Although Newcastle United have done well to get the points total secured so far, the performances have been dipping from good to very bad all season. The previous Monday was an example of the latter, as Villa ran Newcastle ragged for 90 minutes. One thing Bruce has managed to do well this season is respond to such performances, and in Manchester City, he faced formidable opposition in trying to repeat the trick.
Man City have dropped their standards this season in the league. Defensive issues have resulted in an unusually large gap between them and league leaders Liverpool, compared to the neck and neck title race of 18/19. It was imperative for them not to drop points here to keep within touching distance.
Newcastle United Analysis
Lining up in the familiar 523 when in possession, the Magpies were direct in their attacking approaches. They aimed long balls to Joelinton via Dubravka & the defence, with the other option of the long pass from Shelvey to Saint-Maximin/Almiron, utilising their direct dribbling as an attempt to get up the pitch.
Although there was a preference to drive down the right handside (45% of all launched attacks), the majority of attempts came from either left sided or central positions. Newcastle seemed to have more joy in connecting moves when Willems got forward from the left.
Although it was the usual 5-4-1 compact low block when out of possession, there was a tactical tweak that allowed Newcastle more influence in stopping Man City. Rather than constantly sit as a pair in midfield (as was the case against Villa), Bruce allowed Hayden to press higher up the pitch when the opportunity presented itself, with Almiron dropping deep and central to ensure there was cover alongside Shelvey.
There was generally a better energy about Newcastle’s pressure, despite spending the majority of the game in a low block. It increased the risk of more space opening up at times for Man City, but Newcastle defenders were alert in getting rid of danger (40 total clearances).
Man City Analysis
City lined up in a 433, which turned into a 2-5-3 in attack as Walker was constantly moving into the centre, with Mendy pushing up far left. Man City’s game of creating overloads and going for the combination play on the flanks in order to work their way into the box was in evidence as usual. As mentioned, Kyle Walker spent the majority of their attacks sitting in central midfield, in order to quicken the switch from flank to flank whenever Newcastle crowded City attackers deep at one end of the pitch.
De Bruyne would use the added support from Walker to drift wide and try send Mahrez through or cross it in, with Sterling, D. Silva and Mendy forming a trio on the other side to probe for openings. The latter option was their preferred route to goal (46% of launched attacks).
Manchester City were pressing high up as usual, swarming in numbers with a counter press in mind to force Newcastle into mistakes. Should Newcastle beat the counter press, the visitors only had Fernandinho and Stones back to ensure Joelinton always had at least 2 men to deal with if the ball got to him, until Mendy and Walker recovered to make it a back 4.
It was a typical high line from Pep, and although Saint-Maximin & Almiron provide a huge counter attacking threat, the Spaniard’s side are so adept at keeping possession it was a risk worth taking for the pressure they looked to apply going forward.
The Tactical Sequences of the Match
Kick-Off to 22′
Newcastle tend to start games well when sitting deep, through a mixture of the organisation Rafa built, the opposition’s slow tempo, and the work rate of the defensive players. This was the case here as City’s first 3 efforts comprised of 2 headers from corners and a blocked Sterling shot, with little threat of scoring.
When Newcastle had the ball, they chose to try the long ball straight away. In the opening 20 minutes, Dubravka and Fernandez had attempted the most passes for the home side (8 apiece), with Joelinton having the most touches of the front 3 as the target man, the ex-Hoffenheim man also completing the most dribbles as he performed admirably in trapping the ball and evading City shirts with little support near him.
The only other way Newcastle could get up the pitch was through the Shelvey to Saint-Maximin option, as seen here the Frenchman’s individual ability resulting in a shot at goal.
GOAL 22′ Sterling (NEW 0-1 MCI)
Walker at centre mid allows Man City to establish possession again quickly and he does well to move the ball to the left. One of Manquillo or Fernandez should’ve gotten tighter to Sterling but Man City work the ball excellently to get into the box regardless. There is both a slice of luck and skill to the goal as Hayden puts in a superb recovery tackle only for the ball to deflect back into the path of Silva who back heels it to an unmarked Sterling to finish.
GOAL 25′ Willems (NEW 1-1 MCI)
Almiron seemed to have drifted onto the left out of instinct as there hadn’t been an instruction for him and Saint-Maximin to swap flanks. By the time Almiron brought the ball back from the flank, Willems had come up to support the play. Stones had to stay wide to marshal him, which meant Gundogan dropped into a central defensive position. They play a 1-2 which evades both Stones and Gundogan, giving Willems a great chance on his right foot which he takes superbly.
25′ to Half Time
After the goals, the half developed into something of a snapshot of what Newcastle’s approach allows them to be great at, and what it doesn’t allow them to do so well.
