Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Champions League football at St. James' Park

First things, first — it is a beautiful thing to see the Champions League return to St. James Park. One of the most raucous atmospheres in Europe. This match against PSG is the one I’ve been most looking forward to.

Panning across from Kylian Mbappe to Dan Burn is a bit jarring, with the flags flying behind. It’s easy to underestimate Newcastle but Eddie Howe always finds a way to find an edge tactically.

This is one of the stadiums that you go down a man the moment the ball is kicked. PSG need a goal to quiet the crowd, but it feels like even that wouldn’t dampen the mood. A two-goal lead with this atmosphere feels insurmountable for PSG, but no lead is safe with the talent they have up front.

Newcastle did well to neutralize the wide areas with their flat coordinated four-second line to cut off the passes from PSG’s back-line, not allowing Kylian Mbappe, Kolo Muani, or Goncalo Ramos to get much of the ball. They had zero shots on Newcastle’s goal in the first 53 minutes.

Figure 1.1 - Newcastle, compact, wait for PSG to pass the ball before moving.
Figure 1.2
Figure 1.3

Newcastle stayed compact centrally, forcing PSG wide, and then when PSG played the ball wide, they did a good job of cutting off the pass to the wing or the third man, forcing them to drive inside.

Figure 1.4
Figure 1.5 - Newcastle collapse on the ball.
Figure 1.6 - Newcastle win back the ball.

Notice the large space between Newcastle’s second line and the back-line, tempting PSG to chip it to their front line. Once Newcastle win back the ball, they always leave at least three defenders back, stationary, in the rest defense. Those in the rest defense don’t expend a ton of energy.

Figure 2.1 - PSG's passing network by minute of each half. Visual by DatoBHJ

PSG were limited to playing on the edges. The moment they tried to make a move inside, Newcastle collapsed, and the ball was lost.

Who would have guessed Newcastle would be topping this group of death by match two? A fully deserved result.

P.S. The chemistry of Kiernan Trippier, Miguel Almiron, and Sean Longstaff is not something Newcastle should look to break up.

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