Post Match Analysis: Wigan Home
Newcastle avoided losing their fifth consecutive game by overcoming Wigan on a cold night in St. James’ Park this evening, emerging comfortably victorious following a 3-0 win. However whilst Newcastle’s play had visibly improved from recent performances of late, Maynor Figueroa’s 12th minute sending off undoubtedly provided the turning point which decided the game.
Wigan had actually started the game the brighter of the two sides. Their attacking intent was not only signalled by Martinez’s decision to persevere with his 3-4-3 formation but Franco Di Santo’s effort inside ‘4 minutes almost put the home side one nil down, athough a full stretched Tim Krul was equal to the effort.
Clearly Wigan set themselves up in their approach to claim an early goal and stifle a Newcastle side who had lost four straight games. However when Figueroa was dismissed for a push on Papiss Cisse inside the box, Wigan’s game plan abruptly suffered. The resulting converted penalty from Demba Ba stunned the away side, leaving Martinez frustrated as his side then struggled to deal with the resulting Newcastle onslaughts which followed the game’s maiden goal.
Alan Pardew on the other hand will have revelled in the luck on show as Newcastle were 1-0 against a side who would now be forced to play the majority of the game’s remainder with ten men. Replays showed Figueroa indeed deserved to go, as what initially looked like a harsh dismissal from a shoulder charge was later revealed to be a nudge in to the back of Newcastle’s number 9. Although controversy remains, resurfacing the age old debate of whether a player should be dismissed when a penalty is awarded.
Despite the dispute of the penalty, which saw Wigan’s Beausejour yellow carded for dissent in the aftermath, Newcastle would offer no sympathy to their opponents as they looked to double their lead. Ba added his second with a tap in, following a ferocious swerving shot from Davide Santon, which proved too hot for the usually comfortable Ali Al Habsi to handle.
Roberto Martinez’s side were fast sinking from the game after only the first twenty minutes, therefore it was no surprise to see James McArthur introduced for playmaker Jordi Gomez, to add some much needed bite in to the Wigan midfield. However rather than stifle Newcastle’s play Wigan simply imposed themselves more physically as evident from Gary Cadwell’s nasty challenge on Demba Ba, earning the Wigan captain a deserved yellow card.
The pace of the first half had slowed down somewhat although Sylavain Marveaux provided some spark to a Newcastle midfield, guilty of lacking much creativity in recent weeks due to injuries to playmakers Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa especially. Marveaux’s marauding runs seemed a breath of fresh air to a usually limp midfield, although like fellow teammate Cheick Tiote his end product was lacking.
Moments before the break, Caldwell could have been the second Wigan player to be dismissed, although his foul on Ba somehow went unpunished. Martinez sensed the danger however and at half time replaced the fiery Scot with Adrian Lopez. Similarly Pardew implemented tactical nous of his own by substituting Tiote, who is one yellow card away from a one game suspension, ensuring the Ivorian would be available for another crunch Monday night fixture against Fulham in Newcastle’s next Premier League tie.
In the second half Wigan again speedily came out of the blocks, although much like the first half they failed to threaten enough. Vernon Anita and Sylvain Marveaux grew as the game went on, imposing themselves admirably in the middle, creating chances at will. Wigan for their part did attempt to play their usual passing game however and can in turn be commended for the approach although ultimately, they could not cope with Newcastle having an extra man. It would be appropriate to say the game itself epitomised just how much an extra man matters at this level; Wigan suffered whilst Newcastle flourished.
Playing with much fluidity and discernible confidence, Newcastle controlled the game and the sublime strike from Gael Bigirimana to put Newcastle 3-0 up on the night was a perfect way to send fans home happy. Whilst it was an undoubtedly good night for the Magpies, the injuries to key performers Demba Ba and Davide Santon took the gloss off the victory.
With a game away at Bordeaux on Thursday and another important Premier League fixture the following Monday, Alan Pardew will be concerned to see his already large injury list grow by two more names. Both players will now need to be assessed although the city will be provided with some much needed relief following Newcastle’s first Premier League win since October.
Newcastle won the game tonight but this was in no small part down to the sending off. Until that point, Wigan were in the ascendency and this must not be ignored. Had Figueroa remained on the pitch Wigan may well have scored first in the game and it’s never good when we concede first in a game! Luck played a big part.
Moreover, we should really have controlled the game more than we did. I mean of course we were in the driving seat but there were a couple of ten minute spells whereby Wigan enjoyed a lot of possession and retained the ball well, despite having a man less.
However tonight was a good night for Newcastle and the positives vastly outweigh the negatives.
For anybody who is a regular follower of this blog you’ll know how much I loathe to see us in a 4-4-2, it’s tried and tested but it’s tired more than anything. We are so unadventurous in it and fielding that against the way Wigan set up would have been suicidal. Pardew got his tactics spot on and changed our shape; we needed this and benefited from it. Yes, we owe a lot to the sending off but the players looked comfortable tonight and seemed to knock the ball around far better than we’ve seen lately, this wasn’t simply down to having an extra man.
As for the players I was very impressed with our midfield. Our defense stood string of course although they didn’t have too much to do, in fact nor did Krul as Wigan only had one shot on target. We won this game in midfield and Marveaux and Anita were the outstanding performers. They were all over the pitch and in the absence of our injured stars they stepped up and performed which was a joy to watch. Both collected from deep and both were comfortable in possession, passing well in periods. Marveaux particularly had a very impressive performance and was an absolute breathe of fresh air in the middle of the park.He recently said in an ESPN interview his favoured position is actually in the middle as opposed to the wing and judging by that performance we can see why!
I’d also like to mention that Whilst Ba will of course grab the headlines and Cisse’s finishing was wayward, I’d maintain that Cisse in fact had his best performance of late. That might sound a bit daft to some because of the chances he skewed but he was a lot more involved than he recently has been, actively seeking the ball. However we need to tell him when to watch the line because he strays offside way too much! Nevertheless, keep the faith in our number 9, he has a lot to offer us at this football club.
The players have come under much scrutiny in the past month so rather than focus on them individually I’d prefer to compliment them on their performance as a team. To win against a potentially dangerous side following four straight defeats and with all of injuries it was great to see the win. Marveaux just edges out Anita for the much coveted Carryingcoals’ MOTM!
- The sending off: Was it or wasn’t it. Initially I thought it wasn’t but having seen it again and listening to Gary Neville, I do agree that Cisse was nudged in the back rather than shoulder to shoulder. Harsh of course but I can understand it.
- The double whammy: What do you think, should players in that situation get sent off as well as giving a penalty away? It does ruin the game in my opinion. Luckily it went for us and not against tonight in a game we needed to win.
- BIGI BIGI BIGI: What a strike! Rather like Anita’s against Brugge in Europe, it was unexpected and had me off my seat. Great goal from a great prospect!
Before the game I spoke about needing that little bit of luck; tonight we got it. Once Figueroa went off the game was only going to go one way. Still though, the players had to do a job and they did so, as well as giving us a lot of positives to consider after that performance. It’s looking a lot better than it was before the game anyway.
Well done lads, job done, three points, three goals and a clean sheet. Excellent.
Post match thoughts welcome.