Connect with us

Tactical Analysis

Newcastle United 2-2 Liverpool: Tactical Analysis

Newcastle United 2-2 Liverpool

Newcastle vs Liverpool is always an exciting fixture, as history bears witness. The two sides have always thrown up some wonderful football, some fantastic results and memorable moments.

This particular game wasn’t quite as brilliant, but it did have it’s fair share of incidents and excitement (and so very nearly an entralling end). Coming into the fixture, all the talk was about Loic Remy and Daniel Sturridge who were the two leading scorers of the league.

Newcastle twice took the lead in this game, even being reduced to 10 men in between those goals. Steven Gerrard notched up his 100th league goal for Liverpool while Daniel Sturridge continued his rich form. Cabaye was Newcastle goal-scorer with a fantastic long attempt, while Paul Dummet scored his first for the home side in only his second appearance.

Lack of personnel upfront

Alan Pardew opted to play Haten Ben Arfa in the central role, the false nine as it’s commonly called (although the actual football wasn’t false 9). It was a bewildering set-up given that Liverpool were playing with 3 at the back, given them further control in their own half.

Ben Arfa never ventured forward opting to play his usual game i.e. in the second striker’s role. Loic Remy who is Newcastle’s in-form man was positioned out wide and rarely did he get into the box, it meant Newcastle had almost nothing in the final third. Gouffran and Debuchy often made runs down the right hand side, attempting to put crosses into the box while Remy attempted the same down the opposite flank, but there was no one to aim for as no man in black & white ventured into the Liverpool box.

Football Blogging Awards: Click here and vote for us in the “Best New Football Blog” Category

The more apt thing to do would be to to have played with at least one, possibly two, strikers to take on Liverpool’s 3-man centre-back pairing. Johnson & Cissokho were pulled back by Newcastle’s wing-play, and a more centrally focused attack could have worked very well for Newcastle against a shaky Liverpool side.

The losing two-man midfield battle

Rodgers, who is becoming known for his tactical knowledge and discipline, got it wrong in the middle of the park today against Newcastle. While personally, I like the look of a 3-5-2 set-up and completely favour it, altering the system based on the oppositions approach is a wise thing to do.

Given Newcastle’s set-up, and Pardew’s usual philosophy, the home side were always going to look to play on the counter, realising that Liverpool would effectively have only three players back with the full-backs shifting between attack & defense based on the phase of play. Taking that into account, taking into account the fact that Moses isn’t a midfield player, not a centrally favoured one, playing only Gerrard and Henderson in the centre made no sense. A quick counter via the midfield was always going to be successful. Now it has to be said that with Lucas missing, Rodgers was forced into such a system but a certain Joe Allen was available, adding him to the two-man midfield and possibly replacing Moses would have been the sensible approach.

As it happens, Newcastle were dominating the midfield play, being given a lot of room. The two-man midfield of Liverpool and the three-man defense were unable to co-ordinate in their defensive duties. It resulted in Newcastle being encouraged to take some long-rangers; Remy tried a couple of outrageous effort, but it was one such effort from Cabaye that got Newcastle their first goal.


Even in the second half, with 10 men, and withdrawing Moussa Sissoko, Newcastle for a small period were being offered time and space in midfield. Coutinho and Lucas’ absence hurt Liverpool today as the midfield looked completely lost. The actual impact wasn’t felt as Newcastle were reduced to 10, but had Mbiwa not been sent off, Newcastle could have gone all the way in this game.

Atrocious Aerial play

In terms of aerial play, this was probably the worst performance from both sides. Liverpool’s marking for Dummet’s goal was shocking, but the real atrocity was in the opposite defence. Newcastle, time and again, were allowing Liverpool to win headers and complete free ones. A shocking display for a side at that level.

More shocking than Newcastle’s defensive aerial display was Liverpool attacking aerial display. Given the number of opportunities Liverpool were afforded, you’d expect atleast one to be on target, but the reds failed to muster up any real threat despite it being put on a plate for them.


Liverpool realised Newcastle’s aerial weakness and attempted to attack it by putting players into the box and encouraging Cissokho and Johnson to drive crosses in. It was an obvious system to employ, but it became a bit redundant as Liverpool failed to use it to their advantage. Lost for ideas but given time, Liverpool kept trying this avenue to no avail.

Containing the ‘Wing Backs’

Liverpool’s 3-5-2 continues to come under some heavy criticism. Some traditionalists like the idea, others are opposed to this ‘innovation’. One of the crucial factors in a 3-5-2 is the use of the wing-backs on either side. If they are able to get forward and back adequately, it can be a deadly tactic to implement (as Juventus have done). But if the opposition find a way of negating their influence, countering their play and just reducing their contribution, you are left with two lost players attempting to work down the channels. You either get them with too much attacking emphasis, or a deeper defensive game. Once the balance is lost, the entire system falls apart.

