A second successive game against a team in claret and blue colours, and a second successive game against a side on the same points at kick off. Unlike Burnley, West Ham have invested well this summer.
That investment was precipitated by a protest at the West Ham-Burnley match on March 8th 2018: fans invaded the pitch, grabbed corner flags, and generally broadcasted that financial backing was crucial. It wasn’t pretty but the message was delivered.
Newcastle United are also battling against inept ownership as well as Premier League opponents. The Magpie Group protests have been going steady, with a boycott planned for the upcoming game against Wolves. Today, an 11th-minute walk-in was planned to mark 11 years of Mike Ashley neglect.
Newcastle Starting Approach
Having changed the system to combat Burnley on Monday, Rafa Benitez saw fit to return to the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, Clark losing his spot in the XI in favour of Manquillo at left back.
With Manquillo in the side, there was more mobility going forward from both flanks, yet Newcastle still favoured the right side to initiate the majority of their attacks. Kenedy again had license to drift into central areas as has become a common feature of his movement in games.
Defensively, owing to the control of possession, Yedlin and Manquillo found themselves quite advanced. Schär and Fernandez were up 2 against 2 with the task of keeping Arnautovic and Chicharito quiet. Those 2 posed a much different task for the defensive pair than Vokes and Wood did on Monday night. It was a day of tracking runs to make sure the forwards weren’t exploiting space in behind rather than aerial duels.
West Ham Starting Approach
4-4-2 was the favoured approach by Pellegrini, spearheaded by a forward duo with 70 international goals between them. West Ham focused their attacks through fluid movement, cutbacks, and through balls as forwards made runs off the shoulder of the Newcastle defenders. The wingers in Felipe Anderson and Snodgrass did not waste time to play balls in behind. Their emphasis was on quick play, foregoing both possession and long stretches of build up in the final third.
Defensively they planned to force Newcastle out wide by dropping bodies in midfield. Their defensive line was a low block typical of an away team set up. They would let Newcastle have the ball, drive forward and press once a Newcastle player was in close proximity, rather than take a proactive approach to regaining possession as Bournemouth did 2 weeks ago.
The game started with Newcastle seeing plenty of the ball but struggling to create any chances of note. West Ham had settled into the routine of their game plan early doors, ceding possession and breaking quickly through the attacking movement of the 2 wingers and strikers.
The goal came from the very first shot of the game. Newcastle’s inefficiency on the ball prior to Chicharito’s goal was telling, having already been dispossessed 4 times. Of their 3 completed dribbles, 2 belonged to Schär as their attackers struggled to worry West Ham. West Ham had already out tackled Newcastle by 6 to 1.
After the goal, Newcastle began to dominate play to a greater degree, with West Ham dropping numbers deep. The Hammers did not waste time to try their tactic of sending the forward in behind when the chance presented itself as seen in the following clip, with Felipe Anderson taking advantage of Newcastle’s high line, passing it from the centre circle.
Newcastle attacks were not causing many problems; West Ham packed the midfield, and were happy to let them cross it in and deal with the aerial threat of Rondon by crowding him out as seen here
Taking the lead took the pressure off the away side. They did not need to chase the game and were able to take shape to close Newcastle passing avenues from deep. Packing the defence allowed them to crowd out Rondon, who seems to be the victim of his superb showing against Bournemouth, with both Burnley and West Ham focusing their attentions on him.
The half ended with Newcastle having 57% possession, and 7 shots with only 1 on target. West Ham’s tenacity rewarded with the 16 tackles, 13 aerials won and 18 clearances by the half.
The match resumed with West Ham content to sit off Newcastle, giving them space to play and attempt to counter when possession was won back deep. It was an approach that could be punished with more urgency and quality from Newcastle, but that was found lacking as seen here.
Ritchie was then subbed off for Atsu, a common theme this season with the Scottish international completing 90 minutes in just 5 of his 13 league games played so far. Masuaku shortly appeared in place of the injured Cresswell.
The stoppage allowed West Ham to refocus and they almost caught Newcastle out on a counter, Schär’s aggressive press failing as a stretched backline ended up with Atsu and Manquillo in the centre back positions to defend the final ball
The defensive discipline was questioned in the Watford home win analysis and similar patterns were beginning to emerge down Yedlin’s side. The right back’s average position in this game was beyond the halfway line, to be expected when dominating possession, but it also meant a lot of space for Felipe Anderson to exploit when the game was getting stretched in the 2nd half.
The 2nd West Ham goal seemed to deflate the home crowd and the team were looking no better on the pitch. Rafa made the call to take off Kenedy for Shelvey 70 minutes in, electing to field Ki, Shelvey, and Diame on the pitch for the first time this season, the formation became a 4-3-3.
The last 20 minutes played out with Shelvey controlling the tempo, dropping into the quarterback role when needed and looking to find Rondon with his trademark searching ball from deep. It did push Newcastle up the pitch on occasion but the forwards failed to create any danger.
What the 4-3-3 did though was negate Diame’s role. He was the most advanced of the 3, having more experience in attacking roles, yet he only had 10 touches once Shelvey came on, fewer than the entire Newcastle backline. He also only made 9 further passes, no tackles or interceptions as Shelvey and Ki attempted to make things happen and Diame struggled to impact the game offensively.
