Rodriguez earns point
Newcastle and Southampton played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at St James' Park on Saturday afternoon to maintain the feel-good factor surrounding both clubs. Adam Bate saw plenty of positives but feels there could be more to come. From Southampton, in particular...
By Adam Bate - Follow @GhostGoal. Last Updated: 14/12/13 8:03pm
Jay Rodriguez scored a second-half equaliser to cancel out Yoan Gouffran's opener and earn Southampton a 1-1 draw at Newcastle. The point lifted the Magpies ahead of Tottenham into sixth spot, while the Saints showed the qualities that have impressed so many this season.
Here we look at how Southampton dominated possession despite evidence that the partnership between Dani Osvaldo and Rickie Lambert is struggling to gel, and raise concerns over the defensive errors undermining Mauricio Pochettino's men. We also consider how the direct approach is proving fruitful for Newcastle...
Alan Pardew made one enforced change to the team that beat Manchester United with Yohan Cabaye suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card at Old Trafford. Shola Ameobi returned to the starting line-up as Newcastle switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
Pochettino also opted to introduce another striker as Adam Lallana was replaced by Rickie Lambert. The only other player to miss out from the team that drew with Manchester City was Jose Fonte as Jos Hooiveld came in at centre-back.
Newcastle v Southampton starting formations
THE STORY OF THE GAME
Osvaldo and Lambert still an awkward pairing
This was the first time Pochettino had opted to pair Lambert and Osvaldo in attack since October and question marks remain as to whether the duo's abilities complement each other. Lambert often took the deeper role and there were plenty of his trademark runs to the far post to latch onto long diagonals but Osvaldo's link-up play with the rest of the team was non-existent.
During his 45-minute outing, the Italy international only attempted passes to two of his team-mates - Lambert and James Ward-Prowse - and this was indicative of his inability to get into the game. Both Lambert and Osvaldo appear best suited to the lone role in attack with quick runners from midfield getting in support. When together they seem to lack the pace and movement required to cause teams problems.
Southampton had far more touches before the break but Newcastle got hold of the ball where it mattered
Front two working well for Newcastle
The contrast with the Newcastle strike partnership was stark. Ameobi provided an important out-ball for Newcastle during Southampton best periods and his presence in attack helped give the home side a platform from which to play. But this was only possible thanks to the runs of Remy, whose pace stretched the Saints defence. Indeed, Remy should have opened the scoring when Ameobi's centre was latched onto by Yoan Gouffran but Calum Chambers cleared the ball off the line.
It was telling that while Southampton had more touches in the defensive and middle thirds, Newcastle saw more of the ball around the opposition area. Even after the break when Lallana's arrival helped the visitors enjoy a strong period in the early stages of the second half, it was a long diagonal ball to the head of Ameobi that provided Remy with the chance to get a shot on target. There is more than one way to fashion chances and it was two Newcastle players who created the most opportunities...
|Newcastle v Southampton - Chances created|
Individual errors remain an issue for Saints
There is plenty of focus in football on the star players that can win a team a game. But there's also an old truism that you're only as good as your weakest link and this remains a problem for Southampton. They dominated the ball at St James' Park but Hooiveld's horrible error saw them go behind in a period of the game in which they were enjoying over 70 per cent of possession.
Mike Williamson beat Lambert to the header from a Newcastle set-piece but there was little danger until Hooiveld attempted to hack the ball away with his left foot rather than go with the more natural clearance with his right. The ball skewed off his foot to Gouffran, who did well to round Paulo Gazzaniga and score. Hooiveld's clumsiness was a problem at times last season but the signing of Dejan Lovren had done much to eradicate such errors. It was a reminder of how mistakes can undermine a team's efforts.
But Hooiveld was not alone. Artur Boruc has had his moments this season but Gazzaniga gave a reminder here that he too is error prone. An attempted clearance in the second half almost proved disastrous as he only succeeded in squirting the ball to Remy, allowing the France international a one-on-one chance. Incredibly, Remy fired well wide of the target but with such obvious mistakes being made by back-up players, it would be no surprise if Pochettino seeks to further strengthen his squad in the January transfer window.
Southampton dominated possession in the first half but Jos Hooiveld's error proved costly
Pochettino changes were crucial for the visitors
Pochettino made two changes at the interval as he introduced Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin in place of Osvaldo and Ward-Prowse. The switch saw Rodriguez involved more centrally in the pockets of space that were now free and that proved crucial when he combined with Lallana for the equaliser from a fast counter-attacking move.
Lallana's delicious flicked pass set Rodriguez on his way and the one-touch football that opened up the Newcastle defence was simply superb. Steven Davis broke the offside trap with a first-time pass and Rodriguez finished was crisp and clinical past Tim Krul. It means that the England international has now scored in six of his last 10 Premier League matches.
For all the plaudits that Osvaldo rightly received for his stunning goal against Manchester City last weekend, Southampton still look at their most fluent when Lambert, Lallana and Rodriguez form the front three. The driving runs of the 24-year-old forward are a key part of Southampton's success and he could have won the game late on if only he'd protected the ball better when well placed.
Jay Rodriguez's role changed in the second half (bottom right) and he found the equaliser
Both teams searched for a winner
The response from Newcastle was impressive and the introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa looked likely to be significant at one stage as he showed glimpses of the quality that might unlock the Saints defence as the match became more stretched late on.
Ben Arfa can be a frustrating figure and his decision-making was questionable at times but his arrival highlighted what had been lacking and hinted at what might have been possible had another Frenchman been available. "We certainly missed Cabaye's quality," said Pardew in his post-match interview. "That pass to unlock the door. That composure. In a game like that, those players are gold-dust."
As it was, neither team could find a winner but the fact that both sides were striving for one is in itself revealing. Confidence in both camps remains high and with a gap threatening to open up between the top nine and the rest, these two teams deserve their place among the elite group.
It was a more even game in the second half as both teams had good spells in search of the win
"Southampton have a good defensive record but we've had two fantastic opportunities with Loic. He played well today but those two you'd expect him to score. But the rest of the game was very tight. They had periods, we had periods. I thought Adam Lallana had an impact on the game but so did Hatem. He could have won it for us and had a couple of nice moments. It was two good teams."
"The two halves were completely different. Both teams had moments in the first half but in the second half we dominated Newcastle and I think we could even have got the win. Overall, I'm happy with a draw because it's a fair result. Adam Lallana wasn't fit enough to play 90 minutes and we didn't want to risk him but he came on and did well."
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