Premier League Tactics Corner: Aston Villa-Newcastle United & Tottenham Hotspur-QPR

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In this week’s edition of Premier League Tactics Corner, we dive into Newcastle’s use of Emmanuel Riviere and Queens Park Rangers’ three-back system.

Holding It Up

Aston Villa did not put a shot on target in Saturday’s early game against Newcastle United, and the Magpies should have walked away victorious had their finishing been clinical. But as seen in this t-shirt, ‘the beauty is in the struggle’.

We often look at goals and comment or rave about a player’s technical ability. There are articles aplenty across the Internet that gouge at the lovely skill of strikers, and critics always take to social media to nag one if it’s in the midst of a drought. Forwards have one job that is not appreciated as much, simply because it is not sexy, and that is hold up play.

Newcastle’s summer signing Emmanuel Riviere is the most important piece of its build up play.

For some quick background on him, Riviere played for Monaco last season and scored 10 goals in 19 appearances coupled with a pair of assists. That isn’t too bad for a player that came on as a sub 11 of those 19 times. Assuming he stays clear of the medical treatment room, this will be the first season since 2010-11, where he’ll be one of the main men. In addition, he is not going to get off many shots. Pre-Newcastle, the most shots per game he averaged was 1.9, which also came in 2010-11, his last season with Saint Etienne. So aside from that, what drew Alan Pardew to him?

It’s this…

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Riviere is excellent at finding space where he can get on the ball and deliver a short lay-off pass to a teammate. When analysts talk about getting others involved in the buildup, the above and below clips are exactly what they’re talking about. Riviere is an outlet for the defense and that is what makes him so interesting. Think of Newcastle’s attacking movement as a ladder. He is a rung on it and once he gets the ball and lays it off, everyone else can climb up it with him.

Here’s an example. Newcastle start an attack in the GIF below when Riviere holds off Philippe Senderos.

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By the end of that minute, he is used as a pivot for Darryl Janmaat at the top of the 18-yard box. He can hold up and lay-off anywhere on the pitch.

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