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polpolpol
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I've been waiting to have access to some 'highlights' of the Fulham game to post something about our play in transition. There is a lot of consternation about formations, players being in position, and motivation levels; and the varying degree to which they explain the malaise in the football we produce.

 

This is my bit of diagnosis – we're awful in the transition phase. In the 5 seconds after possession changes, the Newcastle team either can't or won't do what they should be doing, which is to rapidly adjust their position (offensive and defensive) and to move the ball (offensive) or get players around it (defensive). I seem to remember(!?) reading that about half of all goals come within 10 seconds of a change of possession, so it's quite an important aspect of the game. It should also be what the coaches are working on – conditioning the players so that they react to a turnover of possession in the most efficient way.

 

If Newcastle players can't do it, they are either being coached ineptly, or they just don't give a fuck. I'm not sure which one it is, but here are some moments from the Fulham game to illustrate what I mean.

 

http://img195.imageshack.us/img195/4026/tr2qf.jpg

1: Fulham gaining possession. We can see two characteristics of successful offensive transition: (1) moving the ball and (2) players moving into advanced positions. After five seconds the five numbered Fulham players have all moved a significant distance. Only one Newcastle player from the top picture is in the second. 

 

 

 

http://img11.imageshack.us/img11/1599/tr1oq.jpg

2: Newcastle win the ball and 4 seconds later it is in the same area of the pitch with the same five players around it. The Fulham players are all running back to be 'goal side'.

 

 

 

http://img832.imageshack.us/img832/8889/tr3i.jpg

3: Newcastle break up a Fulham counter attack. 5 seconds later, all players are in the same place, the only difference is that Williamson has run back into position. The Fulham players are between the ball and their goal.

 

 

 

http://img194.imageshack.us/img194/5540/tr4m.jpg

4: Newcastle win the ball back about two sends before this and it's moved out by Williamson. Five seconds after that pass is made they aren't further up field, and there is only one potential short pass forward, to the marked Jonas. The Defence isn't pushing up.

 

 

 

http://img28.imageshack.us/img28/4774/tr5x.jpg

5: Newcastle win the ball back, and whilst it has been moved to Ben Arfa on the left, the other payers aren't moving far up the pitch or towards him in support. Defensively, Fulham already have 9 men in position, in lines of 5 and 4

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Guest Howaythetoon

I posted the following in the Pardew thread:

 

The worrying thing for me is that Pardew has always put a lot of faith in the transitional phase of play and now seems to have built an entire pattern of play based on this. I say worrying because transitional play is just a concept, just one of thousands of elements to a game, one that Mourinho most notably helped bring to fame as a concept a few years back while Chelsea manager. Mourinho being somewhat of a hero to Pardew who has numerous books about him and his methods on his shelves along with books on Fergie, Clough et al.

 

Transitional play is basically what happens or doesn't when the opposition has the ball and when you have the ball (or not). Mourinho believed his team or players could force the opposition into giving up the ball quite easily by pressing play high up and all over the park (basically cutting off all outlets and suffocating the opposition) and when his team won the ball back, they would "recycle" the ball quickly so as to take advantage of the opposition being out of their shape and off the ball. Kind of like a sophisticated modern counter attacking side.

 

He used this to great effect but only because he had someone like Drogba who could hold onto the ball and bring others into it, Lampard who could bomb on from central and in Robben and Duff two very quick wide men capable of also coming infield, players who could turn one pass into a direct move towards goal. That and a sitter in Makalele to protect, to nick the ball and recycle it quickly, i.e. the transitional play player. Basically he had the right players to make that aspect of the game work to his advantage. Anyone whoever watched Chelsea under him though or who took an interest in his tactics would have known that was just one tactic or element to their game.

 

Off the ball we try to press play and high up, while on the ball we try to recycle it quickly and mainly forwards. This is transitional play or supposedly. Only we are f***ing things up and don't really have the players to adopt this element of the game to any great effect. We would be better off pressing and winning the ball back as we do try and then keeping the ball a bit and looking to work the opposition through the middle or wide with Jonas or Ben Arfa, allowing Cabaye for example to hover just outside the box for an option infield to strike on goal or even get into the box. The front two in Cisse and Ba do not work however, in that kind of play. Not as a two anyway.

 

Either way we are shit at it!

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Agreed, good analysis.

 

I also posted on this matter recently:

 

Spending separate time on defending and attacking seems a bit of a backwards way to do things regardless of how much you spend on each, to me anyway.

