A Collective Concentration Conundrum…

Posted on June 14th, 2011 | 15 Comments |

On the pitch, what needs fixing? Most would point out the glaring lack of fire-power within the ranks, for the ‘number 9′ Shirt is lies dormant at St James’ Park.

This of course has been true since January, when a certain someone departed to join Kenny Dalglish’s revolution, and our inability to act for a replacement due to the timing of the transfer. Now summer has arrived, we do have the time, and already names are being linked for the vacancy, some realistic, some not so, but the obvious fact is, the owners and management are in the process of finding the man to shoulder the responsibility of the number 9 shirt.


Newcastle, performed admirably in front of goal in the Premier League last season, with our captain, Kevin Nolan, managing 12, Carroll 11, Ameobi, Lovenkrands and Best each netting 6, Joey Barton hitting 4 and Jonas along with Steven Taylor netting 3. There were also a couple from Coloccini, and solitary strikes from Ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote, along with an own goal from West Broms Olsson, taking Newcastle’s Total to 56. Not Bad, in fact it was the joint 6th highest in the division. The 41 goals scored at St James’ was the most we have managed in the last decade (not counting our Championship season).

The problem we had, and for many years have had in the top flight, is our inability to stop the goals being scored at the other end of the pitch. In our 19 home matches we managed to ship 27 goals, away we shipped 30, providing my calculations are correct, that is 57 times Harper or Krul had to pick the ball from the net.

So what is the problem? Is it fair to pick out an individual from the back line? Thankfully the days of glaring mistakes, week in/out, that we continually saw from the likes of Bramble and Boumsong are not happening any more, but there are still problems, and its more of a collective issue. Danny Simpson has come under fire, for times in which he has been perceived to back away from the attacker. ‘Spurs at home springs to mind, but what Simpson doesn’t have, Enrique does, a wide midfielder in Jonas, who sticks to his position and tracks back to cover. Its obvious to see, that teams try to exploit our right hand side, as at times Barton is forced to move into the middle to help dictate play, leaving Simpson exposed. Harry Redknapp stated this in public, after the game at home as he wanted to field Pienaar and Bale down Spurs left, because we at times don’t play with a right midfielder.

Games, as they say, are won and lost in midfield. The addition of Yohan Cabaye, a box-to-box midfielder with a good engine and impressive ball retention, will strengthen the middle of the park. He, alongside Tiote, should result in us keeping the ball much better in the middle, better than if Tiote is alongside Nolan, who the latter is much more effective playing in the hole behind the striker. This should result in Barton, if he is still here, not having to keep moving in field to aid with dictating the play.

Concentration though is the main problem throughout the squad, with potential winning positions thrown away in games such as Stoke (h), Chelsea (h), Mackems (a), Spurs (h), Bolton (h), Everton (h), Blackpool (a) and West Brom(h), costing us 18 points. Though I would like to discount the Chelsea game as a point was excellent, we should be beating the likes of Stoke/Bolton and West Brom at home, especially after taking the lead. There are also the games in which mentally we didn’t turn up such as the drubbings at the Britannia and Reebok Stadiums.

Hopefully we require just minor tweaking, there were also some cracking results during the season, which should show that with a few tweaks here and there, we can build on for next season. Concentration though can’t be bought, it needs to be worked on at training, so Alan Pardew must work on that during the summer months so that when we return in August, we have cut out the silly mistakes which ultimately cost us a higher league position. Hopefully the team can also stay injury and suspension free so Pardew can get a system working to his liking. There is no point spending millions on attacking options, it will not matter who we sign, if as a unit, we can’t concentrate for a full 90 minutes.

I think we have had an excellent start to the summer thus far with the capture of Cabaye. The new striker, who ever he will be, we will know soon enough. I think some of us, myself included, are preoccupied with the thought of strikers, attacking players and the 35 million, (I’m not saying I don’t want ‘bum’s off seat’s’ type of players), but there are issues within the team which can be resolved without massive costs, and these are the things that I want to see worked on this summer and hopefully, fixed for next season.

