How Chelsea tactically overcame Newcastle secret weapon amid Mauricio Pochettino sack pressure

How Chelsea overcame Newcastle United secret weapon to ease Mauricio Pochettino sack pressure

There were a number of noticeable tactical duels between Chelsea and Newcastle United in their five-goal thriller on Monday evening in the Premier League.

The Blues eventually took all three points in the game with goals from Nicolas Jackson, Cole Palmer and Mykhailo Mudryk cancelling out strikes from Alexander Isak and Jacob Murphy. The hosts gained control in the match eventually, despite seeing less of the ball throughout the 90 or so minutes, but there were a few warning signs from the visitors early on.

From Chelsea’s first goal kick, less than two minutes into the game, Newcastle’s off-the-ball intentions were perfectly clear. Chelsea like to play out from the back, that is part of Mauricio Pochettino’s style, but they are not always the best at doing so and it can leave plenty of supporters inside Stamford Bridge with butterflies in their stomach.

Just see Axel Disasi’s mistake that led to Leeds United’s opening goal at the end of last month in the FA Cup fifth round tie. Disasi picks up the ball in a deep position and looks to find Moises Caicedo at the edge of the box, but his pass is weak and Leeds’ fierce press made sure they capitalised on the opening.

Chelsea were keen to ensure no such problems presented themselves against a dangerous Newcastle team. Isak, Anthony Gordon and Miguel Almiron positioned themselves as close to the Chelsea defenders as possible, on the edge of the box, ready to pounce on any hesitation from the Blues.

And that was the case from the second minute of the game. In this instance, as captured below, goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic goes short to Trevoh Chalobah, who then passes it back to the Serbian. By this point, Isak is right on top of Petrovic and the shot-stopper looks to play a precise ball to Malo Gusto on the right-hand side, but the pass is way off and goes out for a throw-in.

That was a warning for Chelsea but it did not stop the Blues from persisting with their style the next time the situation arose. This time, though, there was a slightly different method to the Blues’ play.

Petrovic passed it to Chalobah, but instead of the defender going back to the goalkeeper, as done in the first instance, he decides to go across goal with a firmer pass to Disasi. The Frenchman is then pressed by Gordon and forced wide before he launches the ball up the pitch and it is eventually given back to the visiting team.

It was something that is likely to stay in Petrovic’s mind. It took a while for Chelsea to get their next goal kick in the game and there was once again a different approach, led by the goalkeeper.

Chalobah took it this time and went short to Petrovic, who was then able to force a different angle. The Serbian, bravely, waited for Isak to move forward and pressurise him before playing the ball to Enzo Fernandez.

The clever thing about this is that if Petrovic had have passed it along the floor, there is every chance Isak would have intercepted possession. However, the goalkeeper, ever so slightly, lifts his pass so it goes over Isak’s boot and finds Enzo, who was then able to retrieve possession on the edge of the Chelsea box and move forward with the ball.

It worked well for Chelsea, but it may have been too close of a call for Petrovic, who decided enough was enough next time. Seconds after he smartly passed it to Enzo, there was another goal kick for the Blues.

This time, though, Petrovic decided to go long and waved his arms to signify that the defenders and midfielders needed to go up the pitch. It was the fourth goal kick of the game and for many, it looked as if going long was the route to avoid the press from Chelsea’s point of view.

Next time out, however, on 37 minutes, Petrovic again decided to go short and Chelsea ended up gifting possession back to the Magpies. Chelsea kept mixing it up, so Newcastle could never get to grips with what they were planning to do from the restart.

In the end, Chelsea went short with four goal kicks and decided to boot it long on six occasions. In fact, the Blues did not go for the short option once in the second-half.

A change of strategy from goal kicks in the second period, while perhaps not seeming too much of a deal, would have had an impact on the game. It meant Newcastle could not use their counter-press to its full impact and it showed a level of maturity and experience to change the way they were approaching the situation during an intense match.

Maturity is something Pochettino has called for on multiple occasions this season. While it will take who knows how long for Chelsea to be anywhere close to the complete package, it is certainly a positive sign for those young players to spot a potential hazard in a high-intensity Premier League game.


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