Newcastle travel to Southampton this weekend as Alan Pardew comes face-to-face with another of his former clubs. The reasons for his departure from St Mary’s have long been the topic of internet rumours, but we have no need to speculate on such matters here, not when the facts on the pitch are so damning themselves…
Pardew’s sacking and the appointment of Nigel Adkins saw a (purely coincidental) meteoric rise for the Saints, with back-to-back promotions under the former Scunthorpe United physio seeing them returning to the top table of English football before Adkins himself was replaced by Mauricio Pochettino.
Since their promotion, Pardew’s Newcastle have faced Southampton a total of 4 times, coming away with a respectable 4 points from the home meetings. However, his side have been shambolically poor on both occasions at St Mary’s, losing 2-0 and 4-0, and the results both flattered us. On the first occasion, despite Southampton having only 8 points from 12 games, and lying in 19th position, Pardew’s men were dominated from start to finish.
Pochettino and Adkins have both looked to play a positive, attacking brand of passing football, something that is anathema to Pardew, and the stats back this up when the two sides have met.
The aggregate score between the two in their 4 meetings is 9-5 to the Saints and this is fairly reflective of the state of play across the games in terms of average numbers:
Per game, on average, Southampton have 50% more attempts on goal, play nearly twice as many key passes (i.e. passes that create opportunities), have 10% more possession and, although the two sides play an almost identical number of long balls per game, this is as a lower percentage of total passes for the Saints. They also have the ball more and make far more passes than we do (>25% per game).
Of the 5 goals that Newcastle have scored, only a single one, Moussa Sissoko’s equaliser at St James’ Park in a 4-2 win, has come purely from open play, whilst the others have come about through a combination of set pieces, penalties and own goals. In contrast, all 9 of Southampton’s goals against us have come from open play, their slick passing game consistently cutting through Pardew’s supposedly solid backline like a knife through butter.
“This is the worst goal ever conceded – if Southampton were playing against nobody then it could not have been easier.”
-The BBC’s Alan Hansen describing Southampton’s opener at St Mary’s in March.
One of the reasons we often see given as a defence of Pardew is that Newcastle have only fairly recently been promoted and that, incredibly, this continues to excuse poor performances and results some four years down the line. However, Southampton (and Swansea for that matter) have shown that actually, being recently promoted and playing attractive, attacking and productive football are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, this style has in fact been largely dominant when put up against Pardew’s dreary dreams of hard work and tackling, on the day and in the league table as well:
Southampton have been playing football with the intention of both entertaining their fans and getting results from the very beginning of their new top flight era. It is a great shame for their supporters that this has resulted in richer clubs picking the meat from their bones, but is infinitely preferable to Newcastle’s current approach of giving away some of their top talent for free and on loan because the manager has been unable to utilise them.
Regardless of how Ronald Koeman now performs, it is obvious from looking at what the club has achieved since 2010, and from watching the football they have played during that time, that sacking Alan Pardew was one of the best decisions Southampton Football Club made in its entire history. The time has long since come for Newcastle United to do the same.