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Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle United, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s narrow win over Newcastle United

First half

Newcastle maintained a compact block during the first half, conceding few opportunities and maintaining good distances. Upon winning the ball, Newcastle would have to break through Chelsea’s high and aggressive pressing. In the moments they were successful, they would usually find Saint-Maximin as their outlet to begin counters, where he would carry the ball forward quickly and go past defenders before getting support from Almiron, Joelinton or the advancing wing-backs. Newcastle created a couple of promising situations from these counters, but few chances inside Chelsea’s box to score.

In possession, Chelsea would take the ball up to midfield against Newcastle’s deep defensive lines, but had difficulty finding spaces behind or on the wings as they played the ball forward. Newcastle’s backline maintained good control of the spaces behind them to stop passes over the top of their backline and close distances to the midfield line to prevent free passes between lines. Joelinton dropped back to close down Jorginho (as well as pressuring Chelsea’s central defenders), and when Chelsea played up the wings, Newcastle’s wing-back and winger would double up to close down the distances to the ball and prevent crosses into the box.

As the half progressed, Chelsea found success by drawing pressure onto the ball on the one wing before making quick switches to the far-side winger inside the box. Jorginho finding Hudson-Odoi created the chance for Mount inside the box, and Hudson-Odoi’s switch to Willian inside the box later on in the half allowed him to shift the ball inside and shoot. Corners would also offer opportunities to attack the ball with numbers inside the box, but otherwise Newcastle’s defence remained strong.

Second half

The second half continued in a similar pattern as the first half. But with Kovacic in midfield Chelsea could create more spaces between lines when he dropped deep for the ball, drew pressure and then advanced forward after combining with Jorginho. When Kovacic would drop deep for the ball, it would also allow Alonso to move higher up and for Hudson-Odoi to move inside to receive the ball between lines, carry it forward and shoot from the edge of the box.

Kovacic sitting deep became a permanent change later on in the half, upon Pulisic replacing Mount and Chelsea switching to a 4-2-3-1. Chelsea had a good period of opportunities from set pieces, breaking forward with the ball quickly from deep (after Newcastle committed players forward for counters and pressing high), and chances to shoot from the edge of the box.

It was during one these moments of sustained high pressure that Chelsea would take the lead, by Pulisic carrying the ball forward and playing an early ball across to find Hudson-Odoi inside the box (similar to the switches that created chances in the first half), who then found Alonso free inside the box to shoot and score.

Chelsea continued to maintain their high position and created a number of chances afterwards, but Newcastle managed to prevent them from finishing the game off with saves and blocks. This kept Newcastle in the game until the end, where they would move into the final third with the ball but were unable to create any good chances to score and gain a point out of the game.

Chelsea vs. Newcastle United xG Timing Chart
Understat

Conclusion

Newcastle’s defence was well organised during the first half, where they maintained good distances on the ball, prevented Chelsea from getting behind on the outside or via passes behind their backline, and managed to create some good situations from counters. Chelsea’s changes in the second half allowed them to get between the lines more often to create chances and carry the ball at Newcastle’s backline, while allowing Alonso to move forward, which would ultimately see him receive the ball inside the box and score to make the difference.