Our final Premier League match of the season sees us head to Tyneside for Newcastle vs Spurs so we look at how to beat the Magpies.
Last weekend it looked as if Newcastle vs Spurs would decide each team’s fate. What a difference seven days make. Now it is just a case of whether we will gain the necessary point to finish second.
The Magpies may have nothing left to play for but Rafa Benitez has made them much more of a cohesive unit and increasingly difficult to beat. A five match unbeaten run is testament to what the Spaniard has achieved when given just eight games to save their season.
So, what should we be on the look out for in Newcastle vs Spurs this time and just how do you go about beating the Magpies?
Where Newcastle concede chances
Rafa Benitez may have come in too late to rescue the Magpies, but he has added his usual organisation and made the team function like more of a unit.
Problems do remain though and these are undoubtedly against teams that attack them down their left. This side sees Jamaal Lascelles next to Paul Dummett in the back line and while they have shown plenty of spirit, the pair is relatively inexperienced at this level.
Take Newcastle’s last Premier League match against Aston Villa. The Villains didn’t score, because hey they’re Aston Villa, but they did know where to attack. The number of crosses they attempted to put in from the Newcastle left highlighted this.
The last team to score against Newcastle was Liverpool and the Reds also exposed this side of their defence.
Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring after just a minute, as he pulled on to left back Paul Dummett, won the ball, span and fired in to the corner.
Liverpool created several other good chances by getting in to down the left or through the channels between Lascelles and Dummett.
This included their second goal, marked in yellow above. Adam Lallana popped up in-between the lines as the run of Firmino off him took Dummett, who was left trying to mark them both, away.
Rafa Benitez does have Newcastle on a five-match unbeaten streak, although draws having been prevalent in this run. The last team to beat them, Southampton, also attacked through the left. Graziano Pelle and Shane Long netted two of the Saints’ three goals from this flank. The third of the match came from a corner from the left side as well.
The problem down the left is often compounded by the fact that Rafael Benitez deploys a more attacking player on this side that tries to get into the centre. This can either see Ayoze Perez or Georginio Wijnaldum on this flank, with nether offering that much cover to his full back.
The Tottenham tactics for Newcastle vs Spurs should look at attacking the space in and around Dummett’s left back zone. This will make Erik Lamela and flying full back Kyle Walker key players in unlocking the Magpies’ defence.
Given his history of not tracking back at Spurs, Andros Townsend’s right flank hasn’t been the avenue of chances that you might suspect. This side does see a decent defender in Vurnon Anita behind him offering cover, aided by two tough tacklers in Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote rotating over from their defensive midfield positions. However, if plan A of attacking the left side isn’t working then it may be worth testing Townsend’s tracking abilities by overloading the Newcastle right back.
Stopping the Newcastle attack
Steve McClaren set the Magpies up as a crossing team and Rafael Benitez has continued to an extent in that manner. Benitez likes to focus on heavily going down the right though.
On this side he uses Andros Townsend who has the option to come inside, much as he did at Spurs to shoot, but more and more he has been heading for the by-line. Townsend is a half-decent crosser and with targets like Cisse, Sissoko and Mitrovic to aim for, he has been creating problems. The player on the right of the formation, either Perez or Wijnaldum, often joins these targets in the centre.
Teams that play well against Newcastle do two things. First of all they press the Magpies high up to stop them getting the ball quickly out to the right. Secondly they restrict or stop the flow of balls to Townsend when play makes it to him.
Man City were one such team, as they recovered the ball in the Newcastle half, but also on countless occasions from Townsend on the right flank.
The Tottenham tactics for Newcastle vs Spurs should look to see us continue with our pressing game to stop Newcastle getting started in their attack. Our left side will be vital in hindering Andros Townsend from getting going and Danny Rose will have his hands full.
Rafa Benitez and his love of flexible zonal marking have been well portrayed in the Premier League. The merits of both man-to-man and zonal systems will continue to be debated, but it hasn’t served him well in his time at Newcastle.
So far, only three teams – Everton, Man Utd and Aston Villa – have conceded more shots from set pieces than the Magpies.
The problem is often height. Deploying two small defensive midfielders, weak aerial players such as Townsend and Wijnaldum, along with two undersized full backs, and their isn’t much of a defensive aerial presence.
We lead the Premier League in goals from set pieces this season with 18 in total. Ten of these have come direct from corners and you’d have to fancy us to be a threat from these once again.
Newcastle vs Spurs overall
Last weekend we were expecting this to be an emotionally charged and highly passionate encounter. Dealing with a vocal crowd as well as a team fighting for survival were going to prove two tough obstacles. Now it’s difficult to say what type of Newcastle team will show up. Will they play with freedom? Or will they play like a side that has not only been relegated, but also wounded by their bitter rivals?
What is known is that we need to take something form this game. We need to attack their left side and expose the spaces that appear around left back Paul Dummett and left-sided centre back Jamaal Lascelles. A point will do, but three would be even sweeter to have no doubt in anybody’s mind who the best team is in London this season.
Newcastle vs Spurs prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Spurs.