Christian Eriksen shoots at goal during Newcastle 0-2 Spurs in the Premier League at St. James' Park.

Newcastle 0-2 Spurs: breaking a narrow block

Opening up a compact and narrow team earned three points as our Premier League clash finished Newcastle 0-2 Spurs at St. James’ Park.

Patience was the key to opening up a slow encounter at St. James’ Park. Reduced to ten men, Newcastle settled in to a compact and narrow formation. Tottenham responded with brief moments of rapid player and ball movement from between the lines. Two goals were the result as it ended Newcastle 0-2 Spurs in our Premier League clash.

Newcastle’s low block

The opening half was played at a pedestrian pace. Both teams still looked in preseason mode, but classic Rafael Benitez tactics also forced it. The Newcastle manager set his team up in a low block that was content not to engage the ball until it crossed the halfway line.

Once back in possession, the Magpies looked to launch quick counter attacks. Rapid passing out of defence sought to use the speed of Christian Atsu and Dwight Gayle. Whether by design or just coincidence, these passes often targeted Kyle Walker-Peters. The debutant dealt well with initial balls out, showing surprising leaping ability. However, if Atsu had the ball on the deck, then he caused Walker-Peters more problems.

Christian Eriksen breaking the lines

Newcastle’s’ tactics slowed the game, but also made them difficult to break down. In spite of two injuries to their back line, the Magpies held a very solid shape. Mauricio Pochettino tried a number of tactics to try and break it.

The first move came after centre back Kieran Clark went out to left back. Pochettino responded by moving Moussa Sissoko to the opposite wing. Christian Eriksen came across to replace him and drifted inside to drag midfielder Matt Ritchie away. Pochettino was trying to create space for Kyle Walker-Peters to attack the stand-in full back 1v1 off the dribble.

Walker-Peters had some success in his battles with Clark. He won several corners and got in to some good crossing positions. He was a touch too predictable though. Always trying to shift it on to his right foot meant that Clark could position himself to cover this.

Pochettino’s next move was to try and free Christian Eriksen between the lines. Rather than start drifting inside from the flank, Eriksen moved in to the centre, but operated from much deeper.

The move gave Newcastle a problem. The Magpies midfield didn’t want to get drawn out to engage him. The result was space for Eriksen in front of their midfield, but also Dele Alli and Harry Kane in the spaces behind it.

Eriksen deeper opened space for himself, Kane and Dele during Newcastle 0-2 Spurs in the Premier League.

Eriksen deeper opened space for himself, Kane and Dele.

The gaps that started to appear gave Eriksen the chance for several shots, but equally to find the runners with his passes. A neatly lobbed ball for Dele Alli’s run in the first half highlighted the spaces on offer. It also acted as a prelude as to what would happen after the interval.

Shelvey’s red card impacts the game

Jonjo Shelvey’s moment of Jonjo Shelveydom shot his team in the foot. Standing on Dele Alli’s ankle in front of the referee gave Andre Marriner no choice but to send him off.

Stretched, but coping, with eleven, Newcastle then had to play their low block tactics with ten men. There were two key changes to their setup.

Firstly, Rafael Benitez had his side narrow up to congest the centre of the pitch. Space was therefore left in the wide areas. Secondly, Benitez also instructed his wide midfielders, Atsu and Ritchie, to cover any balls out to the flanks. This tactic allowed his full backs to tuck in with their centre backs to keep the middle closed off.

Narrow Newcastle back four use Ritchie and Atsu to cover wide during Newcastle 0-2 Spurs in the Premier League.

Narrow Newcastle back four use Ritchie and Atsu to cover wide.

Spurs open the low and narrow blockade

Despite the central congestion that Rafael Benitez had created, Tottenham went straight through the heart of it to score twice. Christian Eriksen was at the centre of both goals, but so too were explosive player and ball movement from between the lines.

The key to both moves was the positioning of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen between the lines. Movement of the ball to the flanks in the initial phase dragged Newcastle’s wide midfielders over on both goals. This resulted in space between the lines for Alli and Eriksen to work their magic. The eventual goal scorers, Alli and Davies, could then run off right back Javier Manquillo to finish.

This pattern was set on the opening goal. Play shifted out to Kyle Walker-Peters in space on the flank. Christian Atsu was therefore drawn over to allow left back Kieran Clark to remain protecting his centre backs. As Walker-Peters passed back inside, Atsu could no longer track Christian Eriksen, affording the deadliest passer on the pitch space.

