Team Analysis: How Eddie Howe is transforming Newcastle

The tactics behind the rise of the Magpies

16 min readDec 26, 2022


Ranking third in the Premier League after 15 games, conceding the fewest goals alongside leaders Arsenal (11 goals conceded) and showcasing brilliant performances against “big six-teams” (e.g.: 1–0 vs. Chelsea, 2–1 vs. Tottenham and 3–3 vs. ManCity). It’s safe to say that Newcastle is currently flying under their coach Eddie Howe.

It’s just over a year since the 44-year-old took over from Steve Bruce, fighting against relegation. Eddie Howe put on an incredible run and ultimately brought the Magpies to 11th place at the end of last season. Now, one year later, under Howe’s guidance, Newcastle is fighting for a Champions League spot.

Key for this impressive success is Newcastle’s fantastic tactical setup, the players improved physical abilities as well as the high amount of money spent on players (such as Trippier, Guimares, Burn, Pope and Isak) possible because of a Saudi Arabia consortium.

The new pressing monsters

Before breaking down the tactical details behind Newcastle’s success under Eddie Howe, this section highlights some statistics, which prove the impressive transformation of the Magpies.

Under Steve Bruce, Newcastle normally looked to sit deep (usually within a back five) defensively, making it difficult for the opponent to play through them. The goal was to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible and eventually hit the opponent on the counter with their pacey players. An apparently understandable tactic when taking the player profiles into account. However, it only proved little success, as the distances to the goal after winning the ball were incredibly long and many opponents prepared well with a solid rest-defence.

Eddie Howe however, installed a different style of play out of possession. He wants his side to press the opponent high from the build-up and win the ball back near the opposition’s goal to then transition forwards instantly against a fanned-out defence. Ideally regaining possession in the centre, as the distances are shorter than winning the ball back on the wing. This change of pressing approach is perfectly visible in the following chart by

The diagram brilliantly underlines, how Newcastle’s pressing intensity improved immensely under Eddie Howe by using the PPDA (passes per defensive action). Under Steve Bruce, Newcastle usually managed to achieve a PPDA stat at around 20. The Magpies currently rank third with 11 passes per defensive action, only behind Leeds (9,7) and Chelsea (10,1).

Moreover, the pressing isn’t just more intense, or Newcastle simply keep a higher defensive line, it also proved its effectiveness in terms of winning the ball high up the field. As the graphic below suggests, the Magpies only won the ball high up the pitch around three times per game under Steve Bruce. Eddie Howe however, doubled this number with his impressive pressing approach.

According to Opta Analyst, Newcastle managed to achieve the most high turnovers (ball wins 40m or less from the opponent’s goal) in the league (151) with 22 of them leading to a shot and 4 goals.

Guiding the opponent inside

To begin with, Newcastle’s major aim when pressing opponents high up the pitch is to guide them inside and win the ball back there. As already mentioned, winning the ball in the centre of the field makes Newcastle more threatening on transitions, as the way to the goal is shorter compared to the wing. Moreover, from a central position, Newcastle has more options to progress forwards. This in turn makes it more difficult for the opponent to counterpress them, as the side-line can’t be used as an extra defender.

Newcastle’s pressing setup is similar to the one from Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp. The Magpies use a 4–3–3 formation with the wingers normally initiating the press by bending their run from out to in, putting a centre back under pressure, forcing him inside and using the cover-shadow to hinder an easy pass to the fullback. This pressing angle restricts the centre backs from opening up and mostly guides them onto their weak foot (most central defenders play on the side of their stronger foot, meaning a right-footed centre back plays on the right side and vice versa) inside. From this position, the centre backs usually play a horizontal pass to their centre back partner.

As soon as the horizontal pass is made, the ball-far winger starts to press from out to in as well. Timing and distance from the winger are key to put the centre back under sufficient pressure.

This horizontal pass acts as a pressing trigger for Newcastle, as the ball is not under control by the opponent for a relative long time. Additionally, the starting position by the ball-far winger is in between the fullback and centre back. This distance isn’t too far but also not too near at the same time.

On the one hand, if the winger would start his press from a wider position, it would take too long to put the centre back under efficient pressure. On the other hand, if the winger starts too narrow, the other centre back may not decide to play the horizontal pass but instead play a chipped ball to the free fullback.

