5 Observations – Cardiff v Newcastle

On a sunny October afternoon, Newcastle won 2-1 against Cardiff in a game that looked comfortable for Newcastle for two thirds of the match, only to allow Cardiff back into the game and set up a tense end to the final whistle.

After a dismal first half performance against Everton, Pardew selected the team that finished the game so well on Monday night.  Yanga Mbiwa, Ben Arfa and Anita made way for Williamson, Cabaye and Tiote. Newcastle lining up in their now familiar 4-3-3 formation. Cardiff lined up the same fashion with new signing Peter Odemwingie keeping ex-Mag Craig Bellamy on the bench.

NEWCASTLE DOMINATE FIRST HALF

Carrying on from Monday night’s second half performance against Everton, Newcastle continued the good form and played extremely well in the first half, dominating play, pressing hard to regain possession and converting possession into shots – many inside their 18 yard box.  The shot dashboard below the amount of shots Newcastle had on David Marshall, who made some good point blank saves and akin to Everton’s first half display, it could have easily been 4 or 5 at half time.

NUFC Shots

Newcastle bombard Cardiff’s goalmouth

NEWCASTLE STOP CARDIFF

…well for the majority of the match  Up until the goal, Newcastle defended extremely well against Cardiff’s forwards.  The midfield of Tiote and Cabaye were back to their best working in tandem, pressing quickly when Cardiff were in possession and also with the defence playing well, Newcastle restricted Cardiff to only a handful of chances.  When Cardiff scored with their first shot on target on the 57th minute, Cardiff only had four attempts on goal; 2 from outside of the area and the other 2 were snatched chances thanks to some effective defending.  Even after Odemwingie’s goal, they only had one clear cut chance, however it was still a nervous period for Newcastle.

Lack of shots from Cardiff

Lack of shots from Cardiff

The lack of shots from the home team was a result from Newcastle pressing Cardiff whenever they had possession and as you can see from the diagram below, Newcastle made twice as many interceptions compared to the home team (25 v 12).

Cardiff with only 12 interceptions (left) compared to Newcastle (right), who were pressing more effectively with 25

Cardiff with only 12 interceptions (left) compared to Newcastle (right), who were pressing more effectively with 25

RETURN OF THE OLD GUARD

With Yanga Mbiwa replacing Steven Taylor in central defence, there’s an argument that our central defence look weak in the air.  Neither Coloccini or Yanga Mbiwa are particular strong in the air and this has been exposed in previous weeks. The much maligned Mike Williamson does have his limits, but one of his strongest points is his defensive capabilities in the air and last Monday, this helped in nullifying Lukaku’s play in the second half against Everton. Yesterday, saw another steady display from Williamson.  He won 9 out of his 10 aerial duels, 1 tackle, 18 clearances, 3 interceptions. Other than the mistake that led to Cardiff’s goal, he was solid in central defence.

Williamson defending well

Williamson defending well

Another player who has had his recent critics is Cheik Tiote.  In a piece I did for EPL Index, his defensive work as a defensive midfielder is the best at the club, but what has let him down recently is his lapses of concentration, playing aimless long balls and being caught in possession. It was a similar story yesterday, as he did the defensive duties well. He was successful in 5 tackles (most in the Newcastle team) and made 3 interceptions.  However, as seen below, he lost possession by attempting various long balls and was caught in possession on 4 occasions.

Tiote - the good and the bad

Tiote – the good and the bad

CABAYE BACK TO BEST

He helped changed the game against Everton and on Saturday, he was everywhere on the park. As depicted in the player dashboard below, he contributed well defensively all over the pitch as he made 3 interceptions down the middle of the park, 3 tackles and 2 clearances.  Offensively, he created 2 scoring opportunities, had 2 shots on target and was unlucky not to score from a free kick,  A fantastic all round midfield display from the Frenchman.

Cabaye - influential performance and all over the pitch

Cabaye – influential performance and all over the pitch

STICK OR TWIST

As Newcastle conceded midway through the second half, this gave Cardiff an impetus to look for the equaliser and Newcastle came under a lot of pressure. Ex-mag Craig Bellamy was brought on to help look for the equaliser. As the chants of ‘Hatem Ben Arfa’ came from the away end of the ground as the pressure seemed relentless, it was a right decision from Pardew to bring on Gutierrez to help give some added protection for Santon – a ploy adopted by Pardew at the start of the 2010/11 season, as Gutierrez helped protect Ryan Taylor.  I would have moved Remy up top and taken the hapless Papiss Cisse off though. If Ben Arfa came on, although you might have the opportunity to grab the third, but with his tendacy to lose the ball with his mazy runs, it was a gamble that Pardew didn’t want to take. In the end, Pardew brought Ben Arfa on towards the latter stages once Cabaye had run himself into the ground.

For the lack of attacking prowess that Jonas gives Newcastle, he makes up in abundance with work rate and defensive qualities – useful when trying to see the game out.  Once he was brought on, in 20 minutes left, he made a couple of tackles, a clearance and also helped to retain the ball.

Using Gutierrez as a defensive substitute

Using Gutierrez as a defensive substitute

SUMMARY

It was a well deserved victory for Newcastle, and it would have been unjust if Cardiff managed to salvage a draw in the dying minutes.  Despite Newcastle’s dominance in the shots department, some poor finishing from Cisse and Sissoko and a Odemwingie goal allowed Cardiff to put the jitters into Newcastle, as we scrambled over the finishing line. A lot of positives can be taken away from the result, a defensive line that looked a lot more composed than the first half at Goodison, Cabaye back to his best and also an in form Remy, who looks to have settled into the black and white shirt with his 5th goal in as many games.

An international break sees a calm before the storm, as we face four difficult Premier League fixtures in Liverpool (h), Mackems (a), Chelsea (h) and Spurs (a), with a tough league cup tie thrown in the middle for good measure. We’ll need more of the same, if we’ve got any chance of getting results in any of these games.

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