As citizens of a country whose football team hasn’t won an international tournament in 45 years, the expectations of England supporters seem ludicrously naive. However, the exposure and veneration of the Barclays Premier League on a worldwide scale points to a society with football at its core - the nPower Championship, England’s second tier league competition, draws nearly 10 million supporters each season, more than Serie A in Italy and Ligue 1 in France. Since 2005, seven of the fourteen Champions League finalists have come from these shores, yet England have not beaten an elite nation in a knock-out competition since the defeat of Spain at Euro 96. What exactly contributes to this dearth of success in the sport our nation holds so dear?
One of the most popular theories regarding England’s anaemia bemoans the intensity and longevity of domestic football, which leaves players fatigued and lethargic by the advent of the summer tournaments. Peter Crouch, speaking in August 2010, described the reality of Premiership football: ‘Our league is probably the toughest about - even if you’re playing one of the bottom sides you’re still in for a really hard game’. And therein lies the problem. As a product to be marketed, the Premier League is peerless in the sporting industry. With punters demanding their unremitting dosage of theatre and excitement – ‘You don’t learn, because the Premier League wants games to be played all the time, so people can watch it everywhere’, grumbled Sven-Göran Eriksson - it is no wonder the Premier League and its Chief Executive Richard Scudamore look to meet the demand, and benefit financially from the fanatical support received by English clubs. And so, with Scudamore unprepared to disrupt the drama and introduce a winter-break, ‘international players just do not get a chance [to rest] and they’re burnt out’, according to former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill. Speaking on the same subject, West Bromwich coach Roy Hodgson stated ‘I find it disappointing that a lot of top people in the game have come out and advocated how useful a break would be, and we have not yet found a way to incorporate it into the season’. In fact, Premiership players suffer, on average, four times more injuries from March to May than those in other major European leagues. Fabio Capello, the England coach, himself blamed the national team’s lamentable performance in the 2010 World Cup on exhaustion, claiming ‘we arrive really tired every time we have to play competitions in June’.
Money is also an issue. With the stakes so high in club football – Barcelona received over £50 million in prize money for winning the 2011 European Cup – domestic teams cannot run the risk of their cherished assets incurring injuries while representing their countries. With clubs winning the battle of wills against national teams (the Premier League recently vetoed the release of Under-17 and Under-19 academy players to train with England), continental, rather than international, football is regarded as the pinnacle of the sport by fans and players alike. Jamie Carragher, a European Cup winner with Liverpool in 2005, wrote in his autobiography that ‘defeats wearing an England shirt never hurt me in the same way as losing with my club’. As a result of this indifference, representing England becomes a chore to endure rather than a dream to realise. In his recently published autobiography, former Manchester United captain Gary Neville describes his England career as a ‘waste of time’.
Another concern arising from the sudden explosion in finance in English football is the prevalence of foreigners in the top-flight. A mere 40% of Premier League players qualify for the national team, whereas in La Liga, home of the world champions Spain, the figure is closer to 77%. Although Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque described it as ‘enriching to have the best players from around the world playing in the Premier League’, there are growing concerns that overseas imports are disrupting the development of home-grown talent. Writing in the Guardian, Paul Hayward echoes the fears of many that ‘promising colts will be stopped at the door of Premier League first-teams, stagnate, or be sent out on loan, never to return as England players’. With the quota of native players in a Premier League squad of twenty-five set at just eight, the division lacks the depth of English footballers to provide competition or cover for positions in the national squad. Hayward’s assessment that ‘Without Owen Hargreaves, England lack a single credible defensive midfielder’ is a depressing reminder of this reality.
This gulf of quality also applies to the academies of top clubs, with José Luis Astiazarán, President of La Liga, asserting that ‘In Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United there are a lot of young Spanish, French and Italian players – maybe this is why you are not creating young English players.’. A further indictment of the foreign influence suggests ‘the best English players are often flattered by the brilliant foreign players around them’, as Ben Chu writes in the Independent. With this in mind, fans expect their heroes to perform likewise for their country, when in fact they are surrounded by less gifted professionals than at their clubs. Given, due to the proportion of foreigners in every Premiership side, England players are unlikely to be team-mates at club level; their lack of cohesion on the international stage is unsurprising. The Spain starting eleven that won the World Cup against Holland last year comprised players from just three clubs, with Joan Capdevila the only player contracted outside Barcelona or Real Madrid. A staggering seven Premiership sides were represented in the England eleven demolished by Germany at the same tournament.
