Poor tactics, officials help end Newcastle's winning streak

Posted by Marc Duffy

Jonjo Shelvey scored twice for Swansea against Newcastle.GettyImagesJonjo Shelvey scored twice for Swansea against Newcastle.

Newcastle United's four-game winning streak was brought to a crashing halt on Wednesday night when they lost 3-0 at Swansea.

Two major factors were behind the result -- manager Alan Pardew's tactics and the performance of referee Howard Webb and his assistants.

The tactics

In the buildup, Pardew discussed Swansea's "patient approach" to matches, comparing them to Newcastle's "more assertive" attacking approach.

-Gouffran grateful for support

He appeared to be right as to how Swansea approached the game. For much of the first half, they passed the ball around, offering little threat to the Newcastle goal. Twenty-two minutes into the game, the Welsh side had completed 216 passes to Newcastle's 33, but had been restricted to the occasional potshot at goal.

Newcastle almost took the lead when a superb Mathieu Debuchy cross was headed goalward by Loic Remy, but Swansea keeper Michel Vorm made an excellent fingertip save. Generally, though, Newcastle looked happy to sit very deep and allow Swansea to play.

With Swansea having won only one home game this season while conceding 11 goals, and with their main attacking threats (Michu, Wilfred Bony) missing, this was clearly the wrong approach. Newcastle should have taken the game to Swansea.

What made the counterattacking tactics all the more bizarre was employing them with the immobile Shola Ameobi spearheading the front players. Ameobi is OK when employed as a target man in a physical battle, but he is more likely to kill a break when the ball is on the ground. His lack of goals also detract from his playing in this role -- one Premier League goal in 40 appearances now for the Geordie Nigerian.

What might have been interpreted as a solid containment job suddenly became an unambitious, negative approach when Swansea substitute Nathan Dyer put the home team ahead in first-half stoppage time. Keeper Tim Krul failed to deal with a cross from the left, and Dyer slotted home through the legs of defender Davide Santon, who had a terrible night. Swansea were ahead in a game that had the tempo of a preseason friendly.

If anything, the tactics got worse as Newcastle tried to chase the game in the second half. Bizarre substitutions and no fluidity left Newcastle exposed several times as Swansea scored twice more -- first when Jonjo Shelvey broke clear and his shot was saved by Krul but deflected into the back of the net off Debuchy (Newcastle's best player), and then again as Shelvey curled the ball over the top of Krul, who should have done better.

These goals came after Webb denied Newcastle a blatant penalty, which leads me to the performance of the officials...

Webb

The Newcastle Evening Chronicle produced some stats on Wednesday afternoon showing the referees who have penalised Newcastle the most since the start of the 2011-12 season.

Regular Newcastle viewers won't be surprised to hear that Webb was top of the pile from 15 referees in giving Newcastle players yellow cards. And he also second in awarding free kicks against Newcastle.

His showing Wednesday did nothing to quiet the conspiracy theorists when he failed to award Newcastle an obvious penalty for a handball from a goal-bound Remy shot, and then missed Shelvey throwing a head-butt at Debuchy minutes before he went on to score his second goal. They were two decisions you'd expect a World Cup final referee to get right.

There was a second appeal for a penalty from Newcastle seconds before Swansea doubled their lead when Yoan Gouffran tumbled in the box under a challenge from Ashley Williams, but that one was less contentious.

Newcastle will feel hard done by. If the penalty had been awarded, it was a whole different ballgame, and Swansea should have played the closing stages of the game with 10 men.

One final thought: I found it ironic that Newcastle were beaten so comprehensively by a team that displayed more energy despite their participation in the Europa League. Pardew kept telling Newcastle supporters that's why their team were so poor so often last season!

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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