Newcastle United Taking on Europe – A FM 24 Stories series. Join us as we look to continue on from where Eddie Howe left off and challenge Europe's elite. But can we hold our own, while managing a small squad and a tough domestic fixture list?
It's been a weird start to our life in the North East. The opening fixtures were a mixed bag, and with a tough Champions League group draw now and a difficult opening 10 fixtures, questions are being asked of me. “Mr Holly, are you worried that your tactic isn't working” they cry from the press office, have we made a change too soon I wonder, have we tried to force the changes on this squad of players too soon?
Right now, we need to experiment when we have time, but right now we just need to let the dust settle and start to build up some confidence. Oh, and before we get started, we added a new loan face on deadline day with former Leeds man Raphina joining us. Good job he did, because the day the window shut Almiron got injured for four months and left us very exposed.
A poor start, time for a tweak
So, yeah… it was a weird start to the season. After we picked up four points from our first 3 games, we really struggled to settle in the league. Liverpool thumped us, and Brentford we threw away a 2-0 lead after Nick Pope got injured and Dan Burn had to go in goal. Pope was actually out until the Young Boys game at the bottom there, but honestly, the fans were right; the tactic had to change.
Before we actually talk about the change, I will highlight one amazing moment where I almost got up off my seat, that last-second equaliser in the Champions League at home to Bayern. Truly one of those magic moments. When Isak scored in the 88th, I thought: “Ok, well, we've saved some face”. But, we threw men forward, and went all-out attack, but when Livermento went down without a sub available it looked over. But we g to a corner, with maybe 30 seconds to go and all that work on the training ground paid off. Gordon floated a ball with pace onto the near post, with Bayern too distracted by Karius charging into the box it was Joelinton who put his head onto the ball and planted it home. Wow, what a moment.
A change in tactic
So, when we started out, we had the idea of keeping the pressing game that Howe had started but by having one man higher up the pitch to support Isak and the wide men. While it worked against weaker sides, it left us so exposed at the back with the two midfielders struggling to cover the space.
So, we're back to have that strong 3-man midfield, while not losing our attacking width from the fullbacks. Now, rather than overlapping, the pair will cut more inside and play more narrow; on one hand, this gives us a possible 5-man midfield, but it also allows the two midfielders in the more advanced roles to go wide. It's early days, but as you can see above it's helping a lot.Worth noting as well that, in the Villa game, we were 5-0 up at HT, before Karius (who is deputising for Pope) got injured without me having a spare keeper on the bench. So, upstepped Burn again to fill the goal.
So, for now, we'll see how this tactic works out for a while. It doesn't cause us too many problems with recruitment, while we signed Lingard to play as a Shadow Striker, he can play deeper if required or on the left side. We might need to sign someone more natural at DM, while Bruno is fantastic at it, he feels a little wasted played so deep. We have Longstaff on the bench as cover, so a new starting DM might be in order.
How things stand in the table for Newcastle United
Nine games down, Newcastle United sit 10th in the table and joined top of our Champions League group with Bayern. So, not bad, honestly. We've got some big tests before we head into the January window, however, so let's hope the new tactic can carry us forward.
Part 4 will take us all the way till the new year, and the start of the January window as Newcastle United look to add strength with a little help from the board.