They are currently sitting on 19th in the league and have already sacked their manager Steve Bruce mid-way. Eddie Howe is set to replace the veteran, and a huge overhaul must be done within the entire squad to save the Magpies from the relegation. A lot of new players are required at certain positions in the club, and with the financial takeover completed, it is surely possible at St. James Park right now.
However, the arrival of new players and new management can mean a certain group of players might fall out of favor and make way for new signings to happen, keeping in mind the new registration rules of the Premier League, especially the players who have not been up to the mark in a so-far disastrous campaign.
Newcastle have scored in almost all of their matches and naturally, we can believe that a few forward players might be safe from the wrath, however, they have conceded an awful lot of goals, being the second-worst defense in the league. This might imply that defensive reinforcements are bound to come.
We look at stats from such a player down below whose future at the club might be at stake. The 32-year-old, Matt Ritchie, has been at the club since 2016 but it might as well be his last season for the Magpies, only time will tell. But we analyze his performance to understand whether he might be a good fit for Eddie Howe’s team.
The Scottish international has played for Newcastle in all of their 11 games so far. Generally, a wide midfielder-cum-winger, in Steve Bruce’s ‘safety first’ defensive system of 5-3-2, Ritchie has featured as the left wing-back most of the time. He does have a good work rate, covering the whole left flank every match, from one corner flag to the opposite. With Newcastle chasing and defending for the majority of the time, he has spent most of his time inside his half near the midfield and defensive third on the left – the red areas in the above viz. While going forward, he has been one of the primary sources of width and has taken up places near the touchline.
Ritchie has played a total of 368 passes yet, with an accuracy of 79%, averaging 58 touches and 33 passes per 90. He is one of the few players in the squad who possesses an attacking mindset and looks to carry the ball quickly out of the back. In his pass map, we can see most of his passes have been attempted near the midfield region, in forward progression the majority of the time, while he has tried to link up with a teammate to build up an attack. Ritchie has even tried to change the direction of attack quite often with long cross-field balls. He has been one of the finest providers in the team, attempting 34 crosses so far, with xT of 0.3500, registering an assist as well. The wing-back has been a potential threat while going forwards.
His xA per 90 rank is as high as 92nd percentile among all midfielders in the league, while he has been consistently a good performer in shot assists provided per 90, with a rank of 90th percentile and 88th percentile in long passes played per 90. Ritchie has been a good provider of the ball but is not very intelligent on the ball, neither does he possess great vision. His ranks have been very less than the league median, both for through passes and smart passes played per 90, which is important when you tend to rely on counter-attacks to score goals. The Scott can work on his passing accuracy too.
Being a midfielder, defending is certainly not the strongest aspect of his game. He might pose threats going forward, but he has not been up to the mark, what you might want from a wing-back in a defensive setup. Still playing out of position, Ritchie has won 49% of the 78 duels he has engaged in. Most of these duel locations have been wide on the left side, inside his half. He is not a very tall figure on the pitch, winning only 43% of his aerial duels. However, his tackling has been impressive, with a success rate of 68% yet, and he has managed to get 20 clearances as well.
Except for his 74th percentile rank in successful defensive actions percentage, Matt Ritchie has been well below the league median in most of the defensive metrics. He has not been defensively solid, and it is evident from the stats that he has been used way away from his comfort zone.
If Eddie Howe wants to use a defensive style of play at Newcastle again, Matt Ritchie would certainly not be a player he should prefer in that full-back or wing-back position. With the centre-backs failing too, he has not been able to provide the required amount of cover.
The fact that he is a wide midfielder who can play as a winger, does help his case a lot. His attacking abilities out wide have been evident through the stats. He can very well provide a strong backup option for his wingers, and can play as a wide midfielder as well if Howe uses a four-man midfield. He is not a contender for a starter if the club brings in new players, but having a lot of Premier League experience under his belt does not make it right for the Magpies to part ways with Ritchie. He is still 32 years old and can be used well as a squad player.
All of it now depends on Eddie Howe.