Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Newcastle's dominance in the wide-areas force PSG into playing line-breaking passes

PSG played side-to-side in the first half, had little success, and then adjusted in the second half to execute several line-breaking passes to bypass Newcastle’s wide-area dominance. That led to the final progressive pass from Vitinha that resulted in a handball.

Figure 1.1 - Newcastle's 4-5-1 low-block in the final third.
Figure 1.2 - Another angle of Newcastle's 4-5-1 low-block.

Like in their last meeting at St. James’ Park, Newcastle were set up very well defensively. It was passive, but I was impressed at the two different ways they neutralized Kylian Mbappe and stopped whoever attempted to attack from the right-wing.

Figure 2.1 - Newcastle double-team Kylian Mbappe, while tightly marking in the box 4v3, and blocking off the pass to the man at the top of the box.

The double-team on Mbappe was as solid as you would expect it to be. They tried to force him inside, as you can see from the orientation of their feet.

Cutting off the pass at the top of the box was smart because if I were Mbappe, that is who I’d be aiming for with a cross across the ground. The cut-back and then open shot from the top of the box is the higher probability shot when you compare it to an attempted header or redirection within that tightly marked 4v3.

That is why they didn’t want him to take it to the goal line, and instead attempted to force him inside, because if he did, the cut-back would likely be hard to mark.

Figure 3.1 - When PSG receives the ball wide on their right, Newcastle form this box.

Valentino Livramento at left-back had an exceptional game, but it was the coordination between the four Newcastle defenders in tandem to cut off the pass forward and back, pinning the ball carrier in a corner. The carrier needed someone to play off to penetrate into the penalty area. That someone was always tightly marked by two to three defenders.

That forced PSG to attempt to progress centrally, and they only began to create chances through the middle in the second half.

Figure 4.1 - Kang-In Lee passes through a line, and PSG breaks into the box off a wall pass to Ousmane Dembele.
Figure 4.2 - Ousmane Dembele is in.
Figure 5.1 - Manuel Ugarte passes through a line to Kylian Mbappe, with an option for the wall pass into the box.

Bypassing a line, breaking a line, was PSG’s only hope. By playing those line-breaking passes, they remove the ability for Newcastle to surround the carrier with two or more defenders. It’s 2v2 or 2v1, and then 1v1 with the impenetrable Nick Pope in goal.

Figure 6.1 - Vitinha passes through a line to Ousmane Dembele, the pass that created the handball situation.

The handball penalty that tied the game 1-1 was the result of a line-breaking pass from Vitinha to Dembele. A gut-punch to Newcastle who defended valiantly for 90 minutes.

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