We are 21 games into the Premier League 2018/19 season and Newcastle Utd currently sit in 15th position on 18 points, just two points away from the drop zone.  As we prepare to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday tea time, I thought I’d run through some stats from our season so far…

Player Stats:

Minutes Played (1890 Mins Played by NUFC in Total So Far)

  • 1890 – Martin Dubravka

He’s played every minute of our 21 Premier League games so far in 2018/19.  This is no surprise is it.  The Slovakian has arguably been Rafa’s best signing since he took charge of the club.  With our backup keepers nowhere near his ability, Dubravka is always going to be given the nod to start in goal.  His leadership and organisational skills of our defence are clear to see during games.  Personally I would love him to be our club Captain, but that role is currently held by Jamaal Lascelles.

  • 1829 – Mo Diame

Big Mo has been carrying out an important role for us in the centre of midfield, breaking up opposition play and winning back possession.  Whenever I watch him all I see is dogged determination to win the ball.  I’ve been known to describe him as a ‘rabid dog’ now and then.  He works tirelessly for the team.  He currently sits 7th in the Premier League player stats table for tackles made.  Mo has made 63 tackles this season.  Ricardo Pereira of Leicester City leads the way with 79.

  • 1583 – DeAndre Yedlin

Again, due to the lack of squad quality, Yedlin should have the right back/wing back spot nailed down.  Rafa is a lover of pace, which we all know the American has in bucket loads.  He continues to develop into a solid defensive player under Rafa’s tutelage, although there have been times where he has been found wanting positionally this season.  He was criticised by many for the red card that he received against Wolves for hauling down his man.  A decision which ultimately cost us the game, as we were more than a match for them up to that point.  Yedlin has chipped in with an assist and a goal this season and no doubt Rafa would like to see these figures increase as the season goes on.

  • 1497 – Ayoze Perez

Mr.Marmite.  Toon fans either love him or hate him.  He works tirelessly playing out of position in the defensive number ten role in Rafa’s system.  Indeed, he has made more tackles per game for us this season than Paul Dummett, Jamaal Lascelles and Fede Fernandez.  Rafa sees this position as vital to his tactical setup.  He likes the number ten to defend from the front, closing down players and pressing high.  When you then factor in the expectation of him to score goals and create chances for his team mates, this is an arduous task.  No wonder he comes in for criticism now and then.  When you take into account the multitude of tasks that Rafa demands of Perez, his effort is appreciated by those fans who are savvy enough to understand the wider picture of his role in the side.

  • 1473 – Matt Ritchie

A fan favourite who is becoming Mr Versatile.  Having played as a winger throughout his career, we have seen Rafa deploy the Scot at wingback in his newly discovered 5-3-2 formation.  Ritchie’s workrate is there for all to see, so its no surprise that Rafa trusts him in a more defensive position when required.  Its obvious that he doesn’t have the pace anymore that is required to ‘beat a man’.  He is having to reinvent himself somewhat.  Chipping in with three assists so far, he leads the way in our squad with goals created.  His passion and desire make him a popular player amongst the Toon Army.

Goals

  • 5 – Salomon Rondon

If this man gets injured or we lose him for any other reason, we are doomed.  Nobody else in our squad offers anywhere near a goalscoring threat as he does.  When I watch him play, he brings a different dimension to our attack.  Not only is he good at winning the ball in the air, he has an exquisite first touch.  This makes him an excellent target man.  He has won a club high 4.5 aerial duels on average per game this season.  And as we have seen, if we can supply him with decent crosses, he will score goals.  What better praise to receive than from Alan Shearer himself, who seems to really rate the big Venezuelan.  If he’s good enough for Al, he should be good enough for us all.

  • 2 – Joselu, Perez, Clark

Joselu, the man Rafa never wanted but had to make do with.  He just isn’t good enough for the Premier League.  Constantly looks out of his depth, but to his credit always puts a shift in.  He just isn’t going to get the goals that we need to stay in the division.

Perez does his best from the number ten role mentioned earlier, but will struggle to get into double figures while he has his defensive duties weighing him down.

Ciaran Clark is always a goal threat when he plays.  He is good aerially and has an eye for goal.  Though now he probably finds himself behind Fernandez, Lejeune, Lascelles and Schar in the pecking order.  We’ll probably see more of him when Rafa deploys the 5-3-2 system.

  • 1 – Muto, Kenedy, Yedlin

Muto and Kenedy’s goals at Old Trafford were so close to getting a result.  Muto is now at the Asian Cup and Kenedy just looks so average.  Muto looks like he’ll be used as a number ten to compete with Perez.  Who knows what’s going on with Kenedy?  Dropped from the squad recently, hopefully this will be the rocket that he needs to sort himself out.  He even looked poor playing against Blackburn in the FA Cup, although this was in the unfamiliar number ten role.  Still though, in what should have been a position where he could show off his supposed attacking flair, he never got going.

