What Newcastle fans can expect of Paulo Fonseca and his tactics

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Last week, Newcastle United signed off on a takeover bid worth more money than worth mentioning, in what could be one of the most important moments in the history of their club. Following that, Steve Bruce’s sacking from the club was always inevitable, especially with so many top quality managers like Lucien Favre and Massimo Allegri still on the market. But it appears Newcastle’s new owners have their eye on someone else. With Paulo Fonseca still, shockingly, out of a job following a successful year with Roma last year, Newcastle are taking heavy interest in bringing the highly touted manager into their ranks. So with that, we take a look at what Paulo Fonseca could bring to Newcastle and why the move could be exactly what Newcastle fans have been craving for years.

fluid formations

Paulo Fonseca operated in both a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 formation during his time in charge of Roma, both of which would suit Newcastle well. He could easily turn Steve Bruce’s defensively-minded 5-4-1 into a more intense 3-4-2-1 system, continuing to prioritize quick attacking transitions. He could also turn Steve Bruce’s bland 4-1-4-1 into a more exciting 4-2-3-1, à la say Glasner’s Wolfsburg, utilizing Joe Willock further forward as a number ten. But Fonseca teams don’t ever have to be rooted in just one system of play. The Portuguese manager is fluid in changing systems on a match by match basis to suit the needs of his team. But he’s also fluid in the sense that the actual application of his formations often look very similar. For example, his 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 were nearly identical in practice at AS Roma. At Newcastle, that would only further enhance Fonseca’s ability to change systems and expand his horizons on a match by match basis, without changing all that much beyond the over-arching shape on paper.

If you’re confused by how a 4-2-3-1 could possibly look like a 3-4-2-1, allow us to explain further. For Roma, one central midfielder would often drop in between the centre-backs to help dictate play and form a diamond quartet with the goalkeeper to build out from the back. The attacking midfielder on the other hand would drop in deep to pick up possession, giving their build-up that 3-4-2-1 shape. Jonjo Shelvey could be a useful option for that deeper role for the time being, before reinforcements are inevitably signed in January. But quite encouragingly, Fonseca’s formations and style of play will naturally allow for a greater emphasis on building out from the back, and overall care in possession, which the Magpies desperately need. The Black & Whites will likely remain a counter attacking team until they really break the bank to sign completely different types of players, but for now they could have a great mix of possession and poise, with an added quickness in the final third. From a fan perspective, this change would welcome a more exciting, attacking brand of football, which supporters will undoubtedly be clamoring over.


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Paulo Fonseca is known for playing functional football. It’s not quite like an orchestra designed by Antonio Conte, but it’s a very good band that you know what you’re going to get out of with each and every passing hit. That band can then adapt and keep up with the times by changing their style when needed, without compromising their talent.

Roma were very effective in a lot of ways during Fonseca’s two year spell, even making the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League. His methodologies were built around intentional and meticulous build-up structures, high flying wing-backs, inverted wingers and goal-scoring central midfielders. While some of the current players will be unable to fulfill mighty tasks like meticulous build-up structures, Joe Willock is certainly someone Fonseca could utilize as a number ten, goal-scoring midfielder. Inverted wingers would also benefit Newcastle in getting Allan Saint-Maximin to work his magic closer to goal, and suit a player like Miguel Almiron who is already a wing-midfield hybrid.

It’s also important to mention that at Roma, Fonseca recognized the strengths of his players and often made positional tweaks to get the best out of their qualities. He expertly deployed Bryan Cristante as a sweeper, bringing out his exceptional passing range and vision, and moved Lorenzo Pellegrini from central midfield to attacking midfield and right wing, improving his goal output. Both of these decisions massively benefited Roma, first allowing them a greater emphasis on playing out from the back, and then strengthening their dynamism in the final third by having one of their most electric dribblers and creators further forward. Newcastle are not a team that tend to score many goals, and Fonseca will almost certainly attempt to change that. One way in which he might do that is in finding a surprising role for a surprising player who is yet to truly showcase their magic for the Magpies. Leave it to Fonseca to turn a hidden gem into something special, or even revitalize a broken player’s career (did someone say Joelinton?).


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Paulo Fonseca is an attack-minded manager, who focuses on developing a functional possession-based system to get the best out of his players going forward. This is what Newcastle fans have been crying out for. Fonseca would have a mammoth task in figuring out how to make this current crop of players better in the final third, but he could easily use his principles of quick attacking transitions seen at Roma to make the most out of excellent counter-attackers like Saint-Maximin, Wilson and Almiron. Without a stronger defensive line or players fully comfortable in possession, anything else could be a massive risk to take, and Fonseca would need to be careful. It’s worth reminding ourselves that his defensive record at Roma was woeful. Roma conceded 58 goals in last season’s Serie A season, putting them in the bottom half of the table for goals conceded, despite ultimately landing in the top eight on points. This is a worry for Newcastle, since they have an abysmal defensive record, even while prioritizing that side of the game. If they pull a 180 and go the other way, it could have unrecoverable effects.

With that said, we’re not too far away from January, and Newcastle would be wise to invest in a few players (but not an entirely new squad) that could play exactly how Fonseca wants. If they can get a few class ball carriers and progressive passers into the team, Fonseca could easily transform Newcastle into a side that ticks all the boxes out from the back, keeps more of the ball, and scores more goals as a result. But whatever happens under Fonseca, it’s sure to be entertaining.


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Paulo Fonseca is an incredibly interesting candidate to take over at Newcastle United. While he will need to improve his defensive record, and many of the pieces to the puzzle are evidently missing, he is undoubtedly an exciting attacking coach that will bring excitement to the hearts and minds of Newcastle. Time will tell whether or not Fonseca really does take on the job, but if he does, fans can certainly expect functional football, fluid formations and loads of entertainment.

So there it is! What Newcastle fans can expect of Paulo Fonseca and his tactics. Be sure to check out more of our Managerial Analyses, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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-> Paulo Fonseca – AS Roma – Tactical Analysis
-> Jose Mourinho – Tottenham Hotspur – Tactical Analysis (2020-21 Edition)

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