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Battle of the long balls! Newcastle United vs West Ham match preview

November 11th, 2012 | 10 Comments |

Route one football!
Big Sam's tactics board, or Alan Pardew's?
Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle.
Date: Sunday, 11th November.
Kick off: 3:00pm
Referee: Mike Dean (the Wirral)‎.
UK TV: None.

In case you are one of those who have successfully deceived yourselves that our manager’s real name is Alan Pardiola, and today’s fixture will be a match between a cultured, elegant passing side of fancy foreigners against big, “long ball” Sam, well think again!

As we go into this game Newcastle and West Ham are currently the two biggest “route one” sides in the Premiership. Looking at my OPTA stats, which defines long balls as passes of over 25 yards, Newcastle United and West Ham are the two biggest long ball merchants, with 17.5% of Newcastle’s total passes being long balls, and 17.9% of West Ham’s.

To put this into some kind of perspective, the percentage for Swansea City (our next opponents incidentally) is 9.7%, which is even bigger gulf than it sounds. Of course, this is not to say that the lower the percentage, the better it is or any nonsense like that. As the great Mackem Buddha of football, Bob Paisley, once said (and also Michael Laudrup more recently), “it’s not about the short pass or the long pass. It’s about the RIGHT pass.” Though the great Dane could say that as he could pass a ball 30 yards on to a team mates foot (and from a tight space too) effortlessly! (more…)