The standard of coaching in this country is another quandary, with a plethora of tactically inept managers and strength-obsessed academy staff. Indeed, the number of trained coaches in this country, 2,769 as of July 2010, is dwarfed by figures on the continent. Spain employs 23,995; Germany employs 34,970. Furthermore, in 2009, clubs in the German Bundesliga invested £50 million in their academies, 3.3 per cent of gross revenues. Premier League clubs invested closer to £30 million, just 1.5 per cent. John Peacock, the Head of Coaching for the Football Association, recently admitted that ‘we’ve always felt that we have to develop our youngsters better than we have done but I don’t think there’s been the correct investment or the correct planning towards getting that structure into place’. Resultantly, children as young as eleven play on full-size pitches, meaning qualities like size and speed are valued over skill and precision. The FA Director of Football Sir Trevor Brooking’s condemnation that ‘Creativity and subtlety in the final third is probably something neglected in all the age groups’ is yet another scathing reflection of youth coaching in England. In Spain and Germany, however, the focus centres on small-sided games on smaller pitches, where technique and awareness are traits glorified above all else. These ideas are clearly benefitting their respective national teams. On the subject of Germany’s technical superiority, former England striker Andy Cole, writing in the Independent, asseverates that ‘they have good, young, well-organised, hungry, ambitious players who have a mindset that allows them to produce the goods at the big tournaments. England do not.’ In the Guardian, Hayward writes that ‘Young English players are allocated single positions and rarely think outside the tram lines of those narrow vocations. The young Germans can open up a pitch with angled passing and running. Spain and Holland are fluid and flexible. The English intelligence remains disengaged’. With the onus on physicality above proficiency, it is no wonder that England trail on the international scene. Paul Wilson in the Guardian reflects that ‘not even £6 million a year buys a coach who can make bricks without straw’.
A further blight caused by the inadequacy of coaching is the paucity of accomplished English managers in the Premier League. The most successful in the current contingent is Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp, the favourite to succeed Capello at the helm of the national team. Capello has won ten league titles in two countries; Redknapp has never achieved a position above fourth in the Premier League. However, although Redknapp triumphed in the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008, this success was engendered by an unsustainable wage structure which took the club to the brink of collapse in the subsequent two years. In fact, Rafael Van Der Vaart, a key figure in the Tottenham team, recently declared that ‘There is a clipboard in our dressing room, but Harry doesn’t write anything on it. It’s not that we do nothing [tactically] – but it’s close to that.’ In an era with tactical contests at the forefront, England under Redknapp is a prospect unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of other nations – he introduced striker Roman Pavlyuchenko into the European Cup tie against Internazionale with the mandate to ‘fucking run about a bit’. As Jeremy Wilson muses in the Daily Telegraph, ‘it would only have made sense to sack Capello if there was someone better to replace him’. In English football, it would seem there is not.
The newspaper is, as Arthur Schoepenhauer once said, ‘a far-sounding trumpet’, and consequently pieces written about the England national team have the propensity to cause a great deal of harm. The tabloid press, with their irrepressible tendency to overestimate the capability of the country’s football team (to put it mildly), have not only lead the detrimental vilification of Fabio Capello – ‘for a man with his record to be portrayed as a know-nothing donkey by the nation’s best-selling daily [The Sun] on the basis of four matches is absurd’, writes Jonathan Wilson in the Guardian – but also brought about a culture of hype in which ‘the beliefs of most fans seem to swing from one unrealistic extreme to another, despite plenty of evidence for a more mundane reality somewhere in the middle’, as Stefan Szymanski writes in his book ‘Why England Lose’. As a result, when the England side performs well, they can do no wrong, and fans expect the team to sweep aside all challengers en-route to eternal glory. This overconfidence spreads to the players, who expect success to come without endeavour. As Cole writes, ‘It’s the sheer, typical arrogance of English football that makes results such as [the 4-1 loss to Germany] so shocking’. On the other hand, when the team underperforms, the tabloids leap to criticise, castigate and incriminate, creating a miasma of pressure from which the players cannot escape. ‘No country who have appeared in one World Cup final (and that, on home soil) since joining the party in 1950 has the right to march into a tournament chuntering about “pressure”’ writes Hayward. Yet, with the unrestrained might of the media on its back, the team stutters and falters, having failed to live up to their massaged reputations. ‘We will send 23 men to Rio de Janeiro to find glory. The El Dorado generation, perhaps. They will be feted as heroes, heralded as the team that can conquer the world. And they will, most likely, fail our heightened expectations, and back will come the self-appointed magistrates, and the rope and the noose. This is England.’ writes Rory Smith in the Daily Telegraph, and he is probably right.
