Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe was left frustrated by his team’s performance in their 1-1 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday.
The Magpies had to come from behind at home to secure a point with Alexander Isak’s penalty cancelling out Philip Billing’s opener in a game they dominated. But in the end Newcastle had to settle for a fifth draw from their opening seven Premier League matches, now without a win since their opening weekend victory over Nottingham Forest.
If you want to see goals the first half of Newcastle games aren’t really the place for you to find them. Newcastle have now failed to score a first-half goal in five of their seven Premier League games this season, but they have also stopped the opposition scoring in the first half of five of their seven matches – the latter the best record in the division.
On top of that, four of Newcastle’s seven Premier League matches have been goalless at half-time, with two of those going on to end 0-0. It perhaps comes as a result of Newcastle’s evolving squad that lower-placed teams now see St James’ Park as a place to come and shut up shop, playing the Magpies as they would Manchester City, Liverpool and the like.
But while the big teams know how to break sides like Bournemouth down — Liverpool won 9-0 and Man City beat the Cherries 4-0 — Newcastle haven’t managed to master that just yet. On Saturday Eddie Howe was seriously lacking his defence-terroriser Allan Saint-Maximin and only managed to breach the Bournemouth net from a penalty.
The above image shows the passing networks and average positions of both Newcastle and Bournemouth in Saturday’s game and it’s very easy to see the Mapgies’ struggle. Bournemouth were set up quite deep to frustrate their hosts and were happy to keep possession, with right-back Adam Smith the most frequent recipient of Marcus Tavernier’s passes.
Isak was also severely isolated up front with Bournemouth sitting in front of their box and had just 31 touches, fewer than any of Newcastle’s outfield starters. Newcastle’s 636 attempted passes was their highest total in a single match in the Premier League since the start of last season, but when you cannot make those passes meaningful it counts for nothing. Far too often we see sides passing the ball around the opposition box without actually threatening their opponents because the defensive set up is too good.
“There’s a massive hole for someone like Maxi in a game like this when you need a little magic to unlock the door,” Howe told reporters after the game.
“That’s below the levels we set ourselves. For the first time this season those levels dipped. We were off with every aspect of our game. Big sense of frustration.”
However, Newcastle weren’t just stung by Bournemouth’s sturdy defence. The Magpies also hit the woodwork five times while Bournemouth goalkeeper Neto made six saves, and credit should be given to Gary O’Neil for the work he has done with the Cherries.
In the three games since Scott Parker was sacked, Bournemouth have won one game and drawn two, and O’Neil expects to hear about his future in the coming week.
“I will be finding out what’s happening club wise next week and see what the plan is happening,” he told BBC Sport.
“If it is me we’ll get back to work on the grass with the lads. I have no idea what’s happening – I knew I was taking today and I don’t know about further, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.”