From Fortress To F*ck This
St. James' Park established itself and maintained its consideration as one of the toughest Premier League grounds for any side to try and get a result, no matter how big or bold they were, over many years. Sadly, under Alan Pardew, it has become a ground where a lot of sides now fancy their chances.
This season, Newcastle currently have the 13th best home record in the league. This is the worst home record ever held for a full season under Pardew. Yes, even worse than last season where we barely escaped relegation. We had the 12th best home record in 2012/13.
Newcastle have won 41% of their home games this season, again, worse than 2012/13 where the win percentage was 47%. In terms of losses, although better than last season, it's still a very worrying statistic, losing the same amount as we win, 41% of games.
For a home ground renowned for the team putting, especially weaker sides, to the sword, scoring a lot of goals and winning well, that too has disappeared into the box marked 'remember when?'. When compared to other Premier League sides, we have the 15th most potent attack at home.
We score on average 1.12 goals per game, which shows that we rarely if ever beat sides well or score much, and is compounded by the fact that said goal return at home is even worse than last season, where we scored 1.26 goals per game. It's not heading in the right direction is it?
What makes it worse is, we've failed to score in 41% of home games in 2013/14. This is the worst by far under Pardew, with us not scoring in 26% of games in 2012/13 and 21% in 2011/12. With proven goalscorers like Remy and Cisse, with others capable from midfield, this is beyond poor.
In fairness, one thing that has improved is our defence at home, but it's still pretty awful. We're ranked as the 16th best home defence in the league and concede on average 1.53 goals per game, quite a bit more than we score and just outside that of the relegation strugglers.
We do keep more clean sheets at home than in 2012/13 though. 29% this season, so basically one in four, compared to 21% in 2012/13, around one in five. That said, compare it to our hot season under Pardew and a home clean sheet record of 47%, it's laughable how far it's fallen.
Now to the hidings we take. When really struggling last season, we lost by three or more goals at home in three games, 0 - 3 to Man Utd, 0 - 3 to Sunderland, and 0 - 6 to Liverpool. The first one should have been a warning of what was to come, but the latter two at that stage, should have cost him his job.
When you put this season up against the mess that was 2012/13, it's gotten worse in this aspect too, losing by three or more goals in four games, Everton, Spurs, Man Utd, and again, the derby game to Sunderland. Consecutive home derby hidings alone is basically unheard of in our history.
Top sides with deep wells of cash that can afford to keep a bench full of international talent somewhat happy and use that squad strength to keep consistent form home and away, but for sides outside of those few, what good seasons are nearly always built on is being formidable at home.
We are now far from formidable. Quite often, actually most of the time, we play in the same way we would an away game, conservatively sitting back, trying to keep it tight and nicking a goal late on, if we can. This is no way to play at home and contributes massively to the abysmal record.
Newcastle have actually done okay away this season, the system suits it, but teams will and probably already have figured us out. It's not that complex. So, this decent away form is no guarantee in the long term. Most clubs away form fluctuates season to season. Home form has to be good to compete.
Even putting the poor stats and results aside, that brand of football for a team at home, any team, is far too negative. Far be it from opposition fearing coming to St. James' any more. I'm sure they now come with confidence, growing as the game goes on, knowing they won't be pinned to their own box.
What was once a fortress and what we built our reputation as one of the bigger Premier League clubs on, has now become one of the easier grounds in the league to come to, certainly nothing to fear. The large stadium full to the brim wasn't ever what put that fear into teams. It was what they got behind.
Outside maybe the top six in the league, where in fairness you have to be a bit more conservative, but still not as much as we are, everyone else that visits should be expecting an onslaught, a team that is going to attack and pin them back from the word go. That's where the 52,000 kicks in.
Pardew can keep complimenting fans and asking them to get behind the team, but he has to give them something to get behind. This is a fan base that accepts it's not up there with the top clubs, but is built on entertaining attacking football, and demands it at St. James'.
His home record this season is not only poor, it's as bad as the brand of football he serves up, and even worse in a lot of aspects, than a season in which we escaped the drop late on. It's no wonder the atmosphere has been poor. The fans have been given nothing for two years to justify why they should be excited. The atmosphere reflects the football and always will. It's speaking volumes at the moment.
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