Talking Tactics

Can Howe fix Newcastle's stuttering away form?

By Adrian Clarke 8 Dec 2023

Adrian Clarke looks at why Magpies struggle on the road as they visit Spurs in a top-four duel

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Newcastle United

Newcastle's away form will be causing Eddie Howe concern ahead of Sunday's trip to Tottenham Hotspur.

The Magpies have been largely imperious at home this season but on the road it has been a different story, as they have collected only five points from a possible 21.

To maintain their push for another top-four finish, Newcastle must improve their performance levels away from St James’ Park.

Home and away points compared 23/24*
Most home points Fewest away points
Aston Villa 21 (7) Sheff Utd 1 (7)
Liverpool 21 (7) Nott'm Forest 4 (8)
Newcastle 21 (8) Luton 4 (8)
Arsenal 20 (8) Burnley 4 (7)
Man City 17 (7) Newcastle 5 (7)

* Brackets indicate no. of matches played

Less defensive bite

Playing in front of raucous full houses on Tyneside seems to provide Newcastle's players with a competitive edge they struggle to replicate in away fixtures.

When roared on at St James’ Park, Howe’s men are committing to more tackles, recovering possession far more frequently and making a greater number of interceptions.

The 4-3-3 shape of the side does not change, and their style of play remains largely the same, but we have seen a drop-off in defensive physicality away from home.

This is reflected in their duels success rate, which dips by 6.2 per cent on their travels.

Small margins like this can make a huge difference to results.

Newcastle home v away duels 23/24
  Home Away
Duels success % 52.9% 46.7%
Possession won/90 52.8 46.6
Tackles/90 16.4 14.9
Interceptions/90 7.0 5.3

Stretched to the limits by an injury crisis, it will not be easy for the Magpies players to raise their levels on Sunday.

They looked jaded when losing 3-0 at Everton on Thursday, tiring badly in the closing stages.

Pressing game not as intense 

Newcastle's ferocious press is a real weapon on home territory, but they have less success with it in away matches.

They are producing four fewer high turnovers per 90 minutes, and therefore creating fewer goalscoring opportunities for themselves from transitions.

This is a key part of their offensive armoury.

But this downturn is not due to a lack of physical effort, as Howe’s players cover 4.4 additional kilometres on average in away matches.

Newcastle's press home v away 23/24
Stats per 90 mins Home Away
Pressed sequences 12.6 12.1
High turnovers 11.3 7.3
PPDA* 10.6 11.6
Distance (km) 109.5 113.9
Sprints 153.5 145.6

*Passes allowed per defensive action

Has this extra running perhaps impacted their explosiveness?

While it is hard to prove, there is an argument that some of the intensity and quality of their off-the-ball work suffers because of the extra running they put in.

Evan Ferguson’s second goal in Brighton & Hove Albion's 3-1 home victory over Howe’s side was a good example of how opponents have punished Newcastle when they have been less dynamic.

The Magpies were a yard slow to press the ball and Brighton were able to feed a pass into Ferguson, who dropped into a large hole created by the back four’s lethargic reaction. The Irishman turned, ran towards goal and scored.

Brighton's Kaoru Mitoma (black arrow) picks out Evan Ferguson (yellow arrow) in space
Errors cost points

At home, defensive mistakes have been few and far between and Newcastle have only conceded four goals in eight matches.

On their travels that figure leaps to 13 goals ships from seven fixtures, with several concessions stemming from individual mistakes.

The usually reliable Kieran Trippier lost possession inside his own half twice late on at Goodison Park and was punished on both occasions.

Trippier loses ball for McNeil goal

Another example came earlier on in this campaign when Nick Pope was caught in a poor position that gifted West Ham United’s Tomas Soucek a simple goal at the London Stadium.

In several of their away matches, Newcastle’s concentration levels and defensive positioning has not been as sharp as it is at St James’ Park.

Nick Pope
Nick Pope (centre arrow) is caught in a poor position enabling Emerson Palmieri (right arrow) to round him and cut the ball back for Tomas Soucek (left arrow) to tap home
Both sides bruised

Spurs and Newcastle have both enjoyed some euphoric moments this season, but they each come into this contest with concerns.

Ange Postecoglou’s side have taken just one point from their last five matches despite taking the lead in each of those matches. 

Newcastle arrive in north London having conceded nine goals in their last four away matches, failing to score in their last two.

With both teams ravaged by injuries, and fatigued as a consequence, the side who make the fewest mistakes are likely to prevail.

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