Having finally ended their winless run, Newcastle had the benefit of a second successive home game before the international break which gave them a chance to climb as high as 14th with a win, provided other results go their way. They faced a Bournemouth side yet to taste defeat at St James’ Park since promotion and flying high in the league despite losing narrowly to struggling Manchester United last time out.
Newcastle Starting Approach
Newcastle started this match with the XI that ended the previous one as Schär, Ki and Ayoze were rewarded with starting berths over the injured Lascelles, Shelvey and Muto.
It was still the usual 4-4-1-1 system but on this occasion, Newcastle preferred creating through width and utilised Rondon’s target man role as part of the game plan.
That approach was different to the initial set up against Watford where a more structured, narrow shape was favoured.
Defensively, the Fernandez-Schär partnership was reminiscent of the Lascelles-Lejeune pairing that coincided with the Magpies best run of form last year, Schär distributing from the back with Fernandez taking the role of organiser & positioned deep to make last-ditch blocks and tackles.
The defensive shape was not as compact as previously seen, with Dummett and Yedlin making further forays forward to aid the wingers in attacking transitions.
Bournemouth Starting Approach
Bournemouth matched the Newcastle set up by lining up with their own 4-4-1-1, as they attempted to get in behind the Newcastle backline with the pace and trickery of wingers Fraser & Ibe. They retained possession well through Lewis Cook but their most dangerous moments would come via counter-attacks and set-pieces.
Defensively, the pacey Ake would often break lines to snuff danger from a Newcastle long ball, as Cook stayed in position. Bournemouth were aggressive in their counter-press after Newcastle intercepted their passes.
With the two teams lining up similar formations, it was the players in black and white that were winning the individual battles across the pitch in the early stages.
By the 10th minute, no Newcastle player had been dispossessed while Diame and Ayoze had managed to nick the ball off a Bournemouth shirt, the latter’s effort starting the sequence that lead to Newcastle’s opening goal.
Newcastle stretched the pitch very effectively as Yedlin, in particular, was making excellent supporting runs down the right flank.
At the other end, Bournemouth were able to create shooting situations by passing through the Newcastle full-backs, Ibe in particular took advantage of an out of position Dummett as he was found free in the box only to blaze a good chance over the bar. The Cherries weren’t getting much joy through the middle as Diame was performing his defensive duties to good effect.
By 25 minutes Bournemouth had 4 efforts on goal, all belonging to the wing pair of Fraser & Ibe as Wilson – recipient of a call-up to the latest England squad – was marshalled well by Fernandez.
The injury to Smith saw the introduction of Charlie Daniels at left back. The lengthy break allowed Newcastle to regain control of proceedings and the second goal arrived not long after. Towards the end of the half a silly foul from Schär that landed him in the referee’s notebook proved to be costly. Bournemouth got the better of Newcastle in two set-pieces situations, the second of which saw Lerma reduce the deficit just before half time.
The game’s complexion changed, not just through the Bournemouth goal but Eddie Howe’s tactical reshuffle. Lerma failed to come out for the second half as former player Gosling took his place. He also changed his system from a 4-4-1-1 to a 3-4-2-1. Daniels and Ibe took up wing back positions as Fraser and Brooks tucked in just behind Wilson. Francis, Ake, and Cook lined up in a back 3.
This allowed Bournemouth to get more bodies across the pitch, and Newcastle struggled to influence proceedings. In fact, by the time Newcastle made their first substitution in the 74th minute, the Cherries had statistical superiority in possession (60%), tackles (10 to 7), and pass success (84% to 71%). The midfield 2 of Ki and Diame was being overworked as Bournemouth had a man free in transitions thanks to the formation change.
Newcastle were still impressively resolute at defending their goal-line and getting shots away themselves relative to their low possession count. It seemed Rafa had put an emphasis on moving the ball quicker with plenty of early crosses from wide and long balls from the back to ease pressure off the backline. This strategy was part of a dominant, creative display in the first half but also a good way to get rid of danger when Bournemouth had the upper hand during the second half.
Rafa made all 3 changes within minutes of each other as Hayden, Clark, and Atsu took to the field in place of Ritchie, Kenedy and Diame. The Magpies changed formation as a result of the fresh personnel, and whilst not quite matching Bournemouth’s formation, Newcastle regained the solidity in midfield that had been missing since half time.
Impact of formation changes
It was a 5-3-2 from the home side with Yedlin and Dummett wing backs and a back of 3 Clark, Schär and Fernandez. Ayoze dropped deeper in a right midfield role as Rondon and Atsu stayed up front.
The last 15 minutes saw Newcastle dominate the tackles (5 to 1), the aerial duels (10 to 4), and even the shot count(3 to 2), as despite Bournemouth pressure for an equaliser, the Magpies avoided being pinned back for long stretches of play. 2 great chances to seal the victory came Newcastle’s way. The first an Atsu effort as a calm exchange of passes between Schär, Ki and Ayoze sent Atsu through only to be denied by Begovic from a curling effort.
The second chance was created after Hayden intercepted well then released Rondon through on goal, with a super Begovic block denying the Venezuelan a hat-trick.
Aside from an offside Gosling goal, Bournemouth never created another clear-cut chance and Newcastle held on for the win.
Key Tactical Points
Newcastle’s efficiency relative to low possession count
It’s not uncommon for Newcastle to have the lower share of possession under Rafa Benitez, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t having the better of the game. What doesn’t normally happen however is creating more chances than the opposition in these circumstances. With only 39% possession Newcastle managed 18 efforts, 8 of those belonging to their centre-forward and 6 on target in total.