The culture of English football rouses another significant concern, with the nation’s fans suffering from a ‘messiah-complex’, as suggested by Jonathan Wilson. He warns that supporters, players and coaches alike must ‘stop looking for a mythical saviour who is going to redeem the protracted decline and get on with making the best of the present situation’. With heroes who drag their teams single-handedly from the mire heralded above all others (think Roy of the Rovers, or perhaps Steven Gerrard), the fans’ acclaim is directed at players with passion, bravery and commitment, rather than the sophisticated traits of teamwork and intricacy that are lauded on the continent. As Rory Smith asserts, ‘Cramming players in because of the names on the back of their shirts does not work any more, if it ever did. Modern football dictates that you play a system that works. It is not a best-fit scenario.’ a stance supported by Hayward, who notes that ‘until the English game joins the world mainstream of possession and skills-based play and drops the old imperial delusions and celebrity-driven self-regard then there will be no end to their stay in the wilderness.’
England’s failure to provide a competent football team is a scourge with many symptoms. Whether or not the national game can be rescued from its perennial demise is in the hands of the FA, Fabio Capello’s successor, and the next generation of youth coaches. The real question, however, is whether they have the foresight to make the necessary changes to revitalise English football. The answer remains to be seen.
The opening weekend of the league season could not have gone any better for Owen Coyle and Roberto Mancini, with their sides capitalising on the inexperience of two of the Premiership’s newcomers, Queen’s Park Rangers and Swansea City. At Loftus Road, Bolton dominated from the twentieth minute, exposing QPR’s weak defence, vulnerable to the potency of the Petrov-Davies-Eagles triumvirate. At Eastlands (or should I say Etihad Stadium?), Manchester City negated Brendan Rogers’ possession football by swarming the Swans’ box, eventually forcing four goals, aided by the introduction of the Argentinian demi-God Sergio Agüero in the second half.
At the Reebok this Sunday, where Manchester City have not won in six attempts, both teams will look to ride the waves of optimism after their impressive showings last week.
In defence, Coyle will almost certainly select his first choice back-five, with keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and centre-halfs Zat Knight and Gary Cahill supported by Gretar Steinsson and Paul Robinson at right and left full-back respectively. In the midfield, the effective anchoring partnership of Nigel Reo-Coker and Fabrice Muama should be given another chance to develop, with Chris Eagles and Martin Petrov deployed on the flanks. Kevin Davies, the fulcrum of all Bolton’s play, will be supported up front by Ivan Klasnic or new signing Sanli Tuncay. In an attempt to contain City’s three man centre midfield, Coyle may well select the deeper-lying Tuncay.
Like Bolton, Manchester City will also deploy four in defence, with Micah Richards, Vincent Kompany, Jolean Lescott and Gael Clichy shielding goalkeeper Joe Hart. Mancini’s customary midfield trio of Yaya Touré, Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong could sit deep, allowing a three pronged attack of Agüero, Silva and Dzeko to wreak havoc in the final third.
Bolton’s deep back-line is limited technically, so the task of moving the ball from defence to attack will fall to Fabrice Muamba, whose job will entail clearing up fragmented City surges and providing Eagles, Reo-Coker and Petrov with opportunities to set up counter-attacks, where the Trotters are at their most dangerous.
In an attempt to even out the numbers in midfield, Eagles and Petrov will drift centrally, as they did against QPR. With Barry, De Jong and Touré occupied by Bolton’s four midfielders, and Kompany and Lescott wary of the threat of Kevin Davies, space will develop in the City half for Sanli Tuncay to collect the ball. Feeding off Davies’ knock-downs and lay-offs, Tuncay will be vital in crafting shooting opportunities for the Wanderers.
If Muamba and Reo-Coker can distribute quickly to Eagles and Petrov, their accurate long-balls to Davies will form the main threat to Kompany and Lescott in Mancini’s defence. If the City centre-backs can cut off supply to Davies in the air, they will stifle Bolton’s main attacking outlet.