This was what was happening to Liverpool as Newcastle’s own full-backs and midfielders prevented the wing-backs from having a sustained influence on the game. While Cissokho did make some important defensive plays, the overall play from the wing-backs was lacking.

Once again, the true effect (or lack of it) from the wing-backs wasn’t seen as Newcastle red-card significantly shifted the scenario. But with equal men on either side, Newcastle were well on their way to containing Liverpool’s system.

Over to you! That was our analysis the clash, was there anything particular that you (tactically) noticed? Let us know by dropping a comment below.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.


Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar. Appeared in A Football Report's list of "Best in Football Writing 2012".
Sami Faizullah

100 to Watch


Opinions23 hours ago

Déjà vu on Tyneside: Why Newcastle are being left short-changed by familiar failings

Jeffrey Gamby-Boulger looks critically at Newcastle’s repeated failings in recent years and why Mike Ashley is the root of those problems. ‘It’s the same...

Hipster Guide23 hours ago

Hipster Guide 2017-18: UEFA Europa League | Part Two

Oliver McManus takes us on a journey through some of the more obscure parts of Europe as he tells us...

Series2 days ago

Tactical Philosophy: Leonardo Jardim

While this website has made its name focusing on the lesser known youth of this beautiful sport, and combined it...

Talent Radar2 days ago

Talent Radar 2017-18 Young Players’ Team of the Week #4: Pietro Pellegri and Joshua Kimmich feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Tactical Analysis2 days ago

Tactical Analysis: Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Swansea City | Tottenham’s half space focus against Swansea’s compact block

Ryan Tank provides a tactical analysis of the Premier League game that finished Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Swansea City  Tottenham attacked...

Scout Report3 days ago

Scout Report: Maxwel Cornet | Lyon’s latest starlet

Josh Sippie breaks down Maxwel Cornet, Lyon’s dynamic attacker. Olympique Lyon just have a knack for plucking supremely talented youth...

Scout Report4 days ago

Scout Report: Marcos Llorente | Real Madrid’s young midfielder

Karan Tejwani provides the lowdown on Real Madrid’s talented midfielder, Marcos Llorente. Real Madrid have made smart purchases from Spanish...

Scout Report4 days ago

Scout Report: Eddie Nketiah | Arsenal’s academy talent

Josh Sippie takes a look at highly-rated Arsenal academy striker Eddie Nketiah. Arsenal’s youth ranks are always going to be...

Scout Report4 days ago

Scout Report: Douglas Luiz | Girona’s skilful midfielder

Anderson Moura analyses Girona’s (via Manchester City) talented Brazilian, Douglas Luiz. When Pep Guardiola accepted the Manchester City job, he...

Tactical Analysis5 days ago

Tactical Analysis: RB Leipzig 1-1 AS Monaco | Dynamism and the 4-4-2

Kaushik Goswami tactically analyses the 1-1 draw between RB Leipzig and AS Monaco in the Champions League With most of...

Tactical Analysis7 days ago

Tactical Analysis: Nice 4-0 Monaco | Favre’s efficient approach

Ross Eaton has a look at the Ligue 1 clash between defending champions Monaco and fellow title challengers, Nice. After...

Scout Report7 days ago

Scout Report: Bartlomiej Dragowski | Fiorentina’s talented Pole

Josh Sippie breaks down Fiorentina’s talented Pole, Bartlomiej Dragowski. It’s funny how different nations are renowned for their ability to...

Scout Report7 days ago

Scout Report: Mikel Merino | Newcastle’s dynamic Spaniard

Josh Sippie lays down the law on Newcastle’s metronomic Spaniard, Mikel Merino. Borussia Dortmund are another one of those teams...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Donyell Malen | PSV Eindhoven’s exciting ex-Arsenal & Ajax attacker

Josh Sippie takes a look at Donyell Malen, PSV’s bright youngster. The Netherlands is the birthplace of so many of...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Carlos Soler | Valencia’s young midfield maestro

Dan Davis has a look at Carlos Soler, Valencia’s young midfielder making waves in La Liga. Spain have always been...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Nemanja Antonov | Partizan’s young full-back

Mateus Carvalho takes a look at an unknown future superstar, Nemanja Antonov This article tries to introduce one of the...

Tactical Analysis1 week ago

Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 5 – 0 Liverpool | Guardiola’s ruthless side

Charles Onwuakpa analyses Manchester City’s comprehensive 5-0 victory over Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium The international break brought no joy...

Hipster Guide1 week ago

Hipster Guide: 2017-18 UEFA Champions League

Oliver McManus has a look at some of the teams in the Champions League that could spring a surprise or...

Hipster Guide1 week ago

Hipster Guide: 2017-18 Europa League | Part One

Oliver McManus takes us on a journey through some of the more obscure parts of Europe as he tells us...

Talent Radar1 week ago

Talent Radar 2017-18 Young Players’ Team of the Week #3: Naby Keita & Gabriel Jesus feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Young Player Rankings 16-17

More on Outside of the Boot