Bournemouth did get shots away, but they were not creating chances of the same quality as their opposition, evidenced by their inferior xG. Of their 14 shots, 8 were from set-piece situations as Newcastle managed to restrict space in open play and shut Wilson out of the game. In fact, the Cherries’ striker drew 1 save in the match, from his own keeper as Begovic prevented an own goal from a Newcastle set-piece.
There was a noticeable urgency about Newcastle’s play when they did have the ball, no doubt having a much fitter looking Rondon as the focal point of attack helping those behind him make the right passing choices. Rondon ended the game with 66 touches, more than any other Newcastle player.
Newcastle’s improved width
In the Watford match, Newcastle’s shape was quite narrow. This saw Kenedy and Ritchie overloading in central areas and while that did sometimes lead to chances, the opposition full backs were able to dominate their flanks without much resistance by way of wingers tracking back. Today, with Rondon a willing runner, Ritchie, Kenedy, and especially Yedlin did great work out wide.
Contrast the average player position graphs from the previous 2 matches, (Left Image – Bournemouth, Right Image Watford) and note the advanced position of Yedlin against Bournemouth. Also note the distance between Ritchie, Kenedy, and Rondon in both games. The Magpies were excellent out wide on Saturday, getting beyond the full backs as the goals came from flanks.
Ki’s role in this change of fortunes shouldn’t be ignored. His eye for the diagonal pass but also the interchange between those around him helped the team advance the ball to dangerous areas. He ended the game with a Buildup xG of 1.43 (a game high).
Build up xG tallies the likelihood of a goal being scored in the same way xG does, but it only accounts for the player who didn’t shoot or assist in the move. This sounds convoluted but it can be put in these terms. Rondon has a shot from a Kenedy pass, that shot has an xG of 0.8. Ki was involved in this move but didn’t get the assist or shot, and that 0.8 is part of his total Buildup xG tally. It essentially tells the story of Ki being vital for moves ending in shots for the team.
By The Numbers
How the Goals Happened
Ayoze’s defensive industry came in handy as he dispossessed Cook, Newcastle worked the ball back to Dubravka who found Rondon with a kick up field. Rondon Brought it down to Ritchie who drifted inwards and took left back Smith with him, this opened space for Yedlin to run onto out wide as Richie worked the ball to Diame. Diame’s chipped pass forward found the American who played a great ball into the feet of Rondon. The number 9’s initial effort was saved but he was alert to dispatch the rebound.
Rondon picks up a loose ball and shows a nice couple of touches before laying it off to Ki. Ki plays a 1-2 with Ritchie before a cross-field ball to switch play to the other flank, with Kenedy in acres of space as all the Bournemouth pressure was on the other side. Kenedy’s cross is perfectly flighted and met emphatically by Rondon who bullied Ake in the air as he headed it into the top corner. It was reminiscent of efforts from previous number 9s in Carroll, Ferdinand, and Shearer. Great to see a number 9 dominate his centre back in the air like that.
This goal came about as Newcastle struggled to deal with 2 consecutive set pieces. The first a needless free-kick given away by Schär, who saw a yellow for his foul. The delivery in by Fraser was good but Cook got in between Rondon and Diame for a free header at goal that drew an excellent stop from Dubravka. It was poor marking from two of Newcastle’s more physical players. From the corner, it was another good delivery from Fraser as Lerma easily got the better of his marker in Ki to reduce the deficit with a header.
An easy choice. It’s been a while since a centre forward dominated a game like this for Newcastle United. Rondon was more than just an aerial presence, showing some nice touches and presence of mind to combine with his teammates. The header was a beauty and although he didn’t quite manage a memorable hat-trick, this was a display to encourage Newcastle fans that there may be a reliable source of goals in this squad.
The Swiss defender put in a mixed display during which both his strengths and weaknesses were on show. In defensive terms, Schär appears to be the weakest of the 5 senior centre backs. In terms of ball playing ability, he is second to Lejeune. Fernandez bailed him out on a couple of occasions where he failed to deal with an attacker, but the Swiss international showed calmness on the ball that helped us initiate attacks.
He made 9 clearances, completed a dribble and found a Newcastle shirt with 8 of his 13 attempted long balls. His aggression was also on show, winning 5 aerial duels ( more than any defender on the pitch).
If the best player for the opposition is the keeper then Newcastle are doing something right. Begovic made a series of smart saves, showing impressive reflexes to save teammate Wilson from an own goal, as well as denying Rondon a hattrick. There wasn’t much he could do about either goal as the defenders around him were beaten by the sharpness of Rondon.
The Scottish international was the dangerman for the Cherries as they -like many sides against Newcastle this campaign- targeted Newcastle’s right flank. His pace was a threat on the wing but equally impressive was his accuracy in setting up teammates. He played 5 key passes, no one else in the Bournemouth side managed more than 1. He was also accurate from 6 crosses, with his quality from set pieces leading to an assist for Lerma.
Newcastle ended this match with their points total tripled from the point of kick-off against Watford. It might have come from 2 successive home games but prior to these 2 wins, they had lost every game at St James’ Park this season. Rondon finally showed the qualities he can offer, his fitness an issue that has derailed his impact so far.
Rafa’s set up was too much for Bournemouth to handle at first, and the Toon took their chances while on top. Howe’s changes provided a stern test for the home side, and they managed to stifle the opposition until Rafa made the 3 substitutions that would allow Newcastle a greater degree of influence on proceedings in order to close the game out for a crucial victory.