A Friday night fixture under the lights at St. James’ Park sees Aston Villa take on Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United. Like fixtures against Leeds United, the clashes between Newcastle and Villa have developed into a fairly fierce rivalry over the years.
The two sets of fans revel in their counterpart’s failure and misery, most noticeably relegation from the Premier League.
Villa have arguably played a huge part both times Newcastle have suffered relegation from the Premier League (2009 and 2016), but will the Villans be able to pile the pressure on former manager, Steve Bruce, to further the prospect of three relegations for the Magpies in just over a decade?
Let’s look at the stats
Newcastle United sit one point above the relegation zone going into the Friday night fixture. The following four graphs show just how bad Newcastle have played this season and why they have a very real chance of falling back into the Championship.
This first graph shows the amount of shots a team has faced this season against the amount of shots they’ve taken.
Grouping the teams into four different sections Newcastle fall into the worrying category of ‘low number of shots taken and high number of shots faced’.
This is always a worrying position for a club to be in as it shows they are consistently facing more shots than they themselves take.
While Newcastle have not had the lowest number of shots in the league, the next graph looks into the number of shots a team has had compared to how far out, on average, these shots have come from.
The graph shows whether a team takes their shots in threatening areas or attempts to put shots away as at the earliest opportunity.
Looking at the graph, it is clear that as well as being deftly below average for the amount of shots taken, Newcastle are also well above average in the distance they shoot from.
Only Leicester City average a further distance from goal for their shots.
This is another pairing that is disappointing for Newcastle as it shows they create very little threat to the opposition goal.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa have performed well in terms of their number of shots and the distance of these shots. They are above average for the number of shots and well below average for the distance that these shots have come from.
This next graph is a visualization of how much of the ball a team has and in what position on the pitch by comparing the amount of touches of the ball a team has had with how many of these touches have been in the attacking third of the pitch.
Not only have Newcastle had the lowest number of touches of the ball, but they have also had the lowest number of touches in the attacking third of the pitch.
It is no surprise, then, that Newcastle fans are becoming increasingly frustrated with Steve Bruce’s tactics, a pain Villa fans will know too well.
Newcastle’s style of play under Steve Bruce can also be examined through the Magpies passing statistics for this season.
The final graph shows the number of passes a team has made against how many of these passes led to a progression up the field.
Another worrying combination for Newcastle is not only have they had the lowest number of passes in the league, they have also had the least amount of progressive passes.
Finally, all four graphs demonstrate how different things look for Newcastle in comparison to Fulham, the team breathing down the necks of the Magpies.
Newcastle will be without four key first-team players for the game on Friday as Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron, and Fabian Schar are all side-lined.
Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle will both be looking to get onto the team sheet for the match, but it is likely that Bruce will stick with a front line of Ryan Fraser and Joelinton as he did in the goalless draw against West Brom.
As for Villa, they travel to Tyneside without long-term absentees Kourtney Hause and Wesley.
The biggest concern for Villa fans remains the absence of Jack Grealish. The attacker’s presence has been a big loss for the Villans as they look to apply pressure on the European spots going into the final stretch of the season.
Dean Smith has confirmed that this game has come too soon for the Villa captain as he has suffered illness during the week.
However, supporters will be thrilled to hear that Matty Cash will be back in the squad following his hamstring injury.
Smith: “Matty Cash will be in the squad and Anwar El Ghazi is back as well.— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) March 11, 2021
“Jack Grealish is a lot better, but you won’t see him at Newcastle unfortunately. It hasn’t helped that he’s been ill this week, which has kept him off for a couple of days.”#NEWAVL pic.twitter.com/QE6Etv4QnJ
The midfield three continues to pose the biggest dilemma for Dean Smith, with six players all competing for three spaces.
Who do you think should start for Villa against Newcastle?
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