 

This is not American Football where we have a go then you have a go, football should be much more fluid than that. Even when we're defending, we should be thinking about how to turn it round before we've even won the ball, like the best teams do.

 

Man United have always been so good on the counter because their attacking players are in the right place as soon as the ball is won, whereas for us when we win the ball, Ben Arfa is usually next to our corner flag. This seems a consequence of this "defend then attack" approach.

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I think it´s been obvious for a long time that we just can´t turn the game offensively fast enough. The players are just not doing any offensive runs without the ball. It´s quite embarrassing to see since it´s the footballs ABC.

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Guest Howaythetoon

Good stuff by the way polpolpol. We are basically poor on and off the ball. Which is a worry. You can be poor on the ball as we were often last season, but very good off it hence our good defence etc. but this season we are poor on and off the ball and that's why we are struggling to score goals and struggling to keep them out. Go 1-0 up against us and we will probably lose while if we go 1-0 up there is a good chance we will lose that lead to draw the game or even lose it. Confidence is an issue mind, and a major one. When players are confident they work harder to press, to win back possession, to turn the ball over, to get back into shape, to stick to the game plan etc.

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The goal from Ben Arfa against Swansea away was a nice one (one of few) when Cabaye released it to HBA with a great first touch ball and then he passed it to Cissé before he got it back and put Olsson on his arse and curled it in.

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Guest tollemache

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

 

I've got a book called "Transition and Counterattacking" by Massimo Lucchese which is great on all of this. Wish I had it with me... Worth a read.

 

Transition isn't personnel-specific, it's an important aspect of the game no matter what kind of side you are. Look at Barcelona. Pretty much the exact opposite to Mourinho's Chelsea in terms of personnel and approach, but they're famous for their emphasis on the transition phase, aside from their ability to retain possession. When they lose the ball, they're the best in the world at cutting off all the options straight away, and if they win it back close to goal they either punish you immediately if it's on, or else snatch the ball away and spread out quickly to make sure you've no chance of pressing to get it straight back. And they make the right choice practically every time. That's being great at transitions.

 

Mourinho's Chelsea were good at making that decision too - if they spent a lot of time and energy getting the ball back, they'd all understand implicitly (though Makelele tended to be the reference point) that it was time to rest with the ball and let their opponents do some running. So Makelele would make himself available and help them to play it round the back for a bit. They weren't all about springing quick counterattacks.

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Guest Howaythetoon

I think it´s been obvious for a long time that we just can´t turn the game offensively fast enough. The players are just not doing any offensive runs without the ball. It´s quite embarrassing to see since it´s the footballs ABC.

 

That's our problem though, we do try to turn the game too fast. We need to keep the ball better and more, and learn to turn the ball quicker when the time arises to do so or basically when the opportunity arises. We do it willy nilly though hence the long bal, hence players getting on the ball and looking up and then playing it. Move it around, pass it, keep it, then hit the early/quick ball, but only when the opportunity arises.

 

We are such a poor footballing side in every way even the tactics and methods the manager prefers doesn't work. Its embarrassing really given the relative 'riches' at our disposal.

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Guest tollemache

Was going to mention Cabaye too... we're so so so much better at this when he's playing because he's the only player we have who can always spot the killer pass before the ball comes to him. Without him it's always going to be a bit more ponderous and based on hitting one of the strikers.

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I don't think it's us being "bad" at transitions, instead I think this is actually how Pardew wants us to play.

 

I posted a couple of weeks back - tongue in cheek but with a kernel of truth - that if Pardew had a choice between having an NUFC centre-half on the ball on the edge of his box, or an opposition centre-half on the ball on the edge of his, he's choose the latter.

 

Why? Because he sees the territory the ball is in as being more important than which side happens to be in possession. If Williamson or even Coloccini is on the ball for us it's seen as a liability as he is the last line of defence and if he loses it through a mistake or a bad pass we're vulnerable. Which is why we punt it downfield - doesn't matter if the opposition get that punt or if we do - as long as we get it as far from our goal as possible. if we can put 10 bodies between the ball and our goalkeeper - even better from a defensive view, even if the cost is losing possession.

 

And of course in an attacking sense Pardew sees it the same way - if the opposition defenders have the ball we can press from the front-line and try to steal it back where they are vulnerable. It often seems at times that Pardew would rather have the likes of Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Ba - and most recently Anita in that high-line defensive role - chasing after the ball than passing it around amongst themselves. If we can win the ball back in a good area with the other team out of shape and panicking we have a good chance of scoring, or so the idea goes.

