Monday, December 3, 2012

Tactical Analysis: Newcastle 2-0 Wigan

Maynor Figueroa's 12th minute red card for a last ditch tackle on Papiss Cisse was the key factor in Wigan's 3-0 loss at Newcastle. Ba scored the resulting penalty to put the Magpies up 1-0 and from there they were relatively comfortable for the remainder of the game.

Prior to Figueroa's sending off the game looked like it would provide an interesting tactical battle. When these teams met at the end of April last season, Alan Pardew's side were at a loss for how to defend Roberto Martinez's unconventional 3-4-3 formation and were soundly beaten 4-0. Wigan's 3-4-3 employs two wing backs and two wide forwards. They look to push the wing backs up towards the wide forwards and overload the opposition full back in wide areas (see post below). In the 4-0 defeat Pardew played a 4-3-3 with three central midfielders. Wigan's wing backs (Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejour on that day) pushed beyond Newcastle's wide forwards when in possession, creating 2 v. 1 situations with the wide forwards on the flanks in the attacking third. Newcastle's three central midfielders were unable to shift to wider areas and pick up Boyce and Beausejour and Wigan therefore dominated play on the wings.

Given how thoroughly outplayed Pardew's team was in that fixture, it was surprising to see him once again line up in a 4-3-3 for today's game. He must have certainly thought the extra man in the center of the park would allow his side to boss possession down the middle but would have also been concerned the formation would once again give Wigan's wing backs Beausejour and Ronnie Stam space down the wings. To combat this threat Pardew played Jonas Gutierrez fairly deep on the left. The Argentine operated more as a left midfielder than forward and dropped deep to track the runs of Stam when Wigan were in possession. Cisse played narrower and more advanced on the right, looking to get close to Ba. Early on when the game was still 11 v. 11, Wigan looked like they might once again enjoy some success down the left with Cisse failing to track the runs forward of Beausejour.

The red card and resulting penalty changed the entire complexion of the game. In the first few minutes following Figueroa's sending off, Wigan didn't change anything and tried to play a back two of Gary Caldwell and Boyce with Beausejour and Stam continuing on as wing backs in what was effectively a 2-4-3. Martinez was trying to bring on holding midfielder James McArthur for Jordi Gomez but before he could make that sub Ba had added a second after a galloping run forward from Davide Santon whose well struck shot Ali Al-Habsi only parried into the path of Ba.

With the introduction of McArthur, Beausejour was dropped back alongside Caldwell and Boyce to form a back three. David Jones moved to left midfield while McArthur slotted in alongside James McCarthy in the center of midfield. Aroune Kone and Franco di Santo played as forwards in what was now a 3-4-2. Without two wide forwards, Wigan no longer had the ability to create the overloads in wide areas their game is based around. Newcastle had plenty of bodies to deal with any threat down the middle of the field and although Wigan showed some decent passing displays in the second half, the Magpies' goal never really look threatened.

Newcastle certainly enjoyed the extra man in midfield, comfortably controlling possession in that area and at times springing attacks from some excellent dribbling by Sylvain Marveaux. The second half was a rather quiet affair. Pardew's side sat a little deeper and had plenty of bodies in the middle of the field when Wigan tried to cross. Stam and Kone were at times able to work passing combinations and find space to cross down the right but with Di Santo the only target in the box they never really looked like scoring.