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

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Breaking down Chelsea’s disappointing defeat at St James’ Park

First half

Newcastle had all the answers against Chelsea during the first half, keeping Chelsea’s attack playing in front of their deep defending, while looking to only play with the ball high up inside Chelsea’s half (as opposed to their own).

Newcastle’s covering of wide areas to show Chelsea back inside (not leaving spaces to get behind on the wings) really gave Chelsea problems when trying to create in the final third. The near side winger, central defender and central midfielder could all join the wing-back on the side of the ball to match Chelsea’s numbers and provide support to prevent Chelsea from getting easy crosses. Passes back inside centrally would see Jorginho either hold the ball until there was a short option or make an early pass into the box centrally, while long right-footed shots from Azpilicueta at left back were the best that Chelsea could create—both of which Newcastle would block or repel easily with numbers.

The only opportunities that Chelsea were able to create came when Newcastle’s defensive block was higher up and outside their box, or when they opened up with the ball from a throw-in inside their own half. Kanté was able to run behind and join the box to create two chances (for himself to shoot and flick on to Abraham), while Kanté winning the ball from a throw-in would lead to the opportunity for Mount carrying the ball into the box.

With the ball, Newcastle looked to play long up to Joelinton backing into Christensen to create the same decisions for the referee to make as in Chelsea’s previous match, but unlike against Burnley’s Chris Wood, few of these situations would have a negative outcome for the defender. When Newcastle were able to carry the ball forward and open up through the wing-backs on the wings, they would have good opportunities to cross the ball into the box and attack with numbers, creating a chance for Joelinton. However, the game would go into the break level.

Second half

Without any half-time changes, the second half unfolded in the same manner as the first. Mount continued to join Willian and Azpilicueta on the left to combine and try to create, and Kanté either supported Hudson-Odoi and James on the right wing, or looked to join the box early — while Newcastle continued to defend deep and keep Chelsea from getting behind their backline.

Again, moments where Newcastle were most stretched were the only moments when Chelsea could create opportunities, usually via counters from inside their own half, but again Chelsea were unable to take advantage of these opportunities in the final third.

The changes made later on in the half were like-for-like, and Chelsea continued to attack in the same manner throughout, even through the forced replacement of James with Emerson and Hudson-Odoi and Willian switching wings later on.

Newcastle began to open up more during the final stages of the match which allowed Chelsea a few fast breaks from deep, but without being able to take advantage of these situations. With the game still goalless during the final few minutes of the match, Newcastle were able to move up the field thanks to another long ball, winning a set piece situation that allowed them to push up as a team. They would go on find the last-minute winner from there with a second ball into the box for Hayden to finish.

Newcastle vs. Chelsea xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Chelsea had the majority of possession and territory during the game, but were unable to break down Newcastle’s deep defensive block or make changes to find a solution. Chelsea had opportunities in the moments where Newcastle pushed up or lost the ball, but without being able to turn these opportunities into goals Chelsea would reach the final stages of the game goalless, allowing Newcastle the opportunity to win the game in injury time.