 

While we seem to place a lot of emphasis on this - we're still not particularly good at using the ball once we get it. But again - i see it less as a 'failing' and more as a deliberate ploy by Pardew. It comes to wanting to have as many bodies behind the ball as possible - while Fulham in those pics break forward in numbers- Pardew prefers to keep everyone back and in position. If a midfielder 'breaks' forward it is, again, more likely to be Cabaye or Anita doing a defensive surge rather than supporting an attack - because Pardew doesn't want us to get hurt on the counter. Our game is very much based around people sticking to their part of the pitch in a very disciplined fashion.

 

And so our attacking transitions are less about fluid counter attacks and more based around directness - look at the runs Ba and Cisse make when we manage to nick the ball back - they head straight for the penalty spot - to hell with build up play. This only really works if you win the ball back in a very advanced position - if we win it back in our own half the attackers dont have the nous, movement or basic possession skills to shift the ball forward quickly enough. We'd be a far more effective counter attacking side if we let one or two drift around a bit more and told one or two others (Cisse and Ba) that they HAVE to start moving around more intelligently. But of course that would probably weaken us a tad defensively so...

 

 

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Guest Howaythetoon

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

 

I've got a book called "Transition and Counterattacking" by Massimo Lucchese which is great on all of this. Wish I had it with me... Worth a read.

 

Transition isn't personnel-specific, it's an important aspect of the game no matter what kind of side you are. Look at Barcelona. Pretty much the exact opposite to Mourinho's Chelsea in terms of personnel and approach, but they're famous for their emphasis on the transition phase, aside from their ability to retain possession. When they lose the ball, they're the best in the world at cutting off all the options straight away, and if they win it back close to goal they either punish you immediately if it's on, or else snatch the ball away and spread out quickly to make sure you've no chance of pressing to get it straight back. And they make the right choice practically every time. That's being great at transitions.

 

Barcelona are the extreme, on and off the ball, of transitional play, they have the players for it mind. As did Chelsea. We do not, not enough to make transitional play work in our favour to such an extent anyway. We can do better though and did (off the ball) last season.

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Guest tollemache

As far as getting men forward quickly, as in those examples at the top, that's not the be all and end all either. Look at Benitez's teams. Lots of speculative, low-risk attacks, and rarely in a hurry to push out. If you can see the opportunity to attack with 2 players and get a chance rather than attacking with 5, take it. Again, that's where Cabaye is fantastic.

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On my phone so I'll keep it brief but this marries in with our lack of overloading and defensive priority>all else. You can only be good in the transition if your players are told to get forward quickly. IMO are players aren't told to do this nor on the whole are they quick/clever enough to enact it when needed.

 

Sir Bob and his teams at their best were superb at it. 

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Very interesting reading dudes :thup:

 

Transition is undoubtedly one of our key weaknesses, but as has been mentioned it goes hand-in-hand with quite a few other factors to form a perfect storm of shitness at times. It's definitely a tactical/technical aspect of our approach that could be improved though. The type of change that you can make which could naturally help build confidence through increasing passages of good play in games. This has the knock-on effect of pleasing the crowd and leading to an overall better atmosphere about the place... and so it goes on... We haven't had a good transitional team since Robson's though.

 

Early last season our foundation was built upon an incredibly rigid shape from back-to-front and not much else aside from a lot of hard running, a direct style and a working partnership between Ba and Best. Later the individual brilliance came into things when Hatem returned to form and Cisse arrived, but overall our "team play" as an attacking unit still left a huge amount to be desired. We came 5th and the end of that season in particular was a very exciting time, but it had been by-and-large turgid from a footballing perspective in terms of style for much of the season prior. Unfortunately it appears that's what he's trying to get us back to at the moment - lots of running, harrying and hoping that Ba, Cisse or Ben Arfa are going to produce a "moment of magic" or two for us no matter where he sticks them on the pitch.

 

And to think I personally thought in the summer we may strengthen the squad and focus upon building towards a more potent version of our 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 (with better defenders in particular). How silly I was.

 

To my eyes our approach is incredibly basic and elementary at most times, which says a lot to me in terms of the collective intelligence of the coaching staff AND players. We have a few players capable of rising above the malaise on a consistent basis (Coloccini, Santon and Ben Arfa more often than not, Anita shows all the signs of being another one), but generally the rest of them don't have enough about them in the head to do the same.

