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Sky Sports pundit in strange choice of key player for Newcastle v Liverpool

3 years ago
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Sky Sports pundit Danny Higginbotham has been analysing Newcastle United’d tactics.

Going into Sunday’s match with Liverpool, he has come to the conclusion that one player is key to how Rafa Benitez/Newcastle want to play.

The identity of the player concerned, may be a surprise.

Many Newcastle fans are expecting/hoping that Joselu is dropped to the bench but speaking to Sky Sports, Danny Higginbotham thinks that it is essential that the Spaniard stays in the team.

He says that Joselu is needed in the side because despite missing chances, his role in holding the ball up is vital.

Without that, Higginbotham says that other players then struggle to get into the game, such as Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu.

It will be interesting to see if Rafa Benitez follows the Sky Sports pundit’s way of thinking in is team selection v Liverpool.

Danny Higginbotham talking to Sky Sports:

What was happening earlier in the season was that teams would defend high against them because there was no real out-ball and if there was an out-ball then isolation would be caused. If Dwight Gayle were to go up top then the defenders would drop back and it would be four against one for Newcastle.

Because Newcastle did not want to just hit the ball forwards and leave Gayle as the player isolated, they were trying to play out from the back. It was very difficult because they could not get out and there was not this focal point where they could go that little bit longer.

Gayle is a very good player but … he wants the ball down the sides so therefore he is running towards the opposition goal. The problem for Newcastle is that because they were defending so deep, if he did get the ball there would be three players around him.

They did not have the option to do that so that meant whoever they were playing against could actually play on the halfway line without any fear of anyone getting in behind because it was a long way for the midfielders to catch up with them.

What has changed now?

It has been a lot to do with Joselu since he has come into the team because he has given them that different focal point going forward. He is the front man. So they are not afraid to go long now. They have got this player they can go up to and the rest of the team can squeeze up and they can get players around him.

Matt Ritchie is one of the best crossers of the ball so you are getting balls into the box. Joselu is always going to be there or thereabouts. He doesn’t play on the shoulder with pace, he does it with physicality. What happens with that is that he then creates the areas for players like Ritchie and players like Christian Atsu and Ayoze Perez to get into.

All of a sudden these areas become key. Atsu can come and join in, Perez can come and join in and you have got Ritchie who can join in. They can play on the second balls. All of a sudden you have got crosses coming in. It is not necessarily Joselu scoring goals but he is causing problems because of his physical presence.

Because they are playing this way it means the other players can also get up the pitch and it is no surprise that in their two most recent wins it was their lowest possession of the season because they did not have to worry about playing out from the back. It was not a fear for them because they have got a player who can hold the ball up.

How can they beat Liverpool?

What we have talked about with Liverpool, especially when they are playing the so-called lesser teams, is that they play with just the one holding midfielder in Jordan Henderson. That means that Newcastle going forward could actually catch Liverpool out.

It is all about those second balls. They can cause Liverpool problems. We know that Liverpool can cause anyone problems going forward, but defensively, with Joselu playing, those second balls and who gets onto them first could determine who wins this game.

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