Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Newcastle shooting themselves in the foot

I was looking through some of the Premier League statistics (as you do) and something caught my eye, the team with the joint highest number of shots per game is Newcastle, only Chelsea and Liverpool have managed more. So why do Alan Pardew’s side find themselves lingering at the foot of the table?

First of all, on average, only 3.3 of those shots have been on target. That’s the fourth worst total in the league, so in fact only 21% of Newcastle’s shots are on target. So more interesting than shots or shots on target is this conversion figure, the number of shots a side is getting on target. When you look at that figure it makes a lot more sense as to why Newcastle sit second bottom and have scored just 5 goals this season.

Ronald Koeman’s Southampton have an impressive conversion rate of 45.5%, the highest in the league, closely followed by Swansea’s of around 41%. Not that surprising given the stellar starts to the season these two sides have made. The side with the lowest conversion is Aston Villa, just 20% of their shots are on target, despite their bright start to the season Villa have scored just 4 goals, their success has been based more on a solid defence, so this shouldn’t be too surprising either.

A further look at Newcastle’s shooting reveals something else interesting and another reason for their lack of goals. Just under half (43%) of their shots have come from outside the area, with 11% of shots coming from within the 6 yard box. It suggests Newcastle are panicking when they get near the box and shooting instead of trying to build up play patiently and work a better opening. This theory is backed up by the fact that just 29% of touches by Newcastle players are in the final third.

Admittedly, this would be okay if Newcastle were playing fast, incisive counter attacking football but this isn’t the case, the build up is laboured but also lacks the patience to work the ball into good positions. They might have themselves caught in a bit of a vicious circle here, especially at home, the fans are rightly upset at the level of performance this season and a backwards pass is more likely to be met with groans than at times when results are going well.

If you compare similar statistics to Southampton the differences are clear. Under Koeman Saints have had 35% of their shots from outside of the box, more shots from inside the box has given them more shots on target and that has led to a greater number of goals. Interestingly, Southampton have the same percentage (29) of touches in the final third. It’s clear that they’re making those touches count more than Newcastle.

Another statistic which highlights Newcastle’s lack of forward creativity is their lack of offsides so far this season, they’ve had just 1 in 6 games. To offer a comparison, Southampton have had 2.3 offsides per game, the second highest in the division. Obviously, you don’t want your players to be offside constantly but a higher number of offsides would suggest players making runs in behind. That rings true with Newcastle, from watching them this season they’ve looked very static going forward, lacking movement or runners from deep, and have also seen their main striker isolated a lot of the time.

Whether or not Pardew can doing anything about this remains to be seen, maybe he should encourage his players to work the ball in to the box and be more patient. To be honest this only half the problem, Newcastle’s defensive concerns are probably more cause for concern.

Statistics courtesy of

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