Date: Fri 6th Apr 2012.
Referee: Howard Webb.
Newcastle United cruised into 5th place in the English Premier League on the back of this victory. Both Tottenham and Arsenal are now looking over their shoulders at the Geordie charge, and Chelsea are playing catch up. And with two home games to come, against Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City, do we dare to dream?
This was United’s fourth win on the trot – 12 points out of 12 – and what a time to go on a run like this, at what the media luvvies refer to as “the business end of the season”.
Those of you who have read my drivel before will know that I don’t hold a lot by statistics. The plethora of statistics which are spouted by the media and (sadly) bloggers alike these days. To me, the only statisitics which matter at the end of the day are goals. And if ever there was a game which proved my point about statistics, this was it.
Swansea City had the ball for 77% of the time. Here’s where I make myself unpopular with any welsh folk reading this. It’s easy to have 77% possession if you largely pass the ball sideways or backwards in an attempt to keep hold of it. Ray Wilkins (Chelsea and England) made a career out of it – “my word!”.
United had obviously practiced their response to this predictable Swansea tactic, and basically just waited around for Swansea to stop tippy-tappying around and finally try to come forward again – only competing for the ball in the middle and final thirds, and thus not falling into the trap of the energy-sapping chase game that the welsh team hope their opponents will get sucked into. Well done Alan Pardew and the coaching team – got it spot on there.
Of course when United got the ball, we immediately did our incisive attacking thingy – and who wouldn’t with the midfield and forwards we’ve got!
United kicked off with the Toon Army in the end behind them, and with the 4-3-3 formation that has brought so much attacking success in recent weeks. There were only 4 minutes and nineteen seconds on the clock when Jonas put a ball through the middle to Yohan Cabaye, who hit it forward first-time straight into the path of Papiss Demba Cisse, who scores when he wants – and he did! A right-footed majestic stroke of the ball which Vorm dived and got his fingers to, but couldn’t stop rolling into the net. Swansea City 0 Newcastle United 1
Five goals in his last 3 games for Papiss – The Swansea crowd looked stunned. We didn’t – we all know by now that all you have to do is give him the ball in front of goal, and our rampant number 9 will bury it. His smile was as wide as the Tyne Bridge is long.
United pressured for another couple of minutes, then Swansea went into their tippy-tappy game, without really any penetration, and with the Toon players clearly well-drilled and keeping their shape with plenty of players behind the ball. The Swansea “possession” was typified in the 9th minute when Caulker passed back to Vorm even though there wasn’t a United player near him. You can play in your own third all day lads – suits us!
On 15 minutes Sky TV informed us that Swansea had enjoyed 75% posession. Aye – and they’d attacked our goal once – see my earlier point about stats!
I’ve looked at my notes but really, it’s difficult to say there was anything exciting going on – United were dealing effectively with anything Swansea threw at them. Obviously, the early goal had settled us. I’m blatantly filling here, I know, but how many times can a blog writer say “Swansea were passing it around sideways and backwards and getting rave reviews from the people who compile stats”?
On 21 minutes, the Sky commentator said “good pressure this from Swansea” – and I remember thinking “he’s confusing pressure with possession – they’re not the same thing”. Might just be me, I suppose.
On 29 minutes we finally saw Swansea have another attempt on goal, with Sigurdsson lashing a vicious shot from outside the area, with Tim Krul leaping to push it round the post. Then more lovely passing around of the ball in the first two thirds by Swansea. Lovely to watch – especially if you were a United fan. Just keep it there lads!
38 minutes and Mike Williamson was carded for a tackle on Moore in which he clearly won the ball, but it was from behind. 39 minutes and Sigurdsson hit a long free kick which again Krul covered well.
Noticeable in this half that Both Cisse on the left, and Ben Arfa on the right were both putting in good defensive shifts tracking back, but breaking forward quickly when we got the ball, with Ba staying up as the lone striker.
The second half started with a bit of a worry for United, with Ryan Taylor having to come on for Cheick Tiote, who had reported a hamstring issue at half time. Taylor slotted straight into midfield.
Swansea started the half brightly, with Sigurdsson shooting just wide of the post after only 32 seconds. They continued in this vein and had obviously been given instructions to be a tad more direct in this half. Gradually though things slipped back to the same pattern as the first half, with United defending well, and hitting Swansea on the break.
