Newcastle United have yet to win a game in either the Premier League or the League Cup this season. Dropping points to such a team, currently second from the bottom, cannot happen for title-winning sides. But our credentials were going to be tested at a venue where we have only won twice in the last eight visits.
Though Newcastle have also failed to keep a clean sheet all season, they have a much better goal differential than 7-0’d Norwich City, as they have also managed to score in every game bar one. More than half of their goals have come from their two front men, Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson. Nullifying them was going to be key.
With the quality of center backs we have available at the moment, those Tuchel selected handled that task with ease once again.
And our defenders haven’t been playing well only in defense. Along with the wingbacks, the center backs have become instrumental in our attack and build up play — especially against teams sitting deep.
Player positions show that Rüdiger and Christensen were entrenched in the Newcastle half and passing stats show that both had significantly more touches than Silva, who was the security blanket behind them. Silva operated largely as a sole sweeper while the other two progressed our build-up from the back or kept recycling possession.
With the attack split evenly across the right, middle, and left, and a 40% presence in the final third, Chelsea were both aggressively seeking a breakthrough goal and probing every possible angle for it.
In the early phases of the game however, we were lacking that final quality pass, shot, or even general awareness of Newcastle’s defensive line. In fact, all four of our offsides were before the half-hour mark, stymying goal-scoring opportunities. Ziyech was guilty of this yet again, and when he had produced a quality finish in the 29th minute, it was ruled out for offside.
Still, there are a few positives we can taken away from that situation. Christensen is initially looking to play the through ball, but Ziyech can be seen pointing and directing it to be squared to Jorginho. This draws Ciaran Clark out of position as he follows the ball and loses sight of Ziyech behind him. Jorginho then plays a one touch pass to find Ziyech, who had opened up to receive and shoot quickly. He still had plenty to do and the finish was top drawer. Alas, despite having a clear view across their back line, he had drifted a step offside. Ziyech’s work rate off the ball was also good, and hopefully luck turns in his favor soon.
The pivotal moment of the game was the switch that occurred in the 64th minute. By removing Kanté and adding the physical presence and forward drive of Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea gave the Newcastle back line a new look to deal with, and something for which they were not prepared. Combined with Reece James already routinely cutting in from the right (Kanté pulling wide), Chelsea were able to create a much bigger presence (literally and figuratively) in the Newcastle box.
Hudson-Odoi continually breaching Newcastle’s back line, combined with Chilwell’s repeated crosses from his dominance on the left, were ripe to bear fruit. Tuchel’s change ensured that runs from the midfield into the box would disrupt the defensive structure and organization. From the moment Loftus-Cheek was brought on, Newcastle’s left-sided defenders (Clark, Fraser and Ritchie) lost their positions and marks.
In the first image above, we can see Hudson-Odoi’s run on the opposite flank shift Newcastle’s entire defense over, including both Matt Ritchie and Ryan Fraser. They both see Loftus-Cheek making a direct run in the center, and focus on him, leaving Reece James unmarked behind them.
To make matters worse for them, Fraser, who had been doing a decent job up until then, might as well be picking daisies here. If he wasn’t going to track the run of Loftus-Cheek, he should be drifting towards the back post as cover, not aimlessly marking the penalty spot. As a result, James has enough time to take a controlled touch before unleashing a rocket into the top corner.
Having been breached, their defense subsequently crumbled, and Fraser was subbed immediately after as well for his involvement (or lack thereof). Not that it mattered as James would add a second from a very similar position, just with his other foot.
21 years old full-back Reece James is currently Chelsea's leading goalscorer in the Premier League. The Blues are yet to concede a PL goal while James is on the pitch. An incredible talent under the wings of Thomas Tuchel. #NEWCHE pic.twitter.com/YJAaZSBrDO— Armband (@armbandmedia) October 31, 2021
Newcastle really didn’t offer much else and we continued our relentless assault on their goal.
Kai Havertz deserves praise for once again playing striker in the absence of Lukaku and Werner. He played well both with his back to goal and when breaking through their defensive line — a run very similar to the one in the Champions League final, just a bit closer to goal and this time resulting in a penalty instead of a goal right away.
Newcastle, who couldn’t even muster 20% possession, were massively outplayed in every facet of the game, and although it may have taken time, there was no way that our wing-backs were ever going to walk out of St (Reece) James’ Park without three points in the bag.