What will be spent on players is out of Pardew’s hands. We can speculate all day on how much in funds is available, or who indeed is actually bringing in the new recruits. One thing is for sure, there will be changes, whatever the team will be for next season, they must up their concentration levels and retain the ball better collectively, it will result in an even better season and we can build on what was an excellent return to where we belong.

NUFCBlog Author: Jimbob Backpacker extraordinaire and current resident of sunny Sheffield. Loves Marmite, hates peanut butter. Sleeps twice a day, wrestles Polar Bears because he can and regards himself as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce. Jimbob has written 40 articles on this blog.

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15 Responses

  1. Brilliant…i quadruple that! exactly what i want to be reading when it comes to newcastle. A realistic analytical piece of text. Keep up the good work.

  2. Really enjoyed reading your website, especially since the season ended, very informed articles. The ball retention issue is critical to us, there were times last season when our only outlet seemed to be bigger lad, with the obvious result that ball often came far too quickly, too much pressure on tiote to mop up, 14 cards as a result. Our other midfielders, Nolan, Jonas dont keep the ball often enough. I am looking forward to Ben Arfa playing alongside Yohan and a forward capable of making runs off the last man. It keeps teams in their final third more often and allows us to dictate play more rather than hope for the scraps off biggerlad and subsequently big lad

  3. “On the pitch, what needs fixing?”

    Pardwho’s woeful tactics and substitutions for a kick off :)

    Plus we need to adopt a more flexible playing formation (soz have said this before) as 4-4-2 at home, like a short skirt, leaves nothing to the imagination. 4-3-3 with the ball 4-5-1 without would help to begin with.

  4. Good read, mate. I liked that a lot. Blog of the year material.

    Having better technical players will help with retaining the ball. That in turn should help players to concentrate, especially those in defence as it’ll give them a bit of time out. It’s very hard to keep focussed when you are always under pressure. Inevitably you’ll make a mistake or do something tired and sloppy.

  5. Brilliant first effort Jimbob. May I suggest to Mr Pardwho that he sits the players down before every training session to watch the latest Champions League final. It was positively the best exhibition of how to deprive an oposition of the ball I think I have ever seen. Barca were magnificent thet night and as a lesson in ball retension, it can’not be overlooked.
    Not many teams in the Prem can come anywhere near that standard (manure aside)and it has to be basis of any good teams progress.HWTL

  6. Pocie,
    aye mate, but would the average english crowd accept so much passing backwards & sideways as barca employ?
    Also, would they accept the half speed play with quick bursts?

    Arsenal fans are already sick of it & they are probably the best footballing english team.
    Sad but true!

  7. Very sad and probably very true. English fans don’t have much of a reputation around the world for accepting technical football. Mostly the English are known for liking goalmouth action, ie, lump the ball into the mixer and see what ‘appens.

    The problem with Arsenal, is they overdo the passing in the areas where they should be incisive. Barca pass the ball around in the middle of the field and then strike quickly.

    Barca also win the ball back faster than any other team I know.

  8. Aye Bris,
    there’s way too much importance put on wing play in the prem.
    As soon as english teams try to play euro teams at their own slow build up game, they lose!
    The best way to beat them is to play their own game of speed ball, but they get sucked into slowing it down, then it’s game over.

  9. Nice blog pal.

    Not only does Simpson get left exposed, he seems to lack ball control moves. He should be learning something from Enrique (though not many others can master those skills), and IMHO showing them on the pitch. A few dips and weaves gives his middies a chance to get into position to take a pass.

    It seems to me that AP and the NEwcastle fan likes the outside defenders to get forward and ber abler to add some style to the attack. Danny either got schooled out of that at Manu, or he does not have the confidence to press forward. I hope some of that changes this season, and maybe it will depending on who he is running with on the right side.