Almiron starts the press by putting the left centre back under pressure with a bended run, guiding him inside and using his cover-shadow on the left fullback. The left centre back decides to play a horizontal pass to the right centre back. However, Murphy recognizes this pass and instantly presses the right centre back, starting in between the centre back and fullback. Murphy arrives at the perfect timing to put the right centre back under pressure, restricts him from opening up and forces a quick decision.

On a little side note, the narrow and high position of the wingers are also beneficial for transitions. Since they are near to the goal and if Newcastle wins the ball somewhere else, they can act as passing options in strategically favourable spaces. Moreover, this starting position allows the winger to backwards more efficiently as well (which is very important when the ball reaches the wide zones, which will be discussed in the following section).

Ideally, the second winger puts the receiving centre back under pressure in a way in which the winger can either win the ball back directly or the centre back can only play inside. In the best case, the centre back is under pressure and plays a bad pass to his teammates inside, allowing Newcastle to win the ball back there.

If the centre back decides to play the ball in the middle, Newcastle usually has an advantage. On the one hand, the Magpies use man-orientations in the central areas, allowing them to pressurize quickly if a pass is played into this zone. On the other hand, Newcastle often has an overload with their three-man-midfield and Wilson, who can mark a single pivot at times (especially against a back four).

Newcastle forces a pass inside, where they have a 4v3 overload and use man-orientations. This allows them to press the receiver quickly from different angles.

The second option for the centre back is to play the ball backwards to his keeper. However, that’s only possible if he isn’t too much under pressure and it can be difficult to execute with his weak foot. Nevertheless, if this situation occurs, either the winger can press through on the goalkeeper, or a ball-far player anticipates the back pass early and moves up.

The third and last option for the centre back, if the pressure from the ball-far winger is ideal, is a long ball forward. This occasion isn’t too bad either for Newcastle as they are a physical team and strong in the air.

Everything mentioned in this paragraph is the optimal occasion of Newcastle’s pressing approach, which however doesn’t occur as much due to various reasons such as the opponent.

Trapping the opposition on the wing

The open wide areas (are the biggest weaknesses of this pressing approach. Therefore, most teams try to exploit these huge spaces for example through deep fullbacks or third man combinations. In turn, it’s key how Newcastle reacts when the ball reaches these zones, which the Magpies do very well by trapping the opposition and creating an overload to win the ball back.

Basic pressing starting setup with huge spaces in the wide areas vs. Nottingham Forest.

Once again, the wingers are vital for Newcastle out of possession. After the opponent accesses the wide zones, the wingers are tasked to cut the back pass option, trapping the opponent there. Ideally, they press backwards, increasing the cover-shadow and quickly forcing a decision from the opposition. Almiron especially continuously presses backwards with full speed.

Moreover, either the fullback or the ball-near 8 presses the player, who receives in the wide area. Who presses is dependent on the opponent’s shape as well as the temporary distances towards the ball-carrier.

Generally, it’s often an 8, which applies pressure as the distance is usually shorter. Then, Guimares shifts horizontally, providing coverage and potentially marking a player there.

Nottingham Forest finds a player on the wing. Almiron presses backwards in an angle to keep the back pass option in his cover-shadow. Additionally, Willock presses out with a bended run to restrict the wide player from opening up and creates a 2v1 overload. Moreover, Wilson marks the single 6 and Guimares moves across to cover (he can also move up on the left 8 if needed).

The 8s usually stay slightly wider allowing them to put enough pressure on the opponent. This position allows the 8 to either press the wide player or his initial opponent in the centre if needed. Moreover, they try to press with an angle, restricting the opposition from opening up and stopping diagonal progression inside.

When a fullback presses the wide player, it’s essential that the whole backline moves across and potentially man-marks opponents. Complete 1v1 situations aren’t uncommon as well.

Pressing approach against different shapes

This article only covered Newcastle’s pressing approach against a 4–3–3 to explain the basic principles so far. However, the Magpies use slightly different patterns against opponents with other formations. Nevertheless, the fundamental elements remain the same.

Against a back three, Wilson often gives his job of staying deeper and controlling the centre away by starting the press with pressurizing the central centre back, forcing him to a horizontal pass to a halfback. Then, it’s once again a winger, who presses from out to in and guides the halfback inside.

When facing a back three with a single pivot (for example a 3–5–2) and Wilson presses the first line, Guimares is usually tasked to mark the 6, while the remaining midfielders man-mark the opponent’s 8s.