Whilst Eriksen was working his pocket, Dele Alli was doing the same. Right back Javier Manquillo didn’t want to get drawn forward to cover him. However, he then couldn’t catch him, as Dele darted past towards the back post. Eriksen’s deliciously crafted cross picked out Dele Alli superbly to make it 1-0 to Spurs.

Eriksen picks out Dele Alli's run to score a goal during Newcastle 0-2 Spurs in the Premier League.

Eriksen picks out Dele Alli’s run to score.

Ben Davies rewarded for runs

Our second goal to make it Newcastle 0-2 Spurs soon followed in a similar manner. This time the ball went out to our other full back, Ben Davies, in space. Newcastle’s wide midfielder, Matt Ritchie, was drawn out. As the ball went back inside to Mousa Dembele, Ritchie was unable to help inside. Isaac Hayden was therefore drawn out from the middle. The result was space once more created in the pockets between the lines for Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to fill them.

Seeing the space, speed was once more injected in to the attack. Dembele fired the ball into Dele Alli and series of precise one-touch passes ensued. Whilst this was happening, Ben Davies was on the move.

Running off Matt Ritchie, Davies eyed the corridor that had opened up behind him. Javier Manquillo had abandoned orders and needlessly been drawn out by the position of Son Heung Min. As a result, space was left for Davies’ marauding run.

Space created for Davies run by Manquillo positioning during Newcastle 0-2 Spurs in the Premier League.

Space created for Davies run by Manquillo positioning.

As the ball went rapidly through Dembele, Dele and Kane, it finally found the fleet feet of Christian Eriksen. Nipping inside from his pocket of space between the lines, the Dane skipped across the box and ended up meeting Davies’ run. The left back darted in and rounded off a magnificent move to make it Newcastle 0-2 Spurs and put the match to bed.

The goal was apt reward for Ben Davies’ progress. Remember the days when he seemed scared to cross the halfway line for fear of leaving his defensive post unmanned? Pensive and passive, Davies has been making these careering runs in to the box since taking over for Danny Rose up at Sunderland. A real win for Davies and another pointer to great coaching.

Atsu and Ritchie

In making the score Newcastle 0-2 Spurs the game was all but safe against the ten men. However, the speed and tricky dribbling of Christian Atsu continued to pose a threat.

The Newcastle wide man was giving Kyle Walker-Peters a tough introduction to the Premier League. Atsu’s rapid changes of pace and direction meant that he was a particularly tricky cover for Walker-Peter’s Premier League bow.

Despite being two goals down, Newcastle’s threat came from wide as the pace of Atsu and the deliveries of Matt Ritchie gave the Magpies some hope. Ritchie put in several dangerous crosses from open and set plays as Newcastle sought a way back in to the match. The most precarious of these caused Walker-Peters to scramble in a recovery attempt to block Atsu arriving at the back post.

Harry Kane nearly breaks August duck

In spite of Newcastle’s spirited effort at two-nil down, Spurs almost added a third. The introduction of Son Heung-Min provided a real spark. An injection of speed across the ground with the ball that we’d previously lacked on the pitch. Son’s darting runs in his brief time in the game highlighted once more why we need to bring in another player of this type.

Newcastle was once more opened up straight through the centre. A turnover caught them forward attacking and they couldn’t live with Son’s scampering speed across the turf. His excellently weighted pass found Harry Kane, who was in the perfect position to break his duck of not scoring in August in the Premier League. Sending his shot past the goalkeeper, Kane could not beat the post, as his effort struck the foot of the upright. The score remained Newcastle 0-2 Spurs and Kane still to get off the mark in August.

Newcastle 0-2 Spurs overall

The game was languid with a real opening day feel at times. However, two injections of pace resulted in two excellently crafted goals. Both strikes opened up a narrow and deep-lying Newcastle team that couldn’t stay with the speed and movement going on around them.

The red card helped, as Newcastle couldn’t cover the spaces and track the runners as they had been with eleven. However, the persistence and patience shown were the hallmarks of a classic Pochettino performance against textbook Benitez tactics.

Final score: Newcastle 0-2 Spurs.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.



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20 Responses to Newcastle 0-2 Spurs: breaking a narrow block

  1. Glenn Murphy 14th August 2017 at 2:14 pm #

    This is really insightful analysis. Here are the Spursy player ratings. I gave KWP mom even though it could have gone to Eriksen, I thought his poise and positioning defensively was excellent.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th August 2017 at 4:20 pm #

      Big fan of KWP. Atsu, with his quick feet and changes of direction, was a good test for him. Caused him some nervy moments, but gives him a taster of what is to come. Eriksen is at another level right now, really hope Barca aren’t preparing a bid!

