Talking Tactics

Chelsea v Newcastle: Can Gusto stop the threat of Gordon?

By Adrian Clarke 7 Mar 2024
Gusto v Gordon Talking Tactics

Adrian Clarke says battle between Chelsea right-back and Newcastle winger could be match-defining

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Player analysis: Anthony Gordon (Newcastle) & Malo Gusto (Chelsea)

Anthony Gordon’s duel with Malo Gusto has the potential to be a match-defining head-to-head when Chelsea host Newcastle United.

The Newcastle winger was exceptional in the 4-1 win at home to Mauricio Pochettino’s side in November's reverse fixture. He tormented them throughout with his pace and skill.

Gordon scored and assisted in that match at St James’ Park and was also fouled by a frustrated Reece James, leading to a second yellow card for the Chelsea defender.

In the absence of James, the 20-year-old Gusto has impressed at right-back this season. It will be his job to shackle Gordon's threat better than his team-mate did.

Made for breakaways

After seeing his team concede a glut of goals in recent weeks, Eddie Howe appeared to decide to have less possession and adopt a counter-attack approach against Wolverhampton Wanderers the previous weekend.

It was a tactical switch that worked superbly in the 3-0 win, with Gordon a constant menace to Gary O’Neil’s team.

Gordon scored from Jacob Murphy’s centre after running in at the far post, but it was the his superb 40-yard run and pass that played a huge part in Alexander Isak’s opening goal that highlighted Newcastle's threat on the counter.

The 23-year-old carries the ball quickly and well on breakaways and is always an outlet for Howe's side.

Gordon's run v Wolves

Whether Gordon plays out on the left - as he currently does - or down the middle, he remains a constant threat when running with the ball at his feet.

Following on from the win over Wolves, expect Newcastle to adopt a similar counter-attacking style at Stamford Bridge. This will suit Gordon.

Only three players have had more shots from fast breaks than his total of eight, with Pedro Neto leading the way on 10.

Travelling well

Indeed, Gordon's 21 shot-ending ball carries are bettered only by Phil Foden (29), Alejandro Garnacho (28) and Luis Diaz (27) in the Premier League.

Chelsea will have to be wary of Gordon’s decision-making when he is travelling with the ball.

He is superb at sliding through-balls between defenders, and has both scored and assisted four goals from his own ball carries this season.

Player Goal & assist-ending ball carries G A
Gordon 8 4 4
Watkins 8 2 6
Bailey 8 5 3
Salah 7 3 4

The Aston Villa pair of Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey are the only individuals to have matched that feat.

Possibly Gordon’s finest moment from one of those situations came at home to Manchester City.

Receiving the ball wide on the halfway line, he ran all the way to inside the box before cutting in to curl a beauty of a strike into the far corner.

Gordon v Man City

Once he is in full stride, Gordon is a difficult winger to stop. This is one of the reasons why he is among the Premier League’s most-fouled players.

Team-mate Bruno Guimaraes and Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew are the only two individuals to have drawn more fouls than the 51 of Gordon.

Most-fouled players in 2023/24
Player Times fouled
Bruno Guimaraes 81
Jordan Ayew 78
Anthony Gordon 51
Bukayo Saka 49
John McGinn 48
Gusto a shining light

It has been a difficult campaign for Chelsea, but right-back Gusto has been a bright spark for the Blues.

He brings high levels of energy down, defends well and offers creativity inside the final third.

Replacing the injured James was an unenviable task, but Gusto has relished the opportunity.

Containing Gordon’s threat will be tough, but with a top speed of 35km/h the Frenchman is quick.

The Newcastle wide man is one of the fastest players in the division (36.7km/h) but on Monday night he faces a full-back who is no slouch either.

Testing Gordon at the other end

Newcastle's counter-attacking approach means Gordon will spend a lot of this match inside his own half protecting left-back Dan Burn or Tino Livramento.

When Chelsea have Howe’s side pinned back, Gusto will be a threat on the overlap.

He has five assists, including two in his last three league starts, for Nicolas Jackson and Conor Gallagher.

Gusto's assist v Brentford
Gusto assist v Brentford
Gusto's assist v Crystal Palace
Gusto assist v Palace

Among top-flight defenders Gusto is definitely among the best at carving out big chances for team-mates.

With seven to his name, he is ranked fourth, but when you consider the minutes Gusto has played - and that he is not a regular set-piece taker like the top two in the list below - it shows the impact he has had.

Most big chances created by defenders 2023/24
Defender Most big chances created Mins played
Trent Alexander-Arnold 13 1,625
Kieran Trippier 13 2,167
Pedro Porro 10 2,067
Malo Gusto 7 1,281

This will be a terrific battle between two of the division’s most in-form players in their own positions.

Gordon and Gusto are both brimming with confidence, so it will be intriguing to see who gains the upper hand.

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