Wilson initiates the press against Tottenham, by pressing the central centre back in an angle, which forces him to play to the left halfback. This pass triggers Almiron to press from out to in. Additionally, the midfield three acts man-orientated with Guimares pushing up on the single 6.

Against a 3–2 build-up, Wilson once again can be the first instance to start the press. Moreover, the double pivot is man-marked by Newcastle’s 8s. Guimares stays deeper in between the lines and can potentially mark a ball-near player in the half-space.

Facing Chelsea’s 3–4–2–1, the left halfback is under pressure and plays a ball to the left 10 of the Blues, as central progression isn’t possible due to the 8s marking the double pivot. However, Guimares shifted across and instantly presses the left 10.

The role of Wilson as well as the one of the midfielders is once again slightly different against a 4–2–3–1. The striker can either start the press, usually with his cover-shadow on one player from the double pivot or sit deeper and situationally mark the ball-near 6. When Wilson decides to press the first line of the build-up, an 8 can stay narrower to mark the ball-near 6 or Guimares pushes up and a centre back marks the 10.

Wilson presses the goalkeeper, using his cover-shadow on the right 6. Additionally, Guimares moved up on the left 6. The keeper eventually decides to pass to the left 6, where Newcastle quickly surrounds the ball with Guimares and Longstaff applying pressure. Newcastle eventually ends up winning the ball in the centre.

As visible in these examples above, Newcastle’s pressing approach can vary slightly depending on the opposition’s shape as well as his specific qualities. These patterns however aren’t the only ones against these shapes and don’t occur always. For example, a winger can still initiate the press with a run from out to in against a back three as seen below:

Murphy starts the press by guiding the right halfback inside to the central centre back with a bended run from out to in. This horizontal pass triggers Wilson to leave the single 6 and press the central centre back. Now, Guimares moves up on the 6.

Most basic pressing principles of Newcastle remain the same in every one of these situations:

- either the wingers or the striker initiates the press

- guiding the opponent inside first with wingers pressing from out to in

- pressing trigger is a horizontal pass

- controlling the centre by using overloads and man-orientations

- when the opponent accesses the wing, trapping him there and creating an overload with winger covering back pass option (+ pressing backwards) and either 8 or fullback pressing the wide player

Newcastle traps Chelsea on the wing with Joelinton (left winger) backwards presing and staying in a position to potentially press the back pass option. Willock (left 8) moves out on the wide player, creating a 2v1 overload. Additionally, Wood (striker) marks the ball-near 6, closing down an inside passing option. Longstaff marks the ball-far 6, Burn stays tight on the right 10 and Guimares marks the left 10.

Compact and flexible mid-block

The Magpies are outstanding by pressing high up the field. Nevertheless, their amazing mid-block shouldn’t be neglected, which often helped them as they can’t press with this incredible intensity the full 90 minutes and good teams on the ball may find solutions to bypass the high press.

In the mid-block, the wingers stay deeper and wider, effectively creating a 4–1–4–1 structure. In the midfield pressing Wilson splits the opponent’s centre backs by pressing with a bended run and reducing the playable field of the opponent to one side.

When Wilson presses a centre back against a team with a single pivot, similar to the high press, Guimares can move up on the 6, creating some sort of a 4–2–3–1 shape. Additionally, the remaining midfielders once again man-mark their respective opponents in the centre.

Newcastle’s mid-block vs. Chelsea’s 4–3–3. Wilson up front presses the right centre back in an angle to force him to his centre back partner. Guimares therefore moves up on the single 6, while the 8s are marking Chelsea’s 8s.

Especially in deeper zones, the 8s follow their opponent’s tightly, which is key for Newcastle. Nevertheless, they can hand their opponent over to the ball-near centre back at times as well, allowing the Magpies to have more players in the midfield and not creating gaps in between the lines. Additionally, when the opponent progresses forward, Guimares normally drops deeper again to form the 4–1–4–1 to control the space in between the lines. Then, it’s Wilson, who moves deeper, increasing the vertical compactness.

Moreover, when the opposition is able to progress higher up, the wingers track back and help their respective fullbacks out, even creating a 2v1 overload at times.

Almiron tracks back, helping Trippier out and creating a 2v1 overload against the opponent’s left winger. Furthermore, Longstaff handed the left 8 over to Schär but still using his cover-shadow to make a pass there impossible. Guimares controls the space in between the lines in the middle, while Wilson moves deeper on the single 6.

However, Newcastle tries to avoid these situations where they are pushed deep inside their own half. They rather prefer to stay proactive in their mid-block.