Top 3 WhoScored.com Average Ratings

  • 23 – Fabian Schar

A relative unknown when we signed him from Deportivo in the summer for around £3m.  Schar has shown that he has a decent pass on him and is committed to the cause.  He has fitted in particularly well to the 5-3-2 formation on the right side of the three centre backs.

  • Ciaran Clark 7.05

Not a regular starter, but has chipped in with two goals, which has probably boosted his rating.  I’ve criticised Clark in the past and often felt he isn’t Premier League standard, but he has made me question that opinion with some of his performances this season.  He’s looked reliable and assured at the back in 2018/19.

  • Jonjo Shelvey – 6.83

We all know what he’s capable of.  And by that, I don’t just mean the ability to land a football on a sixpence from 50 yards away.  He’s always got a red card in him, waiting to pounce when we need him most.  Easily our most creative player but has struggled with a recurring thigh injury this season resulting in only playing 749 minutes out of a possible 1890 so far in the Premier League.  We need him fit, playing well and NOT suspended.

 Shelvey walks off the pitch after getting red card

Club Stats 2018/19 (Premier League)

  • Goals Per Game – 0.7

This is our biggest concern this season.  Rafa’s teams will always be defensively sound.  That’s a good base to work on, and will hopefully be enough to ensure there are three worse teams than us, but we need to be scoring more goals to ensure we stay above the drop zone.

  • Average Possession – 42.5%

We don’t have enough quality in the squad to dominate games with possession.  Rafa will mostly set up to be solid at the back, allow the other team to have the ball, and counter attack whenever possible. Another reason why we don’t score many.

  • Pass Accuracy – 71.6%

This is the 2nd worst pass accuracy in the league.  Only Cardiff City come below us with a woeful 64.9%.  With such low possession, we need to make our passes count and I’m sure this stat won’t please Rafa and his coaching team.

  • Shots Per Game – 10.7

Above only Burnley (9.2) and Brighton (9.3), this stat is another indicator of why we just aren’t getting on the scoresheet as much as we’d like.  It’s abundantly clear that we have a massive lack of creativity and pace in our squad.  We don’t have wingers capable of getting past their full back and crossing in from the byline.  We don’t have inside forwards who are capable of cutting inside and having a shot or creating a shooting opportunity for a team mate.  We just haven’t got the capability of creating shooting opportunities when we haven’t got the creative players that we badly need.  Couple that with the low average possession, shots will be few and far between for us this season.

  • Crosses – 19.3 Per Game Average

We are the 5th highest in the division for crosses made, on 406.  Remember though that Rondon has only started 13 of those 21 games played.  We’d more than likely have scored more if he’d played all 21.  His headed goal vs Bournemouth at St.James’ Park from Kenedy’s cross was an absolute gem.  Shearer-esque.

  • Clean Sheets – 6

We are doing well in this department and stand 7th in the league behind Leicester (7), Man City (8), Palace (8), Spurs (9), Chelsea (10) and top placed Liverpool (12).  Rafa is an excellent organiser of defences and if we are going to have any chance of staying in the Premier League, this will be key.  Our strongest position is centre back, with Fernandez, Lascelles, Lejeune, Schar, Clark and arguably Dummett able to play there too.  I’m confident with Rafa at the helm that we will always have a well drilled defence.

Matt Ritchie scores penalty at the Gallowgate end to make it 3-0 against Preston

  • Penalties Awarded – 1

A long standing gripe that we have with the Premier League is the lack of penalties that we are awarded.  Our only penalty this season was missed by Kenedy in the 96th minute away to Cardiff City, which ended 0-0.  Those two points missed out on could be absolutely huge at the end of the season.  We are bottom of the league for pens awarded this season along with Arsenal, Man City, Watford & West Ham.  Top of the table are Bournemouth, Man Utd and Palace who have all been awarded six penalties.

  • Headed Goals – 8

We are 4th in the league table on this one, level with Everton on 8, then its Bournemouth with 9 and Spurs top the division with 10.  This will be something we continue to rely on, as we try and get the ball into Rondon from crosses and also look to get our lads onto the end of attacking set pieces.  Considering our lack of creativity from open play, set piece opportunities could be vital.  Jamaal Lascelles normally has a headed goal in him, which we haven’t seen yet this season, so hopefully he is saving that for when it matters.

I’m sure Rafa has access to far more intricate stats than I have just reeled off to you there.  He is a meticulous manager who will scrutinise every stat going and will use those statistics when planning his tactical approach for specific opponents, or when choosing his starting lineups.

Securing our Premier League status this season will be the most important stat for Rafa.  I’m 100% behind him.

HWTL.

By Rob Clothier

Follow Rob on Twitter @tfRob1892

[Stats acquired from whoscored.com & premierleague.com]