- MANCHESTER CITY
With Reo-Coker, Muamba and Davies cramming the Bolton midfield in defence, De Jong and Lescott will fulfil a vital role in supplying Clichy and Richards on the wings. As Eagles and Petrov tuck in to try and prevent passes to Silva and Agüero, space will open up for City’s full-backs to exploit in the Bolton half. Bombing into the final third, City’s attackers will get the support they need to trouble Bolton’s defence.
Yaya Touré and Gareth Barry will prove to be vital cogs in the midfield, having taken the most touches of the ball in the 4-0 demolition of Swansea. Their accurate passing will be key in seizing control in the midfield to find space for City to attack.
Bolton’s rigid, deep defence will allow Silva and Agüero to work the ball in front of the back four, from where they can shoot or attempt to play in Edin Dzeko for goal-scoring opportunities. With the support of Clichy, Touré and Richards, by keeping the ball in the final third City can pin Bolton back by sheer weight of numbers and work chances through consistent offensive pressure, as they did last Monday.
If Bolton are to prevent Manchester City from winning, Davies and Tuncay (or Klasnic) will have to graft to support their midfielders when not in possession. If Touré and Barry are allowed to dictate the midfield, the quality and trickery of City’s attackers will win the game for them.
With captain Cesc Fábregas having quit the Emirates to rejoin Barcelona, and midfield dynamo Samir Nasri soon to join Manchester City, Arsenal are ostensibly in disarray. When you add the suspensions of Gervinho and Alex Song (picked up in the dire 0-0 draw at Newcastle) to that equation, along with the injuries suffered by Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere, finding eleven players of suitable quality and experience to win a Premier League match against fellow European hopefuls Liverpool could be tough for Arsene Wenger’s team.
Not all is particularly rosy in Kenny Dalgish’s camp either. After an effervescent and energetic opening forty-five minutes at home to Sunderland, his team fell away in the second half and lumbered to an insipid 1-1 draw. The talismanic Steven Gerrard is not expected back until September - along with Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson - and Dalglish has the issue of squad integration to address, given their host of summer signings. Another problem is their poor away form, collecting just 14 points in their last 14 matches on the road. Their recent record away to Arsenal is just as disheartening - they have not beaten the Gunners away in 11 years.
Both Wenger and Dalglish are likely to deploy four at the back, with Karl Jenkinson deputising for Kieran Gibbs on the left for Arsenal; and Martin Kelly replacing the shaky John Flanagan at right back.
In the midfield for the Gunners, the mohawked Emmanuel Frimpong will replace Song as the defensive anchor, supporting Aaron Ramsey and one other central midfielder, potentially the England under-21 international Henri Lansbury. For Liverpool, the combination of Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam in the engine-room looks promising, with the former winning the ball and the latter offering it up for the Reds’ contingent of explosive attackers.
On the flanks, Arsenal are likely to hand Theo Walcott a start on the right wing after his goal-scoring performance in midweek, and on the left Wenger may well turn to the intermittently effective Andrei Arshavin. Jordan Henderson, relatively anonymous against his former club, is likely to be dropped in favour of the industrious Dirk Kuyt on the right flank. Stewart Downing should retain his place after a promising showing on his debút last weekend.
Leading the line for Arsenal will be the brilliant Robin van Persie, the one truly world class player left at the club. For Liverpool, Andy Carroll will continue his attempts to forge a partnership with Luis Suárez, and assert himself as the focal point of Liverpool’s attacks.
In attack, Arsenal will look to keep possession and dictate the play, cramming the midfield with their five attacking players.
With short passes, they will look to pressurise the deep Liverpool defence by overrunning Lucas, with the knowledge that Adam lacks the defensive nous to support his midfield colleague.
Kuyt’s defensive contribution will be vital in alleviating the pressure defensively, while Suárez and Downing will have to contribute off the ball to stifle Ramsey and Lansbury in the centre of the park, and stop Frimpong from launching attacks from deep.
Van Persie and Arshavin will be vital in unlocking the fragile right-hand side of the Liverpool defence, where Carragher and Kelly will be targeted for their lack of agility.
Walcott will be urged to join van Persie in the box, as he is unlikely to have much luck beating José Enrique on the right wing, the Spaniard having been beaten one-on-one just nine times last season.
