Analysis & Ratings: Newcastle v Wolves
Don’t know if it was my move from the head of hair of Mick to TC or something else, but I got a rather nasty flu that’s hindered me from thinking straight for some days now.
The first match in the reign of Terry Connor at Wolves was not too different from many games this season. Wolves have collected fourteen points by coming from behind so far and that tells me in a positive manner that we are very good fighters and in a negative manner that we show weakness in defence early on in the games.
So have nothing changed since the era of Mick McCarthy then? Has the apprentice the same flaws as the old ,master and no new ideas on how to solve the problems and shortcomings of the team? Well, it’s early days yet and firstly we have to wait and see and give TC a chance to influence play, but there were a few things noticeable already last weekend.
Firstly the team played in a 4-2-3-1-formation with Edwards and Henry both taking defensive responsibility. That’s in my opinion a better and more modern way to form the team with five in the middle. Especially away and it suits Wolves well as we play much on the wings going forward.
The full backs were allowed to go forward more than in previous games this season and they were playing closer to the wingers and sometimes even going forward all the way leaving the wingers to tend to defending if necessary. In other words they became wing-backs.
Another noticeable change was that Berra and Stears positioned themselves a little bit further up the pitch so that the team as a whole came closer to the opposition while attacking, leaving no holes between the parts of the team for the opposition forwards to get a stronghold at. When we moved forward we moved with the whole team as one unit and the same thing happened when we moved back to defend. A more ordered and better kept together team that is.
These changes could not stop and will not stop players from making horrible mistakes though, which was what happened on the first Newcastle goal. We’ve seen it before. Henry making a pass back to Berra who is under pressure and not among the best in our team with his feet. Berra gets a lot of stick from the fans and pundits about this weakness and rightly so, but it’s a well-known flaw and Henry should not pass back to him while forwards from the opposition are close by. So they are both to blame for this and TC has to take a look at this systematic fault in the way they play. My opinion is that the central defenders should have much less ball in Wolves. They are bad passers and sometimes easy to overtake. So it’s not just “an individual mistake” as our former manager surely would have labeled it brushing it aside. It’s about the way we play as a team.
The other goal. Well, its like the Robbie Keane goal when we played Villa. Not easy to defend against that. Maybe the team had backed down to far and didn’t get up the pitch fast enough, but there are situations in a game that cannot be controlled and the game would be boring if they could. The ball from Jonas deflected aswell, making it impossible for Hennessey to catch.
So two goals down after twenty minutes and that without Wolves being the underdog in play. The shape of the team looked good, but we had a hard time getting forward as the Toons backed down defending their lead. We had chances all first half and maybe we would have scored with the special skills of Fletcher on the pitch, but the skills of his replacement in the last third were to be shown in the second half.
There were no great changes in play between the two halves other than that we dominated the game even more and had more of the ball, passing it round very well, setting Newcastle under pressure. The goal came as no surprise to me. Some Toon fans call it lucky. I would say that it was less lucky than the Jonas goal. A well taken shot form distance from Jarvis, after a pass from Doyle, that deflected on its way into the net. The effect was massive hope among the players of getting a result and better pressure and more direct play as a consequence.
Around the hour Wolves had minutes with the ball, not letting the northerners touching it. There was just one team on the pitch and the home team were in grave problems. Just when they made changes to begin to play 4-5-1 to match us better we leveled. A very well taken free from O’Hara dropped down from a defender to Doylers feet and he managed to get it in the net on his second attempt. Fighting spirit!
Toon had changed a forward to a midfielder and I bet Pardew uttered some words from the underground after the changed circumstances. On the other hand we maybe would have taking all three points home if they had continued to play with only four in the middle. Wolves continued to have a lot of possession despite their change of formation and we could see the game out in a professional way.
To the ratings, then. Terry Connor deserves a nine for his management in the game. He employed the right players in the right formation and received a result in a game that most experts didn’t see us as having a chance beforehand. Keep up the good work TC and we will prevail!
Hennessey – 7 – Didn’t have much to do, which shows just how well our defending worked in this game, but he made one or two great saves as usual. Nothing to do about the goals
Zubar – 8 – A surprise choice by TC and a very good one. Seem to be allowed to go forward much more than under MM. Did that very well and worked very well in close co-op with Foley aswell. Best at tackles in Wolves with six out of six won. He was given a chance and he took it. Nice, welcome back! He gets my little star
Stearman – 7 – Another surprise. My guess is that Bassong was not 100% so TC opted for the old pairing of Stears-Berra. They know each other and function well as a pairing. No mistakes by Stears and he played a simple and secure game through out
Berra – 6 – Made that one mistake in the game and gets a point off for it. Is a scot international for a reason. Good at almost everything that matter, but not with his feet under pressure and at passing the ball. Must be able to train those flaws out of his repertoire or he can not reach top level as a defender.
Ward – 6 – Captain for the day and I can think of nobody better for the role. Solid in defending and good cooperation with Jarvo. Not in top form like earlier in the season, but a silent hard worker for the team. Must make better passes, though. One point off because of this.
Henry – 7 – Involved in the first goal in the back and got to refrain from passing back when central defenders are under pressure. A very good performance otherwise, taking control of the midfield together with Edwards and O’Hara. When three in the middle its good balance to have one of them being more defensive in style
Edwards – 8 – Won four balls from the opposition in play, a very good stats result. Got a lot of passes from Henry and delivered them to O’Hara. Worked very hard as usual and he looked very sharp in the more defensive role he had in this game. I’ve always had a question mark in front of his name and to be honest would have liked to see Milijas play in this role instead but his performance in this game has made me change my mind. He deserves the little bouncy thing and I hope he will play against Fulham
Foley – 7 – A surprise in the winger role, but he is one of our most consistent players and has an eye for the game, good passing skills and played well both defending and going forward. A complete player in other words and I believe that TC is right to play him in the middle as he offers the team a lot. Together with O’Hara he was the best passer in this game (88%)
O’Hara – 7 – Together with Henry and Edwards he dominated midfield and that was the key to our success in the game. Nice free-kicks and centers as usual, but maybe he should burst through more often?! He is in his right role, though, and reading that he is playing with injury bothers me. We need him at his best for the team. Good management by TC to replace him with Kightly the last twenty minutes and Kights did alright in that role.
Jarvis – 7 – An extra point for his goal. As usual a threat to any defence, but not as active as when he is at his best. Shows signs of form about to come, though and when he gets the space he is very effective now. But the opposition defences double up against him and it’s not easy to get through. Those curls are very nice, let them keep coming.
Doyle – 9 – Very early on in the game he showed that he wanted something from it. It was a complete different Doyle than previous games and I believe he relishes in the change of management, despite his praise of Mick in media. He has been forced to play a game that was not his this season and now he was back on a longer leash letting him go about his business in the way he saw fit himself. And that results in a happier Doyler plus one goal and one assist. Full of energy and skills in play aswell and an almost perfect game. Keep this going and I have no fear for the rest of season. Doyler gets Paddytheflea’s Big Star in this game!