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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


What Went Right For Newcastle & Wrong For Swansea

Written by on April 7, 2012 | 6 Comments »
Posted in English Premier League, Newcastle United, Swansea City

The statistics were massively in favour of Swansea but they still lost 2-0 to Newcastle on Good Friday. Here are some of the stats that stand out:

Attempted shots – Swansea 19; Newcastle 5

Passes (successful/attempted) – Swansea 835/914; Newcastle 181/271

Completed % – Swansea 91%; Newcastle 67%

Possession – Swansea 77%; Newcastle 23%

Corners – Swansea 7; Newcastle 0

In amongst the numbers were some key things Newcastle did right that Swansea did not have an answer for.

Newcastle took their opportunities.


Papiss Demba Cisse was quite lethal in putting away two of the three chances that came his way. The other fell to Hatem Ben Arfa.

Compare Newcastle’s chance-taking to just one player from Swansea – Gylfi Sigurdsson. Since he arrived on loan from Hoffenheim the attacking midfielder has impressed. But he alone had seven chances and of his three on target all were long-range efforts. With three chances from inside the penalty area Sigurdsson missed the target with one and had two others blocked. 

Swansea decided to leave leading scorers Danny Graham and Scott Sinclair on the bench. Luke Moore started through the centre with Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer operating wide. Dyer and Moore made way for Graham and Sinclair in the 66th minute but within 3 minutes Newcastle had gone two up. The starting front three made very little impact on a Newcastle midfield and defence that sat deep and remained compact. 

Dyer was pushed deep and more times than not there was too much real estate between Dyer and the Newcastle danger area. Only two successful take-ons from 49 passes clearly indicates that the tactic of opening up the Newcastle defence by attacking the full backs with pace just did not work.

The same applies to Wayne Routledge.

Although the Newcastle defence sat deep Luke Moore could not offer the Swansea midfield an option for a ball forward into and around the penalty area. Instead he dropped deep too often and simply collected the ball in positions where two banks of defenders stood between him and a goal scoring chance.

His one attempt on goal was not surprisingly from distance.

With two goals you might have expected Papiss Demba Cisse to have played the conventional lone striker role. The reality was different – particularly in the first half. Working together with Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba the trio would rotate with Ben Arfa popping up in a number of different areas (even as the lone striker on occasion); Demba Ba moving between the left side of midfield and striker; Cisse sometimes dropping back to midfield while others took his place in attack.


 Cisse’s first goal came after he dropped deeper.

For all Swansea’s possession and passing domination they could not find a way to deliver telling passes behind the Newcastle defence and into the penalty area.

Any thoughts on Newcastle’s 2-0 win against Swansea?

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6 responses to “What Went Right For Newcastle & Wrong For Swansea”

  1. J Rob says:

    Great piece. I think Pardew has to be one of the most tactically astute managers around.

    Poor defending for both Newcastle goals but Cisse still had a lot to do to score on both occasions. The right-back was very guilty of ball-watching for the 2nd and the first came about because of some sloppy marking.

    In complete contrast to Newcastle, I suffered through watching another typical LFC performance at Anfield this season where they:
    – dominated possession
    – hit the woodwork three times, spurned 2 sitters (Kuyt’s shot and Carroll’s header)
    – were guilty of some terrible crossing and shooting from distance
    – conceded a goal from a defensive (goal-keeping) error
    – and got no joy from 2 handballs in the box. This being a blessing because they would have only missed the resulting penalties

    Has there ever been a more profligate team? I am sure Arsenal fans can think of one from 2 or 3 seasons ago.

    One bright spot was Agger’s re-appearance. He and Skertel are arguably the 2nd best central-defensive pairing in the EPL.

  2. Ed Gomes says:

    Everyone wants to see the “Jogo Bonito”, and for some reason a lot of people equate that with possession and passing. The problem is that doesn’t always equate to goals and wins.
    Barca is looked upon as the ultimate “beautiful game” squad, that moves the ball with precision and purpose. What people tend to forget is that they have a fantastic attacking mid and strikers. When they are looking to score, they are truly a sight to see. The movement, passing and shooting is something to behold. Not all teams that maintain possession, have the caliber of talent to push through on net and score at will.
    Let me add, that I’m also one that believes Barca can be one of the most boring teams on the planet. Yest they can be thrilling when attacking, but if they’re in the mood to just hold a lead, they will tic tac the ball between their back line and mids all day. Very boring futebol.
    The fact remains that Newcastle was never truly bothered all day. Since they scored, all was well and you can say they allowed Swansea to knock it around as much as they wanted.

  3. jimsakeeper says:

    Cogent analysis Bobby. I made a point of watching because I am trying to understand how Swansea is doing it. How are they middle of the table, playing this ersatz Barcelona possession game with local talent?

    Like Barca on a bad day, they had possession and struggled to finish chances. Perhaps the difference is no equivalent of Messi.

    Newcastle were outplayed in terms of possession but Swansea lacks the deadly striker that the Jordies brought. Of course they are not local lads but good moves in the transfer market.

  4. John Keefer says:

    I think much credit needs to go to Pardew. I think his take was why pressure up and chase Swansea on their half of the field as an opening measure. Your rotating lone striker assessment is astute and Papiss, Ba and HBA are the type of players to pull that plan off. It was a strategic chess match and not scintillating football but if you like the tactical side of the game this was a Pardew masterpiece. Once Cicce scored the pressure was on Swansea but nufc was hunkered down. While successful in passing Swansea showed no real teeth in attack, unlike a Barca or Arsenal. Pardew let them play their game and they paid the price for it.

  5. Andre says:

    At times (like this game) Swansea reminds me of Arsenal from 2-3 years ago. When Cesc was out of the line-up they routinely dominated posession but had a really tough time finding the killer through-ball. Unfortunately for them they were up against a Newcastle side that was able to take their chances.

    Swansea are going to be fine, but even if they weren’t I think it is admirable that a promoted side with modest resources has chosen to take a risk and play this style. I know people credit for Roberto Martinez for trying to bring that game to Wigan but Swansea have done a much better job of it. I don’t know how many people saw this coming in August but I certainly didn’t.

  6. Tony R says:

    Sorry to backtrack all the way to Dec 10th 2010 BUT..

    There was a big caffufle about the sacking of Chris Houghton which saw many pundits attack Mike Ashley for this action, and also saying that Newcastle would be worse off than Chelsea when it comes to these moves.. well I hate to say I think i was right, albeit Chelsea are in the CL final but only through a revitalized club under di Matteo (oh another players goto guy like Wilkins was). Here we are with Newcastle ahead of Chelsea on points and Pardew manager of the year because of some excellent signings and team building so I reaffirm my argument that Chelsea came of worse than Newcastle in the long run especially if newcastle pip Spurs to 4th and Chelsea fail to provide the UK another CL trophy.

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