Offensively, Liverpool will hope to utilise the width provided by the two attacking full backs and Stewart Downing, pulling Frimpong out of position and allowing Suarez space in the middle of the pitch.
From the flanks, or the left boot of Charlie Adam, Liverpool will look to provide Andy Carroll with long balls to put pressure on the aerially inferior Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen. The focus on Carroll from Arsenal’s central defenders will allow Suárez and Kuyt opportunities to pounce on knock-downs and loose balls should they drift centrally.
Downing and Suárez will be vital in putting pressure on full-backs Bacary Sagna and Karl Jenkinson, especially on the left-side of the defence, where Jenkinson’s inexperience will surely be targeted by Dalglish and assistant Steve Clarke.
Frimpong will be vital in closing down Charlie Adam, who showed glimpses of his play-making quality against Sunderland. If he is given time on the ball, he proved last season for Blackpool how dangerous his range of passing can be.
With both teams missing key personnel in several areas and thus attempting to find places for their new signings and youth prospects, the game could prove an edgy encounter. Control of the midfield will prove crucial, as Arsenal still have enough quality to dictate the game if Ramsey and Lansbury are allowed to feed the Arsenal front three. If Lucas can wrest the ball back for Liverpool on a regular basis, Liverpool’s exciting attack talent may well prove too much for Arsenal’s defence to bear.
So, Manchester City have made a signing. And no, surprisingly, it hasn’t cost them an extortionate fee. Gael Clichy, Arsenal’s long-standing left-back, is the latest to make the move to the North-West, charged with the mission of bolstering Roberto Mancini’s already superb and steadfast defence. Not, however, if Aleksandar Kolarov has anything to say about it. The Serb, equipped with his rocket-of-a-left-foot, will be determined to stave off his new French colleague in the competition for a berth in City’s starting eleven.
For just £7m, Clichy could prove to be a wonderful bit of business. At 25, he has the chance to continue developing and improving under the watchful eye of one of the best defensive coaches around. If he can augment a better understanding of the play in front of him alongside his already blistering pace and accurate passing, Kolarov will certainly have trouble regaining his place in Mancini’s side for the new season. Indeed, Clichy’s strengths mirror Kolarov’s weaknesses. The Serb is a player who far too often gets caught in possession upfield looking to burst the net - he attempted 1.5 shots each game where Clichy tried just one every three games - or split the defence, rather than focus on his defensive responsibilities. Clichy, on the other hand, can be extremely economical with the ball, combining superb distribution (completing 80% of an average of 54.1 passes per game, the third highest in the league) with the speed and technique to recover in defence and make telling tackles (3.4 per game), clearances (4.5) and interceptions (3.2). Kolarov, on the other hand, attempted on average in 2010/11 just 32.9 passes at a rate of 77%, making only 1.7 tackles, 3.0 clearances and 1.0 interceptions every game. Considering Mancini implements a largely possession-based style, Clichy will suit his needs to a tee; and, given they missed out on second place merely due to their inferior goal difference to Chelsea, Clichy’s added defensive solidarity will be a welcome addition to a team striving for a first league title since 1968.
One caveat however, is that in purely attacking terms, Kolarov seems to have the edge. In addition to providing 1.6 crosses per game, Kolarov engineered a key pass every time he took to the field. In contrast, Clichy chooses to maintain defensive shape, offering a cross or key pass just once every two games. For a team that aims the majority (73%) of its attacking thrust down the flanks, Clichy’s lack of ambition going forward could prove problematic.
That really is the only fillip as far as Kolarov is concerned. Of all the passes that Manchester City completed last season, 84% - a percentage second only to Arsenal (86%) - were over distance shorter than 25m. Individually, 96% of Clichy’s passes but only 91% of Kolarov’s qualify as ‘short’. For a team seemingly intent on bolstering their possession stats above an unimpressive average of 52%, Kolarov’s tendency to play speculative passes will need to be eradicated if he is to maintain a presence in the side. These trends are easy to see on the chalkboard below.
With failure an inconceivable option, the signing of Gael Clichy will engender more progressive play at Eastlands. A member of Arsenal’s 'Invincibles', Clichy knows how to win, and has the ability to become a cornerstone at the back for Manchester City. The future for Kolarov, it seems, is bleak.
