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Ruben Neves launches criticism of Newcastle’s style of play

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Wolves captain Ruben Neves launched a criticism of Newcastle United’s style of play following Sunday’s Premier League draw at Molineux. 

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An Allan Saint-Maximin stunner canceled out Neves’ own brilliant opener to share the spoils in the Black Country on Sunday, with a point probably a fair reflection of the game.

While Newcastle dominated the possession, they struggled to create much in the way of clear-cut opportunities in the absence of key players and Wolves did look dangerous on the counter-attack.

Both sides will also have felt aggrieved at certain decisions. Neves had already spoken of his disbelief that Fabian Schar was not sent off for a tackle on Pedro Neto and fumed that Raul Jimenez’s late goal was disallowed, while Sean Longstaff could well have had a penalty in the first-half when his shirt was held back by Matheus Nunes.

What did Neves say about Newcastle?

Speaking after the game (via Football Daily), the Portuguese midfielder said: “Their style of play is like that. Just long balls and second balls. They are not a team who wants to have the possession too much, we knew that. We prepared for that.”

What do the stats say?

Neves’ comments seem strange.

As per the Premier League’s official statistics, Newcastle bossed 63.9% of the possession, had more shots (21 to 10) and made more passes (458 to 265) than the home side. Now, simply having the ball does not mean a team plays particularly well, though Understat suggest Eddie Howe’s side came away with a higher xG (1.93 to 1.13).

Taking a broader view, Newcastle also rank highly across the Premier League. According to WhoScored data, United sit 4th in the division for shots per game (15) and fifth for shots on target (5.8). In terms of playing long balls, it is Neves who features first throughout all of the players to have featured in the division thus far (6 per game), with the only Newcastle star in the top 25 being Kieran Trippier (24th with 4.3 over the same period).

Newcastle can play better than they did at Wolves and perhaps there will be times when they have to take a more pragmatic approach, though Neves’ critique seems misplaced.

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