The Newcastle United tactical change which unlocked Bruno Guimaraes explained by Eddie Howe
Newcastle United beat Southampton 2-1 last night thanks to goals from Guimaraes and Chris Wood to go 10 points clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone ahead of Sunday’s game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Howe’s team, however, had to come from behind at the St Mary’s Stadium, where they were backed by 3,300 fans.
United’s head coach made a first-half tactical change after a sloppy period in the game.
Guimaraes, handed a start after Joelinton was ruled out on the eve of the game through injury, was moved to a deeper role, and Jonjo Shelvey – who set up what was Wood’s first goal for the club – was pushed into a more advanced position.
And Howe felt this switch gave Newcastle more “control” in midfield.
“I always think you have to play the system that suits your players,” said Howe, who was today named the Premier League’s manager of the month for February.
“It was a late withdrawal with Joe. He felt his groin in training. It’s something he’s been managing in recent weeks.
"Whenever you go into a game, when you’re in my shoes, you have a plan B, plan C, plan D. You have things you need to go to, or think you need to go to, if things aren’t going to plan, and it was obvious we weren’t in control of that game early on.
"I felt maybe bringing Bruno deeper would give us more control, and see his best qualities, and I think that happened. Then I think you saw more of Jonjo as well, who grew to have a good game.
"These are things that are always happening in games. You need to be adaptable. It’s good that we’ve got the players who can do that.”
Guimaraes, forced off with cramp in the 66th minute, scored with a stunning back flick from a corner which had been headed to him by Dan Burn.
"I thought it was ‘welcome to Premier League’ for Bruno, because it was an end-to-end, very physical game,” said Howe.
“It was high in transitions, it was a very, very physical game.
"And I think that’ll be a really, really good experience for Bruno. We made a tactical shift when we conceded, and I thought, when we made that tactical shift, he showed his best qualities.
"The goal was something we probably didn’t expect from him, but it shows his technical ability and his eye. He’s going to be a huge player for us.”
Southampton pushed for a equaliser after Guimaraes’ 52nd-minute strike, and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka made two important saves during a nervy period late in the game.
"I felt we needed to change things tactically,” said Howe.
“Martin had to make a couple of really good saves, but we weren’t under big pressure. I thought we were a little bit wasteful with the ball at times, which is a frustration."
Meanwhile, Joelinton could be back for the Chelsea game.