It was a tale of two contrasting halves as Leeds United went on an away trip to Newcastle United in the Premier League. The Magpies have been struggling when it comes to the recent results they have had in the Premier League and their manager Steve Bruce’s position at the club has come under constant scrutiny. The last match between Newcastle and Leeds resulted in a classic Premier League encounter at Elland Road. The Whites were at their devastating best in the reverse fixture and breezed past Newcastle with a 5-2 win.
This encounter was much more evenly contested and it seemed like it wasn’t just three points which were at stake but the future of the clubs as well. Here we dig a little deeper into the tactical nuances of this particular encounter at St. James’ Park.
Newcastle United came into this game on the back of an eight-game winless run. They are edging ever so closer to the relegation spots and the goalscoring form has been a huge concern for Steve Bruce and his team, as they have netted only four times in these eight games.
Leeds United had their own concerns before taking the field at St. James’ Park. They were looking for their first win and first goal in the Premier League in the calendar year and getting back to winning ways was of utmost importance for the Whites.
Steve Bruce went back to the system which has got his team the most success this season, 4-4-2. Goalscoring was something they were looking to fix in this game and there had been plenty of criticism about the style of play from his team. It seemed like they were ready to take on Leeds United head-on in this match.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Karl Darlow (GK); Jamal Lewis, Jamaal Lascelles (C), Fabian Schar, Issac Hayden; Jonjo Shelvey, Jeff Hendrick, Jacob Murphy, Ryan Fraser; Miguel Almiron, Callum Wilson
Marcelo Bielsa rarely changes the system his team plays. He yet again went for his preferred system 4-1-4-1 with Jack Harrison and Raphinha giving the width to their team. Diego Llorente got a start after a long time, as he was away injured after signing for the Whites in the summer. Unfortunately for the Spanish centre-back, he suffered a setback yet again early in the second half and was visibly distraught when he was leaving the pitch.
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Illan Meslier (GK); Ezgjan Alioski, Liam Cooper (C), Diego Llorente, Luke Ayling; Kalvin Phillips; Stuart Dallas, Rodrigo Moreno, Jack Harrison, Raphinha; Patrick Bamford
NEWCASTLE IN POSSESSION
We witnessed two completely different approaches to the game by Newcastle in the two halves. In the first half, their pressing was passive, they were content with Leeds having the lion share of the possession and were hoping to capitalise on any mistakes Leeds could make in their own half. To break Leeds’ high press, they usually took the approach of playing long balls to Callum Wilson to hold the ball and flick it on to either of the wingers or Miguel Almiron. In the first half, we didn’t see enough of Jonjo Shelvey’s creativity in the midfield and Newcastle were below par in their performance.
Second half was a much better performance by the Magpies. It seemed like Steve Bruce delivered a fiery half time talk and players seemed to have responded well to that. They were willing to press Leeds high up the pitch and force them to commit errors in those crucial areas. That’s how they managed to score their goal of the night. Newcastle were brave on the ball and had better chances than their opponent in the second half. Jamal Lewis and Jamaal Lascelles both hit the bar before Jonjo Shelvey was denied a second Newcastle equaliser by a brilliant Illan Meslier save. They can take many positives from the second half but the first 45 minutes were just unacceptable.
LEEDS UNITED IN POSSESSION
The Whites weren’t at their silky best on the night but more importantly, got the three points which they so dearly wanted. They were brave on the ball while playing from the back and more often than not made it a 3 v 2 situation against the Newcastle forwards in the buildup play with either Kalvin Phillips dropping in when the centre-backs split or one of the wing-backs would stay back in the build-up.
Stuart Dallas was deployed in the midfield as a free role till the 56th minute of the game and he had the liberty to make runs into the box and enjoyed some good passing moments in the game. Both wingers Raphinha and Jack Harrison were providing width to the Leeds attack and caused mayhem to the Newcastle defence. The wingers of the Newcastle team failed to cover the runs of their opposite numbers and the Newcastle wing-backs were more often than not exposed to 1 v 2 situations against the Leeds wingers and wing-backs. This is what led to the two goals scored by the Whites on the night and was the deciding factor in this match.
The twenty minutes after Jack Harrison scored the third goal of the match was a period of complete Newcastle dominance. This is the time when Steve Bruce would have liked to see a goal fly in to get at least a point from this game. Overall, Leeds controlled the game reasonably well and got three points which were difficult but important to get. From Newcastle’s perspective, they looked a proper goal threat going forward when Allan Saint-Maximin came on in the second half. The combination play between Allan, Ryan Fraser, Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson will give them goals in the coming few matches. They just need to tighten up defensively and build from this second-half performance.
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