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

Posted on 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!

Getting back to Newcastle United though, it is somewhat bemusing for for some of us to hear a substantial amount of fellow fans still kidding themselves that we used to be a long ball side in the days of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan, and that our Silver Supremo has now transformed the side into an elegant “passing team.” when the truth is actually the exact opposite. Which brings us conveniately around to the return of our former spearhead in attack. I am of course referring to Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan.

Back in the days when Chris Hughton was manager with the tall lad and the fat lad upfront, I recall that Hughton’s Magpies were somewhere in the middle of the long ball table according to “Match of the Day” (who were probably using the same OPTA stats). So, with the return of the third familiar face at St James’ Park, that dear, sweet face that looks like a Bulldog chewing a wasp, have we have come full circle, and would Big Mike have been better off sticking with Big Sam all along? Even despite the relegation, probably not in my opinion. Too many of the signings he made were absolutely atrocious, and have since served as ammunition for the current owner’s desecration of the club, even though the likes of Geremi, Alan Smith and Cacapa were completed under the ownship of Ashley himself. But I digress…

Back to this afternoon’s match, let’s get on with form guide, previous results between the two sides, the team news and squads, and finally, some kind of Jerry Springer style “final thoughts.”

Premiership form this season (most recent first)
9th West Ham United |D|L|W|L|W|D|D|W|L|W| 15 pts
10th Newcastle United |D|W|D|L|D|W|D|D|L|W| 14 pts

Previous results against West Ham at SJP.

I won’t go back to the dawn of time with this one, just the last six visits. One stat that will bring comfort to the average Geordie though is that West Ham have yet to win at St James’ Park this century, with the Hammers’ last victory coming in the 1998/9 season. The last one was certainly one to remember, a 5-0 victory which is Alan Pardew’s biggest victory to date with the Mags, and it even included a hat-trick from Leon Best! That was when the team were under former manager Avram Grant though in a season when they were eventually relegated. This was despite some late help from the Senegalese scoring sensation who is now ours, Demba Ba. Incidentally, the referee for that triumph was Wirral Whistler, Mike Dean, who will also be on blowing duties for this afternoon’s game. Let us hope that this is some kind of omen!

Luckily, I have managed to source a very good copy of the “Match of the Day highlights of that particular game for you viewing pleasure below!

Newcastle United 5, West Ham United 0 – %th Jan, 2011.

You may also observe that our two old flames, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll appeared on the score sheets of our previous two home encounters, with Nolan scoring in the last one, and Carroll in the one before that. Here’s hoping that they DON’T do it again tomorrow! Here’s also hoping that they also get the welcome they deserve, and that the idiotic boo-boys who bring shame to the name of Newcastle United keep their traps shut too, especially when it comes to Nolan, who was a great captain and goalscorer whilst he was with us, and provided excellent leadership on the pitch when the club was going through a difficult patch to say the least. I have already written a piece on the Rover’s return here though, so I’ll move on. Here’s hoping Carroll gets a welcome too, for after all, besides being a fairly prolific scorer for us like Nolan, the £35 million the club received for him persuaded our parsimonius owner to actually bring in a few excellent signings who have been of enormous benefit to the team since the departure of the two hitmen.

2010/11: Won 5-0 (Best 3, Nolan, Lovenkrands)
2008/09: Drew 2-2 (Michael Owen, Andy Carroll)
2007/08: Won 3-1 (Viduka 2, N’Zogbia)
2006/07: Drew 2-2 (James Milner, Nolberto Solano)
2005/06: Drew 0-0
2002/03: Won 4-0 (LuaLua 2, Shearer, Solano)

Team news and squads

Newcastle United

Whilst Yohan Cabaye’s hamstring and Demba Ba’s shin have been rated as doubtful for this game in many of the match previews, Alan Pardew has had this to say on the troubling twosome to the home of NUFC scoop, The Shields Gazette:

“Demba will be fine and we’ve all seen Cabaye play.”

So I’ve pencilled them in. However, he also confirmed that Danny Simpson still has a doubtful shoulder, adding cautiously:

“We’ll wait and see on Danny,”

Which probably means a late fitness test for the Mancunian. If he doesn’t play, it could possibly make the difference between Vurnon Anita playing in the heart of midfield, or as one of the full backs (probably right). We’ll see.

