Revisiting Eddie Howe’s ‘masterclass’ against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea and how Newcastle United can exploit Tottenham Hotspur's weaknesses
On the same day Newcastle were held to a 1-1 home draw by Burnley in January 2018, Bournemouth defeated Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
The result that night ended Chelsea’s nine-game unbeaten run and came at a venue where the home side had conceded just one goal in their last seven appearances.
Speaking on the ‘Coaches’ Voice’ YouTube channel about that night, Howe detailed how the Cherries defeated Chelsea that evening, revealing that he needed to do something ‘different’ after previous failures against the Blues.
In his ‘masterclass’, Howe said: “Chelsea were very unique back then under Antonio Conte with the way they set up with their five at the back, they were religious with that and they very rarely changed.
“We’d had several games against them in that system before and we hadn’t got a result against them and we had tried different ways by going as a back four and a back five.“We had pressed them [in games], dropped off them and nothing had worked so we went into this game having to do something different, hence why we set up this way.”
Injury problems on that occasion meant that Howe had to shuffle his side with current Magpie Ryan Fraser playing an unnatural role:
“We decided to go with a back-five, really to do with our press, but the problem we had was at wing-back, so we went with a winger in Ryan Fraser, it was probably the first-time he had ever played at wing-back for us.
“It was a slight risk but we trusted him to do a good job.”
In detailing how they went about combatting Chelsea’s strengths, Howe revealed a number of key battles he needed his side to win - ones that Newcastle will also have to deal with later today:
“We had to stop their wing-backs having joy in the wide areas [whilst] having enough of the ball to cause them a problem.
“So we decided to be very, very brave and throw caution to the wind in thinking that attack was the best form of defence.
“What we wanted to do is when they had the ball in deep areas in their back-three, we wanted to go and press man for man.
“It was very brave because you know that one mistake in your pressing phase means they can get their attacking players with technical quality and pace to hurt you.
“We really did need everyone to commit to it and that’s always the challenge when you play this way.
“It’s easy to go through it in training and say this is what we’re going to do but the players, when they’re out there, may feel comfort in dropping off or in numbers - but we needed to get that out of their heads. That was probably the key thing.”
The last match between the sides saw Newcastle start well, but fade as Spurs grew into the game. If Newcastle are to win later today, as Howe’s masterclass mentions, they will need to be brave, impose themselves onto the game and go into the clash with belief they can get the three points.