After a run of consecutive losses, Newcastle secured a 4-1 victory against Chelsea at St. James Park. As the final whistle echoed, Eddie Howe summed up the win with one sentence, “A statement of character.” Despite their own struggles this season, Pochettino’s Chelsea were always an unpredictable side to face. Therefore, Howe viewed this victory as highly decisive. How did Newcastle manage to achieve this victory?
Newcastle Out of Possession:
How Howe’s structure allowed to Contain Chelsea
Pics 1, 2, 3, 4: Newcastle’s OOP (out of possession) structure containing Chelsea’s advances at various phases of play
Newcastle showed some great OOP structures to check Chelsea’s in possession play across all their phases. As we see in Pic 1, a 3-2 press structure in Chelsea’s defensive half ensured that Chelsea had to rely on playing out wide and try to have Cole Palmer moving inside to underlap (Pic 4). In that case Newcastle would stick to their familiar 4-5-1 shape, this meant Chelsea either had to pull their attackers deep and combine or try ambitious long balls onto Newcastle’s back 3.
Though this yielded Sterling some attacking space, but like we see in Pic 3 it largely disconnected him from Jackson and ensured that Pochettino’s plans to use neat combinations failed. Newcastle’s shapes in 5-3-2/4-1-4-1 (Pic 2)/4-5-1 were some brilliant variations of play from Howe to say the least. It almost seemed like Pochettino had no answer to it, and Chelsea just faded as the match went on.
As we will see later in this article, Newcastle’s press in final 3rd yielded them opportunities including the third goal they scored by Joelinton.
Newcastle In Possession:
Smart systematic changes across all phases of play
Pics 5, 6: Newcastle in Possession in 1st and 2nd Phase
Newcastle’s buildup with a 4-1 in hindsight might have looked like walking into a trap with Chelsea’s OOP 4-2-3-1 shape that started their out-of-possession ideas but it meant that it usually had 2 8’s circling the midfield high. Despite Chelsea’s man-marking in the middle, their press couldn’t always counter a 2v1 when Jackson alone pressed the 2 CBs or even GK involved in a buildup (Pic 5 captures this well). It meant that with a free-flowing role between lines, Isak caused havoc ability to unsettle Chelsea’s defense. These things were evident in the way Newcastle scored, with fullbacks high up the pitch that naturally pinned Chelsea’s fullbacks 1v1 and wingers like Gordon roaming inside out.
Vid 1: Isak’s goal against Chelsea, the 1st of 4 scored by Newcastle
And just as described, Newcastle’s 1st goal was evidence of these Characteristics: a cross from a fullback high up the pitch into the box as Gordon roams inside out to play a good sequence to set Isak free and have him score. Chelsea’s defense got too narrow inside their own box that it almost became impossible to block the threat out from Newcastle’s balls into box.
Vid 2: Newcastle’s leading press presented them the opportunity to seal the game
And when we talked about Newcastle’s press in the OOP section explaining why it was effective, the 3rd goal perhaps was the perfect evidence as to how Chelsea couldn’t cope with the pressure and gave away the ball for Joelinton to run through and slot it home.
But again it was the manner of the press: Force Palmer to a back pass, quickly surround the ball carrier with 2-3 men and once the turnover was conceded, it was just the task of slotting it home. It was a classic case of the fullback being too high for Chelsea in their 4-2-3-1, meaning once the defensive midfielders are displaced when the ball is lost, it’s almost impossible to make a recovery with Isak’s runs inside the box (0:09 in Vid2) putting Chelsea’s CB in 2 minds.
Newcastle United vs Chelsea:
Tactical Analysis – Conclusions
This Victory for now puts Newcastle in a bit of a safe spot though given their growing reputation, a table position at 7th is much lower than the expectations they have set. As of completing this article, they drew 1-1 to PSG meaning they have it in their hands to secure a victory against Milan who lost to BVB and make it to the Round of 16 in the Champions League. Given Top 4 is a minimum, they will have to continue with the unbeaten momentum to ensure they get in a respectable place come January when there’s a chance to assess the squad composition and make moves on the market to strengthen.