There is a distinct Gallic flavour to the transfer activity on Tyneside this summer, with Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux and Demba Ba, who plays for Senegal but was born just outside Paris, joining Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle. Given Kevin Nolan’s decision to jump ship to play under Sam Allardyce at West Ham, and the unrelenting speculation about the futures of Joey Barton and José Enrique, the winds of change are rumbling in the North-East, and they’re coming from France.
The decision to re-invest a proportion of the £35m received for Andy Carroll in attacking players is an clear indication of Pardew’s aspirations. With Marveaux on the left and Ba leading the line, Newcastle will have on their books two players with undeniable flair and dexterity, something their current crop of forwards struggle to provide.
In Marveaux, Newcastle have a fine creative talent, often drifting centrally to act as an offensive pivot. Unfortunately, however, Marveaux is also a player whose progress has been continually obstructed by lengthy injuries. Last season, he managed just 9 starts. However, the year before - his best campaign to date - he managed 33 appearances, scored 10 goals and set up 5 others, becoming a key attacking outlet for Rennes. His main qualities come in the form of his blistering pace (coupled with dribbling skills that saw him complete 1.4 runs each game this season) and passing ability. Completing 83% over both long and short distances, and especially from set pieces, his accuracy is a vital asset. From August to November, when he sustained the injury that would bring his season to an end, Marveaux managed 1.4 key passes and 1.2 shots per game, with 2 assists and 1 goal (from a penalty).
Where Marveaux’s game is undeniably lacking is his focus on defensive responsiblity. A slight physical presence at just 5ft 7, he won only 20% of challenges in the air, and executed a meagre 0.8 tackles and 0.5 interceptions per game. So damaging to Rennes was his disinterest in tracking back, he was criticised by manager Frederic Antonetti for leaving left-back Carlos Bocanegra exposed throughout the 2009-2010 season. Marceaux also has a tendency to be wasteful with the ball, giving up posession 2.7 times per game, on average.
On form, Marceaux can be irrepressible. Against Toulouse in October 2010, deployed on the left but acting mostly through the centre, he was the offensive hub of the Rennes team, playing just behind Victor Montano and Jires Kembo-Ekoko, creating 4 chances (of which 1 was converted by Romain Danze). He completed 88% of 41 passes, of which 5 were cross-field and 2 were successful through-balls. Taking 65 touches, Marveaux was in possession more than any other player on the pitch. He beat a man and surged into the final third on 3 occasions, leading to 2 shots, both of which were on target, in addition to scoring a penalty to seal the result. Sadly for both Rennes and the player himself, this level of performance has rarely been achieved since injury first struck in June 2008.
At Newcastle, for Marveaux’s creativity to be harnessed, Pardew will have to adopt a strategy which integrates wingers more effectively. Newcastle’s most potent attacking threats came from the centre last season, through Nolan and Barton. By the end of the campaign, Newcastle had resorted to employing Ryan Taylor and Shane Ferguson on the flanks, as they did on the final day of the season against West Brom (below). Neither carried any significant attacking threat, completing 1 dribble and just 3 of 12 crosses between them.
Moreover, Newcastle must improve significantly in their goal-scoring capability. Despite registering a reasonable 28 goals after the injury of their front-line striker Andy Carroll in late December, no Newcastle striker featured in the list of the top 50 shot-takers in the division. The signing of Demba Ba will go some way to improving upon this figure, given he scored 13 goals for Hoffenheim and West Ham last season at a rate of 0.52 per game. Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best each scored 6, at rates of 0.29, 0.33 and (surprisingly) 0.67 respectively. Against West Brom, Newcastle played with two strikers, Lovenkrands and Ameobi, both who chose to drop deep rather than lead the line. Ba, on the other hand, West Ham’s top scorer with 7 goals, operates in a more advanced position, meaning he has the opportunity to take more shots. He averaged 2.9 per game where Ameobi mustered 1.4 and Lovenkrands, 1.6. The diagram below illustrates the average positions of the four strikers over the course of last season.
In signing Marveaux and Ba, Pardew has bolstered Newcastle’s attack with players who add balance and creativity to a side over-reliant on central players. Providing Marveaux can stay fit and Ba can continue his impressive goal-scoring form, Newcastle will have on their hands two players to put to great use. If Newcastle’s policy of targeting Frenchmen continues to attract this calibre of player, then vive la révolution on Tyneside.