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The Tactics Thread


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In my opinion, Chris Hughton's primary contribution to the club was forming a team spirit. However, a close second was his willingness to break away from 4-4-2 and implement a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 which better suited the players we had at our disposal.


Likewise, in Keegan's second stint here we got some great results out of shaking things up, playing Owen just behind the forward line, and approaching the game in a different way.


Now we have lost Andy Carroll and all the great target man qualities he brought to the team, is it time for us to toy with another plan B in terms of formation and tactics?


As we are all painfully aware: we lack forwards of the right quality. So what qualities do we still have in the team that we can utilise?


I'd suggest the major positives we have are:


- Enrique's wing play

- The pace of Routledge & Ranger

- Shola's ability to hold up the ball

- Tiote

- Barton being a one-man midfield

- Simpson's delivery

- Colo's ability to read play

- Jonas' dribbling/ability to keep the ball


With this in mind, I think it might be worth us experimenting with a 5-2-3/3-4-3/5-4-1 system using wing backs. Something along the lines of:


- - - - - - - - - Harper


- - - - Taylor - Colo - Williamson


Simpson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Enrique


- - - - - - Barton - - - Tiote


Routledge - - - - - - - - - - - - Jonas

- - - - - - - - - - Shola



Ok, hear me out...


The Benefits

Having an extra centre half allows Simpson and Enrique more feedom going forward, as there's always someone who can come across to cover should we gte hit on the counter attack. Likewise, there is always the spare man in the middle to 1) pick up an opposition player breaking into the box from midfield, 2) to come across if an opposition winger cuts inside.


When sitting back we have a numbers advantage.


If the ball is played through the middle, Colo has the freedom to take a step forward and cut out the pass. Likewise, it means Tiote and Barton don't have to worry about marking a player sitting in the hole just in front of the defence... again Colo can pop forward when necessary to cover that.


Jonas and Routledge can sit higher up the pitch meaning we always have a couple of outlets for us to direct the play towards when breaking from defence. In addition to that, Shola has made decent contributions in the target man role recently when it comes to holding the ball up. Should Shola get the ball he could play it out to either wing and have someone there to latch on to it.


The formation also suits Barton and Tiote's range of passing. AND, if we're absolutely forced to play Smith, his cross-field passes should have someone running on to them.


Barton and Tiote can chase down everything that comes through the middle without having to worry about covering the wings (as Barton often does) as Taylor can assist on the right side and Williamson on the left (also, Jonas is often back covering for Enrique anyway). Tiote and Barton could dominate the centre of the park defensively and are reliable when knocking the ball forward.


As a lot of teams are now playing 4-3-3/4-5-1, having the extra man at the back allows us to crowd out their forward line.


And finally, this formation lets us make the most of our limited squad. McLoven and Ranger are ready made replacements on the left and right, offering similar options to Jonas and Routledge... although Loven is arguably better with his final ball and shooting than Jonas. Ben Arfa would also be able to play that left-sided forward position.


Best can play that Shola role equally as well... and would arguably offer a bit more as he is more mobile.


We have cover for the wing back roles in Jonas on the left and Ryan Taylor on the right. Perch could also cover either side... it may actually get the best out of him as he is athletic, and there would be less pressure on him as there would always be someone to come across to cover should they get past him. Having that safety net might be enough in itself to make him more confident and a better player.


An extra centre back means we are more of an aerial threat from set plays.


The Possible Flaws


- It's a relatively untested formation. When Shearer implemented something similar in our relegation season it showed some promise but a lot of the players didn't seem sure of their role. It would require some practice and a lot of coaching, but we are pretty much drifting from now until the end of the season anyway. Why not give it a run out?


- Kevin Nolan doesn't fit into this system. For that reason alone I would only consider it a plan B option if Nolan is having another of his invisible performances or is injured/out for some reason.


- Our attacking play could become fairly one dimsenional since Routledge and Simpson don't have much in way of range of passing. They both like to stick to the wing and cross (badly) into the box. That's not how we should play this system. There'd need to be more pass-and-move. I'd have no such worries about Enrique and Jonas on the left side, though.


- Is it actually better playing one shit striker as opposed to two shit strikers? Don't know.


Worth a try, in my opinion.

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Routledge isn't coming back.


Possibly not... so substitute Routledge for Ranger.


The point is the formation, getting the most out of the talents we DO have in the squad. Nippy forward #1 is out on loan, so forget about him, use nippy forward #2. It's all much of a muchness.

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I would try out 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 when we have a couple more midfielders back, at least try to get some short passing and movement going on.


I think the wing-backs thing might be too much for the players to handle... and I wouldn't want to disrupt a back 4 which is our biggest strength.

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I would try out 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 when we have a couple more midfielders back, at least try to get some short passing and movement going on.


I think the wing-backs thing might be too much for the players to handle... and I wouldn't want to disrupt a back 4 which is our biggest strength.


Possibly right. Defensively speaking I think we're sorted with a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1. The problem is going forward. We lack the quality for one or two individuals holding the forward line. My thinking with the wing backs is to have players operating in both defence and midfield thus allowing 3 dedicated attacking options.


But yeah, not sure if our squad has the intelligence to get the hang of it.


That said, I would really like to see Ranger given the chance to run the wing and the channels. Could be quite effective in that role running at defenders.

