Newcastle United’s Andy Carroll salvaged the Geordies an undeserved point at Swansea City on Saturday lunch time. With just one win in the last six away games, is their form on the road going to cost them Premier League football?
Saturday’s lunchtime kick off at Swansea City vs. Newcastle United promised to be the Championship game of the day with Newcastle 2nd behind West Brom, be it with a game in hand and Swansea in 5th place. The game in fact turnout to be quite poor, Swansea dominated possession throughout the 90 minutes, even more so than a home side should. The stat of 51% Swansea City possession to Newcastle United’s 49% does not tell the whole story. Newcastle only came into the game the last seven minutes after suddenly waking up to the fact they were losing, again.
Swansea had the most chances and should have killed Newcastle off when Substitute Pintado swiped at thin air when fed the ball from 8 yards out with six minutes to go. Andy Carroll who in all honesty had a bit of shocker and was lucky not to be sent off just a few minutes earlier for an elbow, rose to head home Leon Best’s cross to equalise for the Magpies with 3 minutes left. This was after David Cotterill had put Swansea ahead with a great 20 yard curler that left Harper stranded.
Of particular frustration to Saturday’s performance for Newcastle was not only the passing, simple ten yard ball passes being misplaced on numerous occasions, was the lack of communication between the players. I counted on at least 3 occasions when Kevin Nolan was kicked off the ball when a simple ‘man on’ shout was required. It was nowhere near the ‘bounce back’ performance Newcastle fans were promised after the shambles at Derby.
Having being to see Newcastle play away from home numerous times this season I am becoming worried. Newcastle as showed against Swansea yesterday can be pretty awful on their travels. Chris Hughton has worked wonders this season there is no denying that, but away from home Newcastle at times are abject. I understand the tactic Hughton employs when Newcastle United plays away, a 4-5-1 situation with Carroll as the lone front man. Long balls are hit towards the 6ft 4in target man to whom Nolan runs off him to attempt pick up the ball. This failing the midfield of Smith, Guthrie, Butt or whoever is in the middle of the park push up to win any 50/50 balls that result from the knock down, furthermore set pieces have become one of Newcastle’ main goal outlet’s.
Not only is it awful to watch, which if Newcastle fans are winning surely do not care, but is it necessary against most teams? It seems to me to be a tactic as to not getting beat, not actually going for the win. It has worked at times for Newcastle this season, particularly early on against Cardiff and Sheffield United, yet it appears to be faltering. Was it necessary to play such a defensive minded game when playing Barnsley at Oakwell? Is there that much of lack of confidence in the players he has to be able to knock the ball around and play freely? No offence to Barnsley but Newcastle United just has better players. For long periods in the 2-2 draw at Oakwell earlier this season Barnsley had much more possession and could have got more than a draw. Newcastle United has lacked a creative midfielder for a number of years; yet do not seem to have addressed it in numerous transfer windows, this could explain their lack of creative football away from home. At St James’s Park this season Newcastle have been majestic at time. The 5-1 victory over Cardiff last week just highlights the glaring difference in home and away form for the Magpies.
Whilst I am not naive to suggest that playing away from home does not give a disadvantage to the travelling side, it is not a disadvantage to the performance levels to which Newcastle drop on their travels. Newcastle United’s 4 losses this season have all been recorded away from St James Park. With Nottingham Forest stuttering, Newcastle is being let off for their poor away form, but it must be of concern to Newcastle fans and Chris Hughton.