For example, when Wilson presses a centre back and forces a horizontal pass to his centre back partner, the ball-far winger can press the defender from out to in. This pressing run from the ball-far winger can often be the trigger for Newcastle to increase the intensity and actively trying to win the ball back.

Newcastle is settled in their 4–2–3–1 mid-block with the 8s using their cover-shadows to block passes into the opponent’s 8s and Guimares pushing up on the 6. Wilson presses the left centre back with a bended run, forcing him to his partner and reducing the playable field for Manchester United. Murphy decides the press the right centre back from out to in and the Magpies increase their intensity, trying to force an error.

Another pattern to transition from the mid-block to a more intense approach and put more pressure on the opponent’s first line, Newcastle regularly uses is one 8 pushing up on a centre back. Especially, when Wilson splits the centre backs, the ball-far 8 can leave his deeper position and move up on the respective centre back. Again, pressing trigger is the horizontal pass.

However, this pressing movement can also occur at times without Wilson initiating the press. For example, when the striker is temporarily not actively seeking to win the ball back or stays deeper. Then, the 8 can start the press by applying pressure in the first line.

The 8s normally look to press, using their cover-shadow to make a pass into the open space in the half-space impossible. Nevertheless, it’s also key that the surrounding players reduce the gap the 8 left behind (for instance using the principle of the defence triangle). Especially Guimares is vital by constantly moving horizontally to cover for his teammates.

Moreover, this temporarily open gap can also be used as a pressing trap by Newcastle:

Longstaff presses the left centre back leaving a huge gap, where Everton finds a player. However, Newcastle quickly reduces this gap and creates an overload as the pass is played with Schär pressing the receiver, Guimares shifting across, Fraser increasing his cover-shadow on the left back by moving near the ball and Longstaff backwards pressing.

In the mid-block Newcastle stays connected vertically as well as horizontally but also tries to be proactive. Additionally, the players constantly support each other with brilliant communication and try to increase the cover-shadow through clever positioning.

Final third wide dynamics

However, to describe Newcastle as a pure pressing team is simply wrong. Surely, the Magpies create most of their chances through transitions after winning the ball high up the pitch. Nevertheless, they are also efficient at creating chances while in settled possession.

Key areas, where they continuously break through and eventually create chances are the wide zones (wings and half-spaces). According to, most of Newcastle’s attacks come from the sides (38% on the right and 36% on the left side).

The Magpies set up in a 4–3–3 in-possession with the fullbacks starting deep and the wingers keeping the width. Newcastle progresses up the field, either through a short build-up, advancing slowly together, or a long ball high up the pitch with the goal to win the second balls.

They can at times be very vertical with their build-up approach because it doesn’t matter if they lose the ball, as they then can utilize their outstanding pressing to create chances.

When the final third is reached, Newcastle’s wingers still hug the side-line with the 8s positioning themselves in the half-spaces high up the field. A very similar approach to Manchester City’s positional play.

Offensive structure with common movements

However, the fullbacks of Newcastle usually occupy different positions on the field, partly due to their player profiles. Trippier on the right-hand side regularly overlaps, while Almiron can then invert and shine in the half-space in between the lines. On the other side, Burn’s approach is much more conservative by staying deeper, even forming a temporary back three at times.

Nevertheless, these are just the tendencies of the fullbacks. Burn can still move up the pitch and create advantageous situations for Newcastle:

Burn makes an underlap starting from a deep position, which drags the opponent’s right wingback away and opens space for Joelinton to receive wide.

Trippier’s overlaps especially allow Newcastle to break through the opponent and access space in behind regularly. The Englishman usually starts his run from a deep position, allowing him to reach a higher speed earlier than his direct opponent and eventually get in behind with a dynamical advantage.

The fullback continuously helps Almiron out on the wing when he receives the ball after a switch. That’s when the Paraguayan is often underloaded. Trippier can then advance with full speed and potentially create a 2v1 overload.

Almiron received the ball from the middle. Trippier recognizes that his winger is in a 1v1 situation. He therefore makes an overlap starting from a deep position. This creates a 2v1 and eventually allows Trippier to get in behind.

However, the overlaps effectiveness doesn’t barely lie in creating an overload or getting in behind. Additionally, it can pull a defender away opening space for Almiron to dribble into or Trippier simply creates a passing option for his winger.