On 52 minutes Allen hit a dangerous one from just outside the area which Mike Williamson got a boot to, but luckily didn’t deflect too much – and it bounced off Krul and somehow went behind. That was a pretty scary moment for Newcastle, as in truth, it could have gone anywhere. This bit of pressure finally got the Swansea crowd stirred up – they’d been strangely quiet up to that point. Did anyone else notice that whenever we hit a long ball forward, the Swansea fans booed? Strange that!
57 minutes and Williams was booked for wrestling Cisse to the ground whilst they were both chasing a United long ball. Before the free kick could be taken, Ba was substituted for Shane Ferguson – and it has to be said Demba did not look happy about it. Meanwhile Sky TV pointed out that Swansea were now down to only 65% possession (for those of you who care about statistics!).
Ben Arfa cut in from the right on 63 mins and looked as if he was going to create something but unfortunately just ran it out of play.
Cisse was at it again in the 64th minute. Taylor fed Ben Arfa who raced forward and fed Cisse. His right foot shot was only marginally wide of the Swansea goal. Soon after this, Swansea made a couple of changes with Moore being replacent by Gateshead-born Danny Graham, and Dyer being replaced by Sinclair – who almost immediately had a chance to shoot on goal, with his shot being deflected behind for a corner.
A couple of minutes later, and Newcastle increased their lead. Again it was Cabaye the provider and Cisse the scorer – somehow lobbing the keeper even though he looked off-balance. If you haven’t seen this goal – you really must have a look at it in the highlights posted by WorkyTicket! Swansea City 0 Newcastle United 2
Sinclair had another ranging shot on the 70th minute mark, but again the ever reliable Tim Krul was there to deal with it. A minute later Britton chipped it into the area and the ball appeared to fall for two Swansea players but somehow United managed to get it clear. At this point, Alan Pardew decided to pull Yohan Cabaye – obviously with Monday night’s game in mind. He was replaced by Dan Gosling.
Cisse almost got his third after 77 minutes, when going for the same ball as Vorm. The keeper hit the ball and it bounced off Cisse and back towards goal, but sadly went wide! Another good save from Krul a couple of minutes later.
As the game reached it’s conclusion, the travelling Legions of the Toon Army could be heard singing “There’s only one Alan Pardew”. How times and opinions change.
A great result for United. Pardew’s tactics and preparation were spot on again, and it was an excellent all-round performance from everyone involved – with a few “squad players” maybe proving yet again that perhaps we are stronger in depth than we thought. Four straight wins with two home games coming up. Hope everybody’s enjoying this roller-coaster ride as much as I am!
The statistics that mattered? Newcastle United two goals, Swansea City Nil Goals!
Teams, stats etc
Swansea City (4-3-3): Michel Vorm; Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams (C), Steven Caulker, Neil Taylor, Leon Britton, Joe Allen, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Nathan Dyer (Scott Sinclair 66), Luke Moore (Danny Graham 65), Wayne Routledge.
Subs: Gerhard Tremmel, Alan Tate, Garry Monk, Josh McEachran, Mark Gower, Scott Sinclair, Danny Graham.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Tim Krul (G), Danny Simpson, James Perch, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon, Yohan Cabaye (Dan Gosling 73), Cheick Tiote (Ryan Taylor HT), Jonas Gutierrez (C), Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba (Shane Ferguson 59).
Subs: Rob Elliot (G), James Tavernier, Shane Ferguson, Ryan Taylor, Mehdi Abeid, Dan Gosling, Shola Ameobi.
Score: Swansea City 0, Newcastle United 2.
Goals: Papiss Cisse (4, 68)
Yellow cards: Mike Williamson (39), Ashley Williams (58).
Red cards: None.
Possession: Swansea City 76.95%, Newcastle United 23.05%
Territorial Advantage: Swansea City 60.3%, Newcastle United 39.7%.
Shots on target: Swansea City 8, Newcastle United 3.
Shots off target: Swansea City 6, Newcastle United 1.
Corners: Swansea City 7, Newcastle United 0.
Passes: Swansea City 914, Newcastle United 271.
Fouls: Swansea City 10, Newcastle United 9.
Full match video link