As seen in the below clip, the defence is as secure as ever in restricting the opposition to playing non threatening passes. That is very difficult to maintain across 90 minutes, the opposition will get through and create chances eventually. Even as the clearance reaches Joelinton at the beginning of the clip, the ball comes straight back into City’s feet since no one is supporting the lone forward.
Half Time to 68′
Man City dominated possession after the restart (80% to 20% in their favour during the first 20 minutes of the 2nd half). Despite this, Newcastle’s energetic pressure was still giving them good moments. It was noticeably absent against Villa, but just this little bit of hard work from Shelvey lead to a nice quick attack, with Willems and the toon number 8 particularly impressive in the build up.
With that in mind, it seemed on this occasion that he allowed the home side to press higher at times, which thanks to Man City’s preference to build from the back, presented an opportunity for Joelinton and Shelvey to force them into a passing error and almost lead to a chance through Saint-Maximin here.
68′ to Full Time
Newcastle introduced Gayle for Joelinton, yet there was no change in approach, with Gayle finding it difficult to hold the ball up in comparison to Joelinton. Man City also acted, bringing in Foden and B Silva for Mahrez and D Silva. Again, no change to the system/formation.
The next 12 minutes were all Man City. 4 shots to 0, with all players bar Fernandinho and Stones in the final third, looking to grab a 2nd goal. However, none of the 4 shots were on target as Newcastle got the blocks in. The home side were doing well to keep City at bay, until…
GOAL 82′ De Bruyne (NEW 1-2 MCI)
There isn’t a tactical flaw to pick with Newcastle for the goal, you could hope that one of Hayden or Shelvey would get the block in, or that Manquillo could’ve done better to close down Mendy’s cross, but ultimately it’s a fantastic strike.
The visitors replaced Jesus with Rodri, looking to secure the victory with an added defensive presence. The tiring Saint-Maximin had been taken off just seconds prior to De Bruyne’s goal, with Atsu on in his place.
GOAL 88′ Shelvey (NEW 2-2 MCI)
It’s a good decision by Atsu to not cross it in, aided by the fact Man City chose not to put anyone near Shelvey, all defenders in the box anticipating a ball in. As Rodri rushes to try to block the shot, Jonjo keeps his composure with a brilliant finish, the ball curling away from Ederson’s reach and nestling in the corner.
By The Numbers
Men of the Match
The challenge for Jonjo is to put performances in like this more often, and use the ball well like he did today. Against Villa he was guilty of launching balls over the top when the situation didn’t need it. On this occasion, he made the right passes more often than not, and was crucial in his side picking up a point against the champions.
Honourable Mention: Federico Fernandez
Fernandez has been superb since coming into the side. He lead by example in all defensive actions, and even in one attacking action as he dribbled through 3 City players to get his side going. He had his work cut out for him, with Sterling and David Silva making constant movements on his flank. Federico registered a game high 10 clearances, blocked 2 shots, made 5 interceptions and completed 2 tackles to round off a great display.
Honourable Mention: Jetro Willems
As missed as Ritchie has been since his injury, Jetro’s inclusion in the starting line up has added a dimension to Newcastle’s play that was missing all of last season – an attacking threat from the left wingback position.
Jetro displays calmness when on the ball,reflected in his 90% pass accuracy (team high) and he constantly offers support to the forwards on the rare occasion Newcastle work the ball into the opposition final third. The man with the best step overs in the league is making a case for having one of the stronger “weak foot” abilities around as well.
He lead by example, making double the amount of key passes than the next best player in the game (D Silva), and was involved in any situation where Man City had Newcastle on the ropes.
Honourable Mention: Kyle Walker
From a tactical perspective he was key for City. He allows the players around him to create multiple chances by constantly drifting centrally and linking the play, and when it comes to defensive situations is somehow always in the right back position. Saint-Maximin did beat him on a few occasions. but going the other way, Walker was one of the brighter players in initiating attacks for the visitors. Despite starting at “right back”, Walker ranked highly in the game for total touches + passes, 2nd only to midfield lynchpin Gundogan.
When compared to Aston Villa, this was a great display. Looking at it as a standalone game, Newcastle had to ride their luck at times but did more than enough to justify a point for their efforts.
The current approach was tweaked a little bit by Bruce to give Newcastle some moments of disrupting Man City higher up the pitch, and it worked well at times. On the occasions they had to defend deep, they stood resolute to many of the City attacks yet when breached were bailed out by some brilliant Dubravka stops.
This wasn’t the game to judge this side on, but games like Villa are. In future matches, the side need to apply the same level of concentration and pressure in defence that they did today, but the attack still needs to be configured. It’s another game without a goal for the front 3, and apart from 60 minutes away to West Ham, and a few moments against Bournemouth, they haven’t been connected all season. Getting them to combine well consistently is Bruce’s next challenge.