter.

Within England, I’d imagine the most common 2nd generation glory hunters will support Liverpool F.C (due to their dominance in the 1970s) and Manchester United F.C (due to their dominance in the 1950s and 1960s). Although I expect a number of Chelsea supporting second generation glory hunters to pop up in the next 10 years, perhaps the next lot after that will be Man City fans if the sheikh has his way.

If you know a glory hunter who says the reason they support their team is because their father did, question them further…why did their father support them? Was he from the area? Let me know if you know a second generation glory hunter: leazesterrace@gmail.com I would like to add to my collection, I have two so far…

NB – I first posted this theory in 2008 on Wikipedia. Turns out that I didn’t have enough references (as the theory was made up) so it got removed. To my surprise I found it on an American website called Statemaster who have decided to host it on their website without giving any credit. Tsk!

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