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Newcastle United 3-0 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Chelsea collapse in spectacular fashion at St James’ on the final day of the Premier League season.

First half

Newcastle’s possession from midfield saw them take control of the game, which allowed Shelvey to influence the game with his passing and the fullbacks to move forward. Without applying pressure from midfield, Chelsea had problems covering spaces between their lines and causing Newcastle problems, in general.

Newcastle’s patience in possession allowed them time to wait for openings forward; they were especially looking to attack the wings with numbers. With both of the fullbacks moving up and pushing Chelsea’s wing-backs deep, Newcastle could keep Chelsea in a deep and closed shape consistently.

Ritchie opening up onto his left foot caused problems when Newcastle had the ball in the final third, as he could cross with quality into the box, move inside the with ball, or use the overlap from Yedlin to either create space for himself on the ball (moving Emerson away from him) or find Yedlin with the right timing.

Newcastle’s front two would often drop to find space between lines to receive the ball, before finding a teammate in space after attracting pressure. Since the distances between Chelsea’s midfield and defensive line were stretched by the width and patience of Newcastle’s possession, when an opening to play into the front two came along, Chelsea’s backline were too far back to pressure or try to intercept the ball upon the first touch. Murphy could also move inside to combine from the left, as well as joining the box upon Ritchie crossing the ball into the box from the right—as he did for Newcastle’s opening goal.

Playing higher up inside Chelsea’s half also gave both Diame and Shelvey opportunities to shoot from outside the box and cause Courtois problems, either from possession or recovering the ball high inside Chelsea’s half.

When Chelsea did have possession, they also managed to create their own problems. They often attempted to play direct and continued to do so after not having success, and their reaction to regain the ball with pressure was weak. So when they had possession, they would open up and try to find forward passes to the frontline, only to lose the ball and drop back to defend in a closed shape. Many of Chelsea’s problems when playing with wing-backs have occurred exactly in these situations, where they are pinned back by the opposition and unable to move up to open the field.

Chelsea change

After Newcastle scored their opening goal, Chelsea switched to a 343. This improved Chelsea’s possession in that they could get the wing-backs into the game more by having the extra man (Barkley) high on Newcastle’s back four early during attacks to draw them narrow or to the side before switching to find the wing-back in space. Barkley and Hazard’s movements wide and into midfield could create overloads or chances to put the ball into the box early for Giroud, leading to a good chance in the second half. Meanwhile, with Kante playing higher, he was in a position to be able to press when Chelsea didn’t have the ball.

Despite the change, Newcastle still caused problems when they recovered the ball in midfield or Chelsea’s half (one even from winning the ball on Chelsea’s kickoff!), leading to a few shots from distance.

The second half began with more counters and quick attacks for both Chelsea and Newcastle. Barkley began to show his ability to both carry the ball quickly during counters (leading to a 1v1) and early crosses into the box (chance for Giroud), while Hazard dropping back into midfield also saw him turn and carry the ball forward before finding Moses free on the outside. However, Newcastle were clinical and scored two goals in quick succession.

The game went back to a slower tempo with Chelsea having high amounts of possession without being able to create many chances to score. Newcastle increased their defensive characteristics as the game went on through Hayden and Haidara going on to play in midfield.


Newcastle’s patience and control in possession caused Chelsea a lot of problems where they couldn’t pressure the ball and were stuck deep in their own half. When Chelsea had the ball, they lost it on most occasions when they attempted to play forward centrally, which further contributed to them being pushed back and stuck deep in their own half. Newcastle created a number of opportunities in the first half and took a deserved early lead, which saw Chelsea switch to a 343 and see some improvements with the ball. However, Newcastle were clinical early in the second half and their two quick goals early in the half killed the game.

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