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Simpler 4-5-1 formation would probably work



Simpson    Williamson/Taylor      Coloccini          Enrique


Barton                                                                Jonas

                              Nolan          Ben Arfa



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Guest ObiChrisKenobi

The Toon have to set up their formation so they've got a framework to link the Defence/Midfield/Attack together, we have some of the most static players in the league at the moment. Both strikers stay forward (rarely dropping deep into midfield or working the flanks), which is pointless when you haven't got a true winger to drive the ball forward to cross for them. Likewise, no one from central midfield supports the attacking play in a 4-4-2.

Barton does the job from RIGHT MIDFIELD of dropping deep in the centre to collect the ball from the defenders, which I think speaks volumes about the other midfielders in the squad.


3-4-3 looks decent on paper, but I think we'd be asking far too much of the Wing Backs to provide the link up between all the other units for 90 mins. I wouldn't say I was part of the cult of tactics that is exploding around the internet since Zonalmarkings blog hit the scene, but then I don't dismiss them either. Tactics and the players have to share a 50/50 split, you can't really have one without the other.


You have to use the player's strengths to your advantage, and use a tactic that will cover their weaknesses. We can't play like Barca since we have 3 players who have any real skill when it comes to passing. We can't play the old Mourhino counter attack either as we lack pace. Sadly, the sale of Carroll has exposed how linear we are/were as a team and how comfortable they became hitting it long for him to challenge/win it most of the time.


Hopefully, the arrival of Ireland (if he's not being crackers), and the return of Ben Arfa will add some mobility to the team, and offer the much needed link up and support between attack and midfield.


In 90mins yesterday Kevin Nolan (I'd stop reading now, Stu), attempted 19 passes (12 of which were successful), managed 3 interceptions, and won 3 out of 4 tackles. That's pretty lazy. Fulham's goal came from a lack of energy to close down Murphey - the player Pardew had singled out as the playmaker for Fulham (so you'd have hoped he told his midfield to deny him space and time).

Nolan's heatmap (though the Guardian chalkbaords aren't the best for this) show he pretty much stood in the middle of the park. OK, I hear you say, what's wrong with that? If you compare it with Danny Guthrie (who gets a lot of flak for being weak at times), Guthrie was covering the entire width of the field (which would suggest he was closing down as asked). You could defend Nolan by suggesting he was asked to track Murphy, so his movement was limited to where Murphey moved (and there is some evidence to support that), but sadly, we've seen plenty of times this season (and last) that Nolan doesn't really seem to work in the middle as a defensive force.


Plenty of work needs to be done in training to encourage basic pass and move drills. Watching the Fulham game again, its unreal to see how far apart team mates are from each other (which was another key contributor to the long ball game).


Enrique rarely overlapped Jonas, Simpson tried his best to offer the overlap and width on the right, but was often over looked. Ameobi/Ranger were too far away from Best/Lovenkrands, likewise Nolan and Guthrie rarely supported each other for the easy pass. Tiote's return should help ease that one away, as he is a high energy player with a good work rate and awareness for his team mates.


I'll add more later, if wanted, as I have to analysis 3 Newcastle games (Tottenham, Fulham and Arsenal) and create a training dossier from it for Uni work!

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Great post Obi, pretty much confirms all the failings I spotted during the game, Nolan was appalling. I really think he needs to maintain a goal ratio of at least 1 in 3 to maintain his place, and when Tiote's not playing he should never play central midfield.


The question is whether we can do anything with tactics to improve things. It seems to be that our best hope is in getting better players on the pitch.



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Good point made by Obi there about our strikers not coming deep or working the flanks. I don't think they did that all game. So either:


a) they are thick as shit (seems plausible) and they didn't have the brain to realise our Defence / Midfield / Attack were playing miles apart with no link, and that something needed doing about it. Or:


b) Pardew told them to play like that - right up against their centre halves, and for us to boot it up to them and hope for a knockdown (which obviously wouldn't have worked anyway seeing as Hangeland won everything and we had no mobility in midfield to get up and support.)


Either way we were terrible last night. Let's just hope whatever was going wrong Pardew noticed and gets it sorted for the future.



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In my opinion, Chris Hughton's primary contribution to the club was forming a team spirit. However, a close second was his willingness to break away from 4-4-2 and implement a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 which better suited the players we had at our disposal.




As a lot of teams are now playing 4-3-3/4-5-1, having the extra man at the back allows us to crowd out their forward line.






The principle of this tactical jiggery-pokery is to end up with (1) a spare player covering at the back and (2) your best attacking option to be 1-1 with the opposition and (3) some potential overloads.


Going 3 at the back against one or three upfront is a man two few or too many. 3 at the back is designed to counter a standard 442, with two stoppers and a sweeper dealing with the defensive phase and the central CB getting into midfield to make an extra man in transition. All good in theory, but the problem is that most teams now are fairly plastic in their tactical approach, and the 442 can easily be adapted into 4312, 4231 and such in game time, whereas 3 at the back is for 90 minutes, not just for christmas.


There isn't much point in utilising a tactical disposition as a matter of strategy – this is how we play, regardless – it is all abut dealing with with the specific tactical stratagems of the immediate opposition. Once we're sure we have enough defensive cover, what I'd like to see our manger do is to try and jig it so we have parity or better down the left flank, where our players who run with the ball 1v1 are stationed (Enrique and Jonas). This is the bit of the pitch where we want to prevent to opposition having a covering player, so if either of them run / wall pass around their opposing counterpart, they are clear to get to the byline. (What was good about Carroll was that as a left footer, he would err to the left side of the pitch, getting between right full back and centre back, and making that right back tuck in a bit. Ameboi and Ranger always drift to their left, which stops this.) Down the right and in the centre our reliance on long balls / aerial play, which is essentially a % game, means we can operate more effectively even when outnumbered.

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