Newcastle ran out 3-1 winners against Stoke on Monday night in a game that was dubbed as our “first real test” of the season.
I think it is fair to say we well and truly passed that test.
During the game I noticed a number of tactics that Alan Pardew employed in order to nullify the Stoke threat. These tactics proved to be very effective for the duration of the match and helped us to take all three points on a Halloween night of horrors for the Potters fans.
The first tactic that we used last night was deployed whenever Stoke had a corner. We brought both Demba Ba and Leon Best back to defend in our penalty box in order to combat Stoke’s aerial threat. In addition to that we left Gabriel Obertan upfront whilst the corner was taken which then allowed us to clear the ball to Obertan to use his pace and put pressure on the defenders.
That tactic worked a treat on the night as several times we cleared the ball straight up to him and we ended up further up the pitch as a result. In fact Obertan was unlucky not to have scored on Monday and he had the beating of their full-back pretty much most of the night. Put simply, Stoke were afraid of his pace.
Along with this Pardew had obviously briefed Danny Simpson and Ryan Taylor to beat Stoke at their own game. How much time does Rory Delap waste when he takes a throw-in? The answer is a lot and both fullbacks employed the towel tactic, taking their time to dry the ball and then throw it on.
The result? Tony Pulis was in uproar, complaining to the fourth official about our players using the ball but I had no complaints with it. His team did the same whenever they had a throw-in, so it was fair for us to use the same tactic against them. I wonder if other teams may follow our lead on that one now?
Ryan Taylor even tried to impersonate Delap at times and it certainly worked as they were unable to deal with our threats from throws. We certainly beat them at their own game the other night and our first goal was how you would expect Stoke to come at us. A long kick from Tim Krul found Leon Best who headed on to Gabriel Obertan who then crossed for Demba Ba to nod in.
Whenever Stoke had possession of the ball, Pardew had made sure that his players were like hounds, snapping at their feet allowing them no time to move the ball. Every player was closed down very quickly, even if we didn’t win the ball it put them under a huge amount of pressure.
Whenever Jermaine Pennant gained the ball, Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez doubled up on him to stop him getting crosses into the box and in fact Gutierrez had the job of man marking Pennant and he did a sterling job of keeping him at bay although it did hinder the attacking influence of the Argentine.
Our team was also very brave, they were not afraid to put their bodies on the line to stop Stoke. Ryan Taylor went up for a defensive completeley unaware that Jonathan Walters was about to challenge him. He took a heavy knock to his head and was on the ground for a few minutes.
Thankfully he was fine but it showed that we were putting our bodies on the line. Tim Krul also demonstrated this on several occasions when he came off his line in to a crowded area to stake claim to the ball. This was another ploy that Pardew had briefed his goalie on and that too restricted the amount of opportunities that Stoke could have on our goal.
These tactics were very encouraging to see. Alan Pardew seems to have taken the time and effort to think of ways to combat Stoke and it worked very well for us. It was very encouraging to see that we had tactics like this to use against the Potters unlike when we played them last season.
It will be very interesting to see what we have lined up to combat Everton on Saturday.