Newcastle 6-0 Aston Villa: Carroll the main man as Newcastle run riot
A huge win for Newcastle thanks to two main factors – they won the midfield battle, and had a clear gameplan when they had the ball.
Chris Hughton kept faith with the eleven players that started well but faded badly against Manchester United last Monday, whilst Kevin MacDonald made the one expected change – with James Milner leaving, his replacement Stephen Ireland came into the side in the centre of midfield.
Villa started the better side, and looked more likely to score thanks to Newcastle’s suicidally high defensive line that Ashley Young constantly looked to take advantage of. He won a penalty after just eight minutes by sprinting in behind Newcastle’s backline to meet a curled through ball from Stiliyan Petrov, but John Carew blazed the spot kick well over the bar.
Newcastle grew into the contest by getting the better of the midfield battle. Alan Smith and Joey Barton simply outfought Petrov and debutant Stephen Ireland, winning the 50-50 balls, and taking it in turns to break towards goal. Barton was playing slightly higher up the pitch, and was the most creative of these four players – and less than five minutes after the missed penalty, fired a tremendous strike past Brad Friedel, and into the net.
No cohesion from Villa
Villa were playing a more possession-based approach than the counter-attacking style they favoured under Martin O’Neill, although the space in behind the Newcastle defence was also prompting their central midfielders to look for quick balls over the top. They struggled to get their wingers involved – Marc Albrighton, so impressive in his first two games of the season, was outclassed by Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing did little. Villa switched their wingers around, but their main problem was still in the centre of the pitch.
Judging Ireland by his debut is rather harsh, but it seems unlikely that his preferred role is in a midfield four, even when playing alongside the defensive-minded Petrov. Today he played very deep, unable to influence the game going forward, and showing defensive weaknesses when up against Smith (both in losing too many tackles, and not tracking him when Smith made a run into the box, where he was upended by Richard Dunne). Ireland’s best position is at the top of a midfield three, and whilst the cash-plus-Ireland deal was good in terms of monetary gain and simple player ability, they now have the problem that Milner and Ireland are quite different players, and replacing one with the other might not work particularly well.
As against Manchester United, Newcastle’s wingers were slightly too keen to come inside early on – particularly Wayne Routledge, who seemed inclined to cut in onto his left foot, only to then discover that he wasn’t confident enough to actually use it. On the other side, Enrique started to get forward more, and his excellent cross found Carroll at the back post, who nodded down for Kevin Nolan to score at the second time of asking.
Carroll runs the show
Carroll was superb all day, with his obvious aerial ability complimented by his general link-up play, and his precise finishing. His first goal arrived after a Dunne miskick following a corner, and Newcastle were 3-0 up at half-time.
The second half was played at a much gentler pace. Newcastle were intelligent enough to slow the pace down when in possession in midfield – the Premier League experience of Smith, Barton and Nolan is not something many newly-promoted sides can draw upon. Their attitude was to sit back, and see what Villa had to offer. Which was very little – as the Chalkboard below shows, they didn’t manage a single shot on target.
MacDonald changed nothing at half-time , then experimented with Emile Heskey in a right-wing position in the second half, still with the 4-4-1-1. Petrov was the next player to get some rare experience on the right following Nigel Reo-Coker’s introduction, but in truth, Villa had given up. Carroll volleyed home a fine goal midway through the second half, then Nolan poked home in the last five minutes, before Carroll grabbed his hattrick in stoppage time. But the second half was a non-event in tactical terms.
You suspect that Kevin MacDonald has blown his chance of being given the Aston Villa job on a full-time basis after this display, especially with Bob Bradley making positive noises in response to being linked with the job. Villa started well, but were absolutely terrible after going 3-0 down. MacDonald’s changes in the second half hardly suggested he has the tactical nous to deserve the job, and whoever does take over will have to mould a cohesive team with some players that don’t really seem to fit together after Ireland’s arrival.
Newcastle were excellent – combative in midfield, intelligent and patient in their build-up play, and clinical upfront. Carroll’s goals gets the headlines, but his overall game was excellent throughout. He wins almost everything in the air, and is well aware of his job in holding the ball up and laying it off for others.
In all, Newcastle look to be a decent side. Their formation can shift easily; a 4-4-1-1 when defending, and a 4-2-3-1 (or even 4-1-4-1) when in possession of the ball. They also have a clear gameplan – get the ball to Carroll in the air, and get runners to contest the second ball. If there’s one thing they need to change, it’s simply to utilize Carroll even more -with his aerial dominance, there’s no reason for the wingers to be cutting in rather than going outside and whipping balls in.