Moreover, Trippier isn’t just effective with his overlaps for Newcastle’s offensive play. His world-class passing ability regularly creates promising situations for the Magpies. According to, the fullback generates the highest number of shot-creating actions (64) for Newcastle and completes by far the most passes (761) for the Magpies. Compared to the other players in the league, he places third in the amount of chances created this season (only behind De Bruyne and Pereira).

Furthermore, Trippier proved to be effective for Newcastle at set-pieces as well. Both with his crossing and shooting ability.

Another player that began to shine under Eddie Howe this season is the Paraguayan winger Almiron. After being screwed by Grealish, Almiron is playing an outstanding season, with scoring the most goals for Newcastle (8). The Paraguayan is both capable of playing out wide on the wing, using his dribbling qualities combined with his amazing movements, and in an inverted position in between the lines, operating in some sort of a playmaker.

Almiron is able to create chances for Newcastle literally from nothing. His signature move, which he does multiple times per game to get in behind himself is a special one-two. Initially starting the sequence with a backwards/horizontal, which puts the defender’s attention away from Almiron towards a new player or may even trigger the opposition to move up.

Now, the defender isn’t able to both see Almiron and the new ball-carrier, as Almiron normally stays besides the opponent. This allows the Paraguayan to dart in behind on the blind-side and access the space there with a dynamical advantage.

Almiron has the ball on the right wing and is under pressure. He decides to play the ball back inside to Guimares. As soon as he passed, Almiron runs in behind to exploit the open space there. His direct opponent is caught ball-watching the backwards pass, allowing the Paraguayan to get past him on the blind-side. Additionally, the back pass attracted a defender to move up. Guimares eventually plays a beautiful through-ball, reaching Almiron.

Generally, Almiron’s off-the-ball movements are from immense importance for Newcastle. Constantly creating depth, making space for himself through double movements (coming short to then run in behind or vice versa), getting past the defender on the blind-side and bending his runs to stay onside, while reaching a higher speed than his direct opponent.

Moreover, the 8s play a big role in the half-spaces high up the field, when the wingers keep the width. Joelinton, Longstaff and Willock fulfil this position perfectly for Newcastle’s demands.

Very important are their vertical inside channel runs. These movements either enable them to receive in behind themselves or can create space somewhere else. For example, for a winger to dribble inside.

Murphy dribbles on the left wing and is under pressure. Joelinton helps his winger by providing a run in behind, which drags a defender away and opens space for Murphy to dribble inside.

Constantly making runs in behind is vital for any team, as every movement challenges the defence and forces them to make a decision. Having players, who are willing to execute these runs is essential.

Moreover, quick rotations and combinates are another tool for Newcastle to unsettle the opponent and create chances through the wide areas. These rotations usually occur in the wide triangle, consisting of the winger, the 8 and the fullback. Rotations are especially efficient against man-orientated opponents and create a dilemma for the opposition. Additionally, combinations like the third- or fourth-man principle can be executed with a high speed and often allow a player to dart in behind more or less unmarked as the defenders are usually focused on the first initial pass(es), leaving the runner out of sight.

Willock plays the ball forwards to Joelinton, who plays the ball inside to Burn. As soon as Willock made the first pass, he sprinted in behind. Brun can now access Willock unmarked with a dynamical advantage (up-back-through-combination).

Nevertheless, Newcastle obviously isn’t always capable of breaking through on the wing. At times, the opponent can overload this area and trap the Magpies using the side-line as an extra defender. However, Newcastle has a solution to this.

Guimares, the lone 6, normally makes wide-ranging horizontal movements to support his teammates with an inside passing option, allowing them to get out of tight areas. The Brazilian, who’s playing a world-class season, can then create dynamics again by finding a player in between the lines due to his different angle and central position or switching the point of attack to exploit the underloaded side.

Murphy has the ball on the wing, where Brentford has a 3v2 overload. The winger therefore decides to play inside to Guimares, who shifted over horizontally to support his teammates. From this position, the Brazilian can switch the play to the right side, where Newcastle can exploit a 2v1 with Almiron and Trippier.


Newcastle continues to improve after Eddie Howe took over just a year ago. The Magpies are playing an entertaining and intense style of play, completely different to the philosophy of their former coach Steve Bruce. It’s difficult to say where the limit of this Newcastle side is. Especially when keeping in mind that they are now one of the richest clubs in the world and able to make even more expensive transfers in the future.




19 — Austria — Trying to learn and analyse the game — Twitter: @Chris17_t