How Newcastle United can combat Bruno Lage’s new style of play at Wolves
Newcastle come up against a Bruno Lage side for the first time on Saturday when they face Wolves at Molineux.
Steve Bruce’s side come into the clash still searching for their first win of the season and with an international break just around the corner, Newcastle will want to get a win on the board before the break.
But what type of team will United face on Saturday? What can they expect from a Bruno Lage team and how can Bruce’s side exploit their weaknesses?
Lage replaced Nuno Espirito-Santo in the summer and has instantly tried to implement a front-foot style of football, replacing their defensively sound and counter-attacking system under the previous manager.
After being announced as the new Wolves boss, Lage explained his tactical style to Sky Sports:
"We want to go forward, to play in a different way. I do not know if it is better or worse, it is just my idea. We need to be a more competitive team, a better team."
The 45 year-old certainly tried to implement this from the get-go, but he had limited success in his opening few games, until a subtle change last game changed their fortunes.
According to Expected Goals stats taken from WyScout, in their first three league games, Wolves should have scored just shy of six goals - instead, they suffered three successive 1-0 defeats.
A comprehensive 2-0 victory over Watford followed, however, they once again underperformed on their xG.
The only time Wolves have outperformed their xG this season in the league came last time out against Southampton where they recorded a 1-0 victory.
What was apparent in this clash was that Wolves were a little more reserved going forward than they had been at the beginning of the campaign - a clear move from Lage to be less gung-ho and to be more methodical going forward.
This change means Wolves are now less susceptible on the counter-attack.
Bruce’s side also need to be wary of their opponents’ strengths on the flanks with Adama Traore and the on-loan Barcelona star Trincao providing great pace and trickery in support of Raul Jimenez up-front.
United’s game plan must revolve around ensuring Wolves play the majority of the game in-front of them - they simply cannot afford to get involved in a running battle with Wolves’ front-three.
Instead, in order to counter-attack Wolves’ front-foot play, Newcastle need to excel on the break and get Allan Saint-Maximin squared up one-on-one with a Wolves defender.
Whether that involves using Dwight Gayle as a striker to occupy one defender, or a rotating three of Joelinton, Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, Newcastle need to do something different in order to make it a difficult afternoon for the Wolves defenders.
By going into the clash with just two up-top like they did against Watford, their forwards will simply end up outnumbered by a Wolves defence that is supremely confident playing in that defensive shape.
Under Lage, Wolves have become a solid attacking unit and there’s no doubt that they will control the play on Saturday and probably have more chances on goal than the visitors.
Newcastle must ensure they don’t allow Wolves time to dictate the play, close down their great attacking threats and, when afforded the opportunity, they must counter-attack efficiently.