This crazy Thomas Tuchel moment shows how far Newcastle United have come under Eddie Howe

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Jordan Cronin’s Newcastle United analysis from the harsh 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Newcastle United’s nine-game unbeaten run in the Premier League came to a controversial end at Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.

Here, our writer Jordan Cronin takes a look at the key talking points from the 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge:

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Key players missing forces late tactical reshuffle

There was an expectation Eddie Howe would ring the changes at Stamford Bridge - but the surprise came at the drop-outs.

The midfield three of Joelinton, Joe Willock and Jonjo Shelvey had been at the heart of United’s surge away from the relegation zone in recent months but neither of the trio started in West London.

Joelinton, still suffering from a groin injury, missed his second game in four days, while Shelvey and Willock were forced to stay behind through illness.

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With only two available central midfielders in Sean Longstaff and Bruno Guimaraes, Howe was forced into a reshuffle on the eve of the game, switching from the 4-3-3 formation, which has brought countless success since mid-January, to 5-4-1.

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Yet the way United played at Stamford Bridge, you’d have thought they had worked on the system all week. Simply, that is a huge testament to the work Howe is carrying out on the training pitch in having the players extremely well drilled and tactically aware.

Alongside Longstaff, Javier Manquillo, Jamaal Lascelles and Miguel Almiron were also recalled to the starting XI after a fairly lengthy spell out the side and barely put a foot wrong. Longstaff, in particular, showed exactly why Howe wants the Geordie to stay at St James’ Park long-term.

In total, Newcastle were missing arguably seven starters from their line-up - Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson, Willock, Shelvey, Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser - yet still matched the world and European champions for large spells of the game.

Newcastle and Chelsea fans go back and forth

Chelsea are in a major state of flux at present after Russian owner Roman Abramovich saw his assets frozen by the UK government in light of his connections to Vladimir Putin before then being removed as a director by the Premier League.

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As a result, there was a strange pre-match atmosphere around Stamford Bridge - and the travelling Newcastle fans were in no mood to let their hosts forget about their uncertain predicament.

Chants of “Chelsea’s skint and the Mags are rich” and “no noise from the bankrupt boys” were belted out from the 3,000-strong away end before further taunting the Blues with “Mike Ashley, he’s coming from you”.

The home fans’ response? “Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that” and “Boris Johnson, he’s coming for you”.

Chants between both sets of supporters were back in forth throughout the first-half in a light bit of ‘banter’ but given the severity of what is going on in the world right now, not everyone may see it that way.

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VAR robs Newcastle of a result

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The more you see it, the more baffling it gets. And that’s before you address Kai Havertz’s first-half elbow on Dan Burn.

Howe, although kept his class, was clearly livid at referee David Coote and VAR’s decision not to award United a penalty on 57 minutes.

Jacob Murphy was pulled and tripped by right-back Trevoh Chalobah on his way to ground inside the 18-yard box.

OK, so on first viewing inside the stadium, it might not have been clear for Coote. However, VAR officials John Brooks and Sian Massey-Ellis have no excuses with the luxury of replays.

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How concerning is it that top-level officials in this country failed to spot that was a clear and obvious error and therefore should be a penalty, or, at the very least, have sent Coote over to the pitchside monitor?

It cost Newcastle their first point at Stamford Bridge since May 2012 because had the spot-kick been converted, the evidence was there to suggest Howe’s side would have at least held on for a point.

VAR is a major talking point in the Premier League most weeks - and it’s never for the right reasons. Newcastle, this season, have had games spoiled by it, see Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City in December for example.

Something needs to give. Newcastle, albeit on track to seal survival, are still in a relegation battle and need every point they can get. Incompetence like that could well be the difference for ALL clubs.

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Chelsea’s wild celebrations... oh how far NUFC have come

It may have ended in defeat but Newcastle’s display at Stamford Bridge is perhaps the biggest indication of how far the team has come since Howe arrived in November.

It was no secret of how unfit the United squad was under the previous head coach. Fast forward to now however and a somewhat depleted starting XI and bench - which had two goalkeepers and 19-year-old Lucas de Bolle named on it - has just gone toe-to-toe with the world and European champions.

Newcastle frustrated the life out of out Tuchel’s men. They pressed every man, matched every run and put in an excellent organised and disciplined display. It was no surprise that Chelsea’s first shot on target didn’t arrive until the 76th-minute.

Unfortunately, it was one moment of quality that turned the game on its head as Jorginho picked out the run of Havertz, who ghosted past the colossus Dan Burn at the backpost to fire past Martin Dubravka.

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As Havertz wheeled away in celebration, Tuchel, celebrated in front of the Newcastle dugout. A really needless move but it’s kudos to Newcastle and their conduct, which allowed them to get right under Chelsea and Tuchel’s skin.

The late goal was a bitter pill to swallow, especially as there were questions over whether or not Havertz should have been on the pitch after his elbow on Burn left the Blyth-born defender with a cut on his head.

Next stop, Goodison Park

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The task for Howe & Co now is to ensure the harsh defeat in West London doesn’t spiral into any kind of purple patch.

Newcastle remain nine points above the Premier League relegation zone following six wins from their last eight matches ahead of a huge game at Everton on Thursday night.

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Win, and the gap becomes 12, while it also piles the misery on Frank Lampard’s Toffees who look bang in trouble after back-to-back defeats versus Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves.

Survival is within touching distance, but Howe insists there is still plenty of work to do before it becomes a formality.

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