Credit where credit is due, Pardew and the team have gone some way at least to answering their critics in terms of results after a dismal start to the season. However, in studying the stats there is one fact which might cause a dilemma for some fans who advocate that Newcastle United should adopt a more passing style like the top clubs. The fact is that Pardew’s lighting fast turn of fortune rests on the exact opposite. What I mean is that after an effort to play like a modern passing side, an effort which brought him no wins in his first eight Premier League games, the Silver Fox has now found salvation through abruptly returning to his ‘route one’ roots, as you will be able to see in the evidence below.
First, to give some perspective, I will include the long ball percentage scale I devised a few years ago when I wrote a series of pieces revealing and monitoring Pardew’s long ball tactics at Newcastle. The references might be a little out of date as this was from the time when David Moyes was the manager of Everton and Tony Pulis was at Stoke.
The NUFC Blog long ball scale ©™
07% – 12% – Arsene Wenger. A tippy-tappy passing side who more or less completely reject the long ball game.
12% – 15% – David Moyes. A mixed side who are somewhere in the middle.
15% – 25% – Tony Pulis and Fat Sam on a mortar firing range. A full on long ball side who positively embrace “route one” football.
Returning to look for signs of Newcastle United’s route one football after visual evidence from watching the Leicester and Tottenham games, it seems that this season Pardew has indeed had a route one relapse. Though statistics have shown that it is not a formula for long term, sustained success, there is no doubt it has worked so far in pulling the Magpies out of their recent early season crisis.
Pardew is not the only one either. Another manager who has been punching above his considerable weight using long balls so far is West Ham’s ‘Fat’ Sam Allardyce. In one of his Premier League games this season he even went way beyond the limits of my long ball scale (25%), with a huge 29.3% of West Ham’s passes against Manchester City being long balls. At the other extreme, Arsenal had a figure of only 3.6% long balls against Hull this season, which is one of the lowest I’ve ever seen.
Below I have looked at the percentage figures for long balls in the League games of Newcastle United and their opponents this season so far. Long balls are defined as over 25 yards and the stats are from OPTA. Measuring the percentage of long balls played over a few games gives the far more accurate picture of how direct a team is than merely counting the amount of long passes. This is because long ball teams pass the ball far less, hence a more passing side might make the same amount, or even more long passes than a ‘long ball’ side. However, their long passes will probably be around 7-12% of their total passes whereas a long ball side’s percentage will probably be somewhere between 15-25% on average.
Now as a Magpies fan, I welcome the recent results, not to mention the rise of the bairns as much as anyone. However it is what it is. The team have done it with old Stoke style blood and guts direct football rather than elegant one touch short passing. As I’ve already mentioned, this might create a dilemma for those who espouse that Newcastle should join the big sides, and even clubs like Swansea and Southampton in playing a shorter passing style. Of course though, the philosophy which usually dominates when a team is winning for obvious reasons is ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’ so things will almost certainly continue as they are. For now let’s just ride the wave until it crashes again.
|A snapshot of Pardew’s long balls|
|Newcastle Utd vs Man City|
|Aston Villa vs Newcastle Utd|
|Newcastle Utd vs Crystal Palace|
|Southampton vs Newcastle Utd|
|Newcastle Utd vs Hull City|
|Stoke City vs Newcastle Utd|
|Swansea City vs Newcastle Utd|
|Newcastle Utd vs Leicester City|
|Tottenham vs Newcastle Utd|
|Newcastle Utd vs Liverpool|
|Pss – Passes
LBs – Long Balls,
LB% – Long Ball Percentage.