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Chelsea Come to St James' Park: A 5-Point Preview of Chelsea v. Newcastle United

My pre-match Man of the Match.
My pre-match Man of the Match.

When considering the #StretchOfDoom before the season, I think that most of us would have earmarked this match as the one of the three to go and get. Perhaps mostly just for the fact that it's a home match, but still. In the meantime, the season has happened and Newcastle are not propping up the table while Chelsea are back on Sack Watch as they have underachieved by only being 5th in the Premier League, crashing out of the Carling Cup to Liverpool Tuesday, and being in danger of not progressing in the Champions League. On a very micro level, this match really could not have fallen at a better time for Newcastle. Andre Villas-Boas went with a relatively young squad for the match v. Liverpool leaving him with some interesting decisions regarding his squad for Newcastle (Saturday) and Valencia (Tuesday). Following the jump pictures, points, predictions!

5 Points!

  • Chelsea's 4-3-3 shape does two things: 1) tends to narrow and thus 2) forces the FBs to get involved to provide width. If we can gain possession in our half and get the ball to Yohan Cabaye for distribution on the counter to Obertan, there might be something in it.
  • An analysis of Chelsea's back line habits compared with the back line performance of Manchester City v. Newcastle two weeks ago reveals troubling similarities. When Chelsea have been at their best lately (or winning at least), the average position of their defenders is nearly exactly what City's looked like in their systematic dismantling of the Toon. Unlike Manchester City, however, they generally don't parlay this positioning into the same increasing pressure that City did against us.
  • Defensively, Chelsea have been susceptible to counter-attacks and through balls... something that Newcastle very well could take advantage of. The return of Hatem Ben Arfa and Gabriel Obertan to the starting lineup certainly maximizes the varieties in which we could take advantage. Even if in fleeting instances, a Cabaye to Obertan counter or a Cabaye to Ben Arfa to Ba passing move is within the repertoire for the Toon attack. Also- Perhaps this is a good time to mention that AP may want to consider starting James Perch #ThroughBallMaster.
  • In the Liverpool match, the first goal that Chelsea conceded was a direct result of what I have been terming fronting the ball. When Newcastle have looked most effective during the #StretchOfDoom, they have been attacking the ball and not allowing unabated movement forward through the middle of the pitch. Pretty much the exact opposite of how the City match played out. When Chelsea crawled back into the Liverpool league match, they were able to move through the Reds midfield.
  • Juan Mata = Ivanovic+A. Cole see below:

Key Matchup

Juan Mata v. Cheik Tiote and Newcastle Defense

I went looking for the width that I have seen described in breakdowns of Chelsea's tactics, and I wasn't finding very much from the players that I was expecting. Ivanovic and Cole combined for only 4 crosses in the match versus Wolves last weekend. It wasn't through the midfield of Romeu, Ramires and Meireles, either. Where then?

by Guardian Chalkboards

Which in the Wolves match translated into:


Newcastle United FC

Currently: 4th place, 7-5-1, 26 pts

Out: Sylvain Marveaux (groin)

Doubtful: Leon Best (Groin), Cheik Tiote (MCL)

Projected XI (4-4-1-1): Krul | Simpson, STaylor, Coloccini, Santon| Obertan, Tiote, Cabaye, Raylor | Ben Arfa | Ba

Projected Subs: Elliot, Ferguson, Perch, Guthrie, Shola, Sammy, Gosling

Chelsea FC

Currently: 5th place, 8-1-4, 25 points

Out: Michael Essien (knee)

Projected XI (4-3-3): Cech | Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Cole | Meireles, Romeu, Ramires | Mata, Drogba, Sturridge

Projected subs: Turnbull, Kalou, Malouda, Mikel, Boswinga, Lampard, Torres

The ever-vascillating idea (and presumably mutually exclusive ideas) of "managerial job security" and "Chelsea" make this a difficult one to predict. Having lost out in the Carling Cup, there is doubtless to be pressure to win. The question is, which competition will Andre Villas-Boas put the stronger side out for... the Premier League or Champions League? Complicating the issue a little bit is the fact that a 0-0 draw puts Chelsea through in the CL... so although I would presume the eggs go in that basket, he could easily decide to play for the 0-0 at home v. Valencia Tuesday. As it is, I am assuming a return to the lineup and tactic from the 3-0 win over Wolves. Instant gratification, baby!

Fun Facts!

  • Chelsea are the only team of the top seven to take no points from head to head games against the other teams in that group this season.
  • Chelsea have won three and lost four of their last eight Premier League away games.
  • Chelsea are a team desperately seeking an identity, which makes it difficult to figure out exactly where they are going to go tactically. In fact, I think AVB is struggling with that very idea himself. For the Carling Cup tie with Liverpool, he reportedly called for the midfield to play a diamond formation even though they had not practiced such a tactic.

Fearless Prediction Guaranteed To Be Wrong!

Newcastle look like they will be close to a full-strength squad on Saturday, and I am going to keep assuming Tiote to be returning because, well, eventually he's going to. Right? RIGHT?!? On the heels of the encouraging showing versus Manchester United, the fact that the match is at St. James' Park-- an emotionally charged St. James' Park at that, and a sell-out crowd added in with a favorable matchup regarding what we have done successfully recently v. where they have struggled recently... I think that I am prepared to predict:

Newcastle United 1 - 0 Chelsea

Newcastle keep their first clean sheet in 5 matches while Hatem Ben Arfa has an insane moment of genius to bring 3 points back and a 4-point beyond your wildest dreams haul from the #StretchOfDoom. Now then, the lads just have to go out there and get it done. Regardless what does happen, I do know that Alan Pardew will be looking fine.