 

Oddly I wouldn't generally include Cabaye in this as I think he tends to get strangled by our general approach and becomes more of a box-to-box workhorse than anything more fancy. He undoubtedly has both the class and the nouse to be a brilliant player in a "good" team, though. Unfortunately we've basically just focused on running him into the ground in most games. Currently I'd consider him similar to Jonas in that it may be to do with the fact he's such a model professional/team player that he's willing to sacrifice his personal game for the good of the collective. Ba scores goals, but his general play is poor at the best of times. Cisse and Tiote go without saying, as do Simpson, Taylor and Williamson.

 

Pardew has never truly convinced me from a tactical perspective and the transition phase is just another glaring weakness in the way we play the game. Every time I watch us I find myself wondering what the grand plan is. What are we? Where are we going? It was alright when we were picking up points as I felt it may be a means to an end - getting us by on the players available to us at the time when we had Best, Ryan Taylor and Obertan playing every week - but now we've added Anita, Ben Arfa, Cisse and Santon into the mix and we're still approaching things the same way. It's baffling.

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I don't think it's us being "bad" at transitions, instead I think this is actually how Pardew wants us to play.

 

I posted a couple of weeks back - tongue in cheek but with a kernel of truth - that if Pardew had a choice between having an NUFC centre-half on the ball on the edge of his box, or an opposition centre-half on the ball on the edge of his, he's choose the latter.

 

Why? Because he sees the territory the ball is in as being more important than which side happens to be in possession. If Williamson or even Coloccini is on the ball for us it's seen as a liability as he is the last line of defence and if he loses it through a mistake or a bad pass we're vulnerable. Which is why we punt it downfield - doesn't matter if the opposition get that punt or if we do - as long as we get it as far from our goal as possible. if we can put 10 bodies between the ball and our goalkeeper - even better from a defensive view, even if the cost is losing possession.

 

And of course in an attacking sense Pardew sees it the same way - if the opposition defenders have the ball we can press from the front-line and try to steal it back where they are vulnerable. It often seems at times that Pardew would rather have the likes of Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Ba - and most recently Anita in that high-line defensive role - chasing after the ball than passing it around amongst themselves. If we can win the ball back in a good area with the other team out of shape and panicking we have a good chance of scoring, or so the idea goes.

 

While we seem to place a lot of emphasis on this - we're still not particularly good at using the ball once we get it. But again - i see it less as a 'failing' and more as a deliberate ploy by Pardew. It comes to wanting to have as many bodies behind the ball as possible - while Fulham in those pics break forward in numbers- Pardew prefers to keep everyone back and in position. If a midfielder 'breaks' forward it is, again, more likely to be Cabaye or Anita doing a defensive surge rather than supporting an attack - because Pardew doesn't want us to get hurt on the counter. Our game is very much based around people sticking to their part of the pitch in a very disciplined fashion.

 

And so our attacking transitions are less about fluid counter attacks and more based around directness - look at the runs Ba and Cisse make when we manage to nick the ball back - they head straight for the penalty spot - to hell with build up play. This only really works if you win the ball back in a very advanced position - if we win it back in our own half the attackers dont have the nous, movement or basic possession skills to shift the ball forward quickly enough. We'd be a far more effective counter attacking side if we let one or two drift around a bit more and told one or two others (Cisse and Ba) that they HAVE to start moving around more intelligently. But of course that would probably weaken us a tad defensively so...

 

Yes, I suspect this is the other side of it. Our style of play is 'disruptive' if anything. Lots of muddling around, throws, no movement up the pitch.* A 'broken-up' game. We look like a 90's Italian team defending a 1-0 lead, all of the time, and I can see that is a deliberate idea from the manager. Because even though we lose, the scores are close (as they were in a lot of games we were lucky to win last year) and the gamble – or calculation – that Pardew has made is that over the course of a season, is that it'll get enough points to do the trick.

 

The question is, 'is it a good gamble?' – play this dirtily (messily, not in the sense of actually fouling) against a better team, and you even the game a little. But against poor teams, is this the style of play of maximise points? If we make the game appalling, and rely on the individuals in our side, sometimes it won't be enough; the gamble fails, so there needs to be a plan 'B' with some nice transitions. Yet the more serious problem is that this 'style', if there are a few losses in a row, when the gamble fails, begins to affect confidence, and becomes a vicious circle – the worse the players are perceived to play, the worse they become. After watching Williamson slowly dying inside, the worry becomes 'who next'. 

 

* This was very clear when I was trying to get the screen-grabs above: there were all kinds of messy breakdowns and very few orthodox turnovers.

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Guest tollemache

I think there were enough signs of evolution towards the end of last season to show that Pardew ultimately would like to play a more positive brand of football, quite aside from his actually saying so.