Newcastle had a total of 16 shots, with only 4 of them coming after Chicharito’s second. 3 of them were on target but one was a speculative effort from range by Atsu, an effort straight at the keeper after Rondon connected with an Atsu knockdown, and another attempt from Atsu that was comfortable for Fabianski.
West Ham were far more economical with their shooting opportunities, only having 1 in the last 20 minutes and yet scoring from it. Of their total 7 attempts, all were inside the box.
Key Tactical Points
Struggling when dominating possession
Newcastle had just won 3 on the bounce and had the inferior possession count in all 3. Naturally, the conclusion you draw is that this team is much more suited to sitting deep, organised and counter smartly/take advantage of set pieces to win games.
When the onus is on Newcastle to attack, breakdowns happen. The lack of quality was telling in this game going forward. West Ham were content to let Newcastle have the ball and the crosses that came in were easily dealt with and any play from central areas was stifled by West Ham’s excellent disciplined defending.
A counter-attacking game plan seems to suit Newcastle better, as having the majority of possession requires a certain amount of technical ability to break down organised defences. Right now, it seems as if the squad falls just short of that quality threshold.
Should Newcastle have stuck with 5 at the back?
Against Burnley, 5 at the back ensured strength in numbers as the ball was launched towards Vokes and Wood. Today, going toe to toe with Arnautovic and Chicharito looked to be a mistake. Simply, their movement was too much to handle for Fernandez and Schär, the Hammers’ frontline constantly making runs off the shoulder into the space Newcastle allowed by setting a high defensive line.
5 at the back may have succeeded in closing down the halfspaces that the cutbacks exploited. Every time Anderson or Snodgrass sent a runner through, there was a gap that could have been plugged with an extra body in there. This was the approach we took against Chelsea, who also like to do quick interchanges in the final third. On that day, Newcastle set out a much more defensive gameplan, and 5 at the back restricted Chelsea’s attack, with the Blues scoring via a penalty and an own goal from a set piece situation.
By The Numbers
How the Goals Happened
11’ Chicharito (NEW 0-1 WHU)
West Ham worked the ball to the left where Snodgrass faced up to Kenedy. The Brazilian’s error to show Snodgrass on his favoured left foot allowed the winger to play a superb cross to the 6-yard box. In the box, the marking responsibility was Schär on Arnautovic and Fernandez on Chicharito. Arnautovic made a run to drag Schär out of position but blame must be attached to Fernandez for not getting tight enough and following Chicharito’s run. It was still elite movement by the Mexican, who duly punished Newcastle when the ball fell at his feet.
64’ Chicharito (NEW 0-2 WHU)
Rondon lost an aerial to Balbuena and the ball fell to Rice in the middle, who swung a boot at it. Arnautovic met it with a headed flick-on and that was enough to take out the entire Newcastle backline, as Chicharito made another run off the shoulder and finished it clinically when through 1 on 1.
92’ Felipe Anderson (NEW 0-3 WHU)
A poor ball forward by Manquillo was picked up by Rice, who found Wilshere with a headed pass. Wilshere escaped the attention of Ki to play it through to Anderson, who had Schär for company with Yedlin out of position. The Brazilian easily beat Schär with a take on and placed the ball through Dubravka’s legs to seal the victory.
Fabian Schär [MotM]
Only awarded MotM because this section calls for one, rather by way of performance. Schär, however, did provide some good moments despite being outclassed overall. He saw more touches than all players bar Ki as the Newcastle’s attacking transitions were often initiated by him. He was also aggressive in his defending which was needed at times, winning more interceptions than anyone else on the pitch. In a poor attacking display by the Magpies, Schär even managed to complete more dribbles than any other Newcastle player.
A player who is finding himself in this section quite regularly now. Ki had a decent game regarding the metrics by which to judge central midfielders. Again he topped the xGBuildup stat in a Newcastle shirt but it was a paltry 0.17, which is explained by the lack of good shooting situations Newcastle found themselves in. He was also never dispossessed, showing great awareness to find his next pass. Meanwhile, Kenedy and Ayoze lost the ball 5 times each, and Diame twice. His passing continues to impress, making a game-high 74 with 89% pass accuracy.
West Ham United
The Brazilian excelled in an all-action performance, defensively ensuring he restricted Yedlin and Ritchie on the right and then creating problems when receiving the ball in attack. He showed great awareness to find the West Ham forwards and capped off his performance with a really well-taken goal, shrugging off the attentions of Schär and keeping his composure to beat Dubravka.
The striker delivered the kind of centre forward performance Newcastle fans have been yearning for. Intelligent running, ruthless finishing, and excellent work rate. From the 4 shots taken, 2 were on target and both resulted in a goal. He was also looking to set up his teammates, completing one through ball as West Ham executed that strategy by making 6 of them to Newcastle’s 0.
Honourable mentions go to Diop, Rice, and Noble as all 3 showed the tenacity and aggression needed to win away games.
A strange game for Newcastle. You can’t fault the workrate of the team but in a match where West Ham allowed them plenty of the ball, they made very little of it. West Ham put in the perfect away performance, soaking up the pressure when needed and ruthlessly dispatching the presentable chances they created.
The defensive discipline is a worry for Newcastle going into the Everton game. It remains to be seen whether the system needs to revert to 5 at the back, or simply a personnel change by bringing Lascelles back into the fold to solidify things at the back once more.