Meanwhile, James Perch’s thigh and Rob Elliot’s groin and pelvis will definitely keep them out, and then there’s the usual trio of knacked knees to round things off (Ryan Taylor, Gosling and Vuckic).

Newcastle United Squad.

Tim Krul (G), Steve Harper (G), Danny Simpson (D), Mike Williamson (D), Steven Taylor (D), Davide Santon (D), James Tavernier (D), Shane Ferguson (M, D), Vurnon Anita (M, D), Yohan Cabaye (M), Jonas Gutierrez (M), Gabriel Obertan (M), Sylvain Marveaux (M), Gael Bigirimana (M), Romain Amalfitano (M), Mehdi Abeid (M), Hatem Ben Arfa (M, F), Sammy Ameobi (M, F), Papiss Cisse (F), Demba Ba (F).

Doubtful: Danny Simpson (shoulder).

Injured: James Perch (thigh), Rob Elliot (groin), Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic, Dan Gosling (all knacked knees).

Suspended: Fabricio Coloccini (first of three), Tioté (last of three).

West Ham squad.

Jussi Jaaskelainen (G), Raphael Spiegel (G), James Collins (D), Winston Reid (D), George McCartney (D), James Tomkins (D), Joey O’Brien (D), Guy Demmel (D), Jordan Spence (D), Callum Driver (D), Daniel Potts (D), Kevin Nolan (M), Matt Jarvis (M), Mark Noble (M), Mohamed Diamé (M), Yossi Benayoun (M), Gary O’Neil (M), George Moncur (M), Andy Carroll (F), Carlton Cole (F), Modibo Maïga (F), Robert Hall (F), Dylan Tombides (F), Paul McCallum (F).

Doubtful: James Collins (thigh), Guy Demel (hernia), Tomkins (calf)

Injured: Alou Diarra (thigh, 19 Nov), Matthew Taylor (calf, 19 Nov), Ricardo Vaz Tê (shoulder, Jan), Jack Collison (knee, unknown)

Suspended: None

Final thoughts

Going by the respective teams’ position in the Premiership, not to mention our similar styles of play, this could well be another close one. Hopefully home advantage and what should be a better roster of players on our side wins the day in the end.

Howay the Lads!


NUFCBlog Author: workyticket workyticket has written 1088 articles on this blog.

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10 Responses

  1. Sorry this preview is so belated. My laptop picked up something nasty when I was hunting for the highlights of our 5-0 victory over West Ham (above). I had to get rid of that before posting this unfortunately.

  2. Thanks worky, I think that’s the best preview so far. I hope it isn’t as bad as you say though as I’ll be down there watching it again. ;-)

    I always knew we were a long ball team with Pardew and I can’t understand what some people are on about sometimes, just like those yesterday who were trying to lecture us that Nolan would never get a place in the team yesterday as he was a ‘long ball’ player. What medication are they on? :-) It’s great that youve made the effort to measure it

  3. Just getting ready to wrap up in 3 layers and get the metro to the match. Not feeling too optimistic about seeing a game of fluency or quality but you never know. Not too optimistic about Nolan or Carroll getting a warm greeting from my south east gallowgate corner either, I think the boo boys will outnumber us on that one. Fingers crossed, 2-1 to the Toon.

  4. Clint Magnum says:
    November 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    “Not too optimistic about Nolan or Carroll getting a warm greeting from my south east gallowgate corner either”

    Nor am I, but I hope they do Clint.

  5. chris, of course I agree about the long ball thing but we do have “flair players” like Benny, Cabaye and a few others, we just haven’t got a “flair” manager who uses them in the right way!

  6. Another awful game to watch, a well drilled long ball side vs you name it ?
    Playing against any BSA side usually results in watching a boring football game, compound that with another long ball side humping hail mary passes into the box for ninety minutes, with no one there to recieve them, makes it excruciating.
    So in case anyone still believes we can repeat last seasons finish, at this rate, we will be lucky to achieve a fifteenth place finish, never mind fifth.
    The question i would like to ask Pardew is, why with the talent avaiable, do we play long ball football, we are so much more effective when we play a passing possession game.
    I mean this is fifties football, being played over a decade into the millenium, is this all he’s got ?
    If so, then he should do the right thing and pack his bags and Fkuk off back where he came from, the unemployment line.