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I think there were enough signs of evolution towards the end of last season to show that Pardew ultimately would like to play a more positive brand of football, quite aside from his actually saying so.

 

I don't doubt that he'd "like" to play more positively, I just think he lacks the courage and/or intelligence to be able to do so effectively.

 

Whether that's because he doesn't feel truly secure in his role to take the risk despite the 8 year contract (couldn't blame him), whether he doesn't feel he can trust some of our players to perform such a style (again couldn't blame him), whether it's not really his style at all when the chips are down (fear this to be the case) or whether it's just because he's not a good enough manager to do what he wants to (same again) is up for interpretation.

 

It's easy to pick holes when things are going badly, but I think there were enough critics of our playing style last season during the better times to show that it is definitely an issue. Aspects like the one polpolpol has picked up on here form part of a far, far bigger problem.

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Guest tollemache

Were people criticising the style of play towards the end of last season when we started to dominate games more? Quite harsh if so. I was exiled in London and not a member on here so I might not have had my finger on the pulse, but I don't recall much grumbling towards April / May. He's said in no uncertain terms that his plan was to start with defensive solidity and then try to adopt a more positive approach as time goes on. To revert to focusing on defence when your form and confidence dips is fairly rational too I think.

 

I'm open to the possibility that he's just not very good at putting together a more positive team, but I don't think you can reasonably draw that conclusion from what we've seen so far. Not quite yet, and maybe not for another season or so.

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Were people criticising the style of play towards the end of last season when we started to dominate games more? Quite harsh if so. I was exiled in London and not a member on here so I might not have had my finger on the pulse, but I don't recall much grumbling towards April / May. He's said in no uncertain terms that his plan was to start with defensive solidity and then try to adopt a more positive approach as time goes on. To revert to focusing on defence when your form and confidence dips is fairly rational too I think.

 

There were grumbles during the bad period when we drew with Wolves and Sunderland and limped past Norwich.

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Were people criticising the style of play towards the end of last season when we started to dominate games more? Quite harsh if so. I was exiled in London and not a member on here so I might not have had my finger on the pulse, but I don't recall much grumbling towards April / May. He's said in no uncertain terms that his plan was to start with defensive solidity and then try to adopt a more positive approach as time goes on. To revert to focusing on defence when your form and confidence dips is fairly rational too I think.

 

Of course not, those 6 games are the golden standard that most of us are holding him to now. Then the Wigan game came around, where we were undone in the most basic manner possible. Sadly this was a game where Pardew took possibly his most attacking decision of the entire campaign (to pin Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa up against Wigan's back three and leave their wide men open) and it backfired spectacularly. Since then what have we really seen of that same set-up? Not a great deal.

 

I understand that injuries and suspension have played their part and there are undoubtedly a lot of other factors at work in the background as well - the lack of progress in the transfer market in the summer and the potential Demba Ba playing on the left issue being two chief amongst them - but we went back into our shell long before this current run of poor form.

 

I genuinely do hope I'm wrong about Pardew being a fraud, but until issues like this transition one, set-plays and the formation start to show signs of improvement I think he deserves everything coming his way. We're just so bad at so many fundamentals at the moment it's painful. I do still firmly believe he has the players though and that he's capable of motivating/inspiring them. Our recent few performances have shown that with the increased levels of effort we appear to be getting out of the players, but he's got a long way to go before he convinces me he can get a team playing an attractive style in an attacking philosophy on a regular basis.

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Whether that's because he doesn't feel truly secure in his role to take the risk despite the 8 year contract (couldn't blame him), whether he doesn't feel he can trust some of our players to perform such a style (again couldn't blame him)

 

That's an absolutely key point I think - when 2 of your back 4 aren't particularly good on the ball (to be polite...) your options really are seriously limited.

 

Debuchy and Douglas could have totally revolutionised this side....

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I'm open to the possibility that he's just not very good at putting together a more positive team, but I don't think you can reasonably draw that conclusion from what we've seen so far. Not quite yet, and maybe not for another season or so.

 

Had quoted you before you added this bit, but he's had two years already now man. That's a lifetime as far as managing NUFC goes!

 

My main concern about this season and the way we've been playing is that by the time "another season or so" comes we'll have lost a few of our key players and we'll find ourselves back to square one again. I may be doing Graeme Carr a disservice here, though.

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Guest tollemache

....and we may get them yet. The set pieces issue is confusing. If you're going to focus on keeping it tight etc, where are your goals going to come from? To actually get worse at set pieces is a bit unforgivable. Don't understand it.

 

edit: I meant Douglas and Debuchy

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