      • Glenn Murphy 14th August 2017 at 5:03 pm #

        Really hope Coutinho forces his way out, although it will be a big loss for the premiership. If it helps us keep Eriksen I’d take it. No Cahill at wembley this week, we have to take advantage of that

  2. Andy B 14th August 2017 at 3:16 pm #

    Excellent accurate write up of the game.

    It was great to get a win against Benitez. I will never forget his anti-football tactics at Liverpool and how frustrating it always was, when Spurs played against them.

    Atsu was their biggest threat and looked super fast. Luckily he didn’t provide the final product.

    That Eriksen flick over the Newcastle player, on the right wing was incredible. That was the stand out moment in the game for me. That was like a Hoddle moment.

    What a great time to play Chelsea, on Sunday. They may have 6 players out, for the game.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th August 2017 at 4:12 pm #

      Atsu was their biggest threat and although he gave Walker-Peters uncomfortable moments, KWP handled him well overall. A challenging Premier League baptism for him, but proof that Poch trusts him. Despite the talk, I can’t see Poch bringing in another right back.

      Eriksen has hit the ground running, definitely looks the farthest along in terms of being in shape for the season. Just gets better and better with every game.

      Definitely a good time to be playing Chelsea. A real test of how much and if we’ve progressed on the Wembley pitch.

  3. Erik Zen 14th August 2017 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks for the analysis Mark! Did you think Dembele was specifically tasked with coming over to help out KWP, or that was just part of his general duties? He seemed to bail him out a few times when he was skinned by Atsu.

    Great performance from him though, just remember how much Rose and Walker improved under Poch, and surely KWP will be an incredible player if given enough game time. Was wonderful to see Sonny’s immediate impact. He always seems to open things up as an impact sub when a team is sitting back. Those four runners scampering around must be terrifying for defenders.

    Fantastic result as we barely broke a sweat at St. James Park. Can’t wait for Chelsea, got a feeling we’re going to destroy the Wembley jinx bullshit in style. COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th August 2017 at 5:30 pm #

      Yes, Dembele usually helps more to this side and the right-footed Dier or Wanyama for the right full back, so I think he was really keeping an eye on KWP and using his experience to help him.

      I think Poch will give KWP quite a few games this season and is content to use him if Trippier is only going to miss 2 or 3 matches. He has other options like Dier and maybe Alderweireld in a pinch, so he can pick and choose the kind of opponents KWP will face.

      Son’s impact really showed how lethargic Sissoko was. Also highlighted why we need a Keita Balde Diao or Anthony Martial type. Can’t see Jose selling us Martial though. He’d also have a riduculous price tag given what Man Utd paid for him (plus his wages are out of our structure), which is a shame as I think Poch could do great things with him.

      • YouShubes 15th August 2017 at 8:53 am #

        Great work as always..What I found most amusing was the position Sonny took was gving Davies the space to run through…from country mouse to city mouse :D

        Atsu is a decent player but Willian is a whole new ball game. I would only play KWP at RB/RWB if Big Vic is back in the middle. We will need his and Dembele’s power to dominate a Matic less midfield (no idea what Conte/CFC board were thinking with that one).

        Agree the pace of Sonny highlights what a Martial type would do for us. I think he may make the move as that French World squad is bonkers deep and he will need to be starting games. Not saying the Euros are not special but the World Cup is just the pinnacle for any player. That said Jose would have to be stoned off his nut to sell him to us. I think Sissoko best look up Easyjet flights to Turkey as I think his goose is cooked (no idea what our board were thinking with this one)

        The red card helped but I am of the mind Rafa did not want to lose his opening match…and would have gladly taken a draw

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th August 2017 at 5:33 pm #

          Yes I don’t see Jose selling us Martial, especially after we rebuffed his attentions in Eric Dier. Wages and transfer fee also a problem in this current inflated climate i’d imagine too.

          • YouShubes 15th August 2017 at 6:00 pm #

            that said United have 3 pacy wide forwards/wingers and they may still want to bring in Perisic and I don’t think they have made any sales…

            United are a money making machine and though they have shifted the Zlatan and Rooney wages they have spent a fair bit over the season and like all clubs except the Oil backed clubs they need to balance the books…

            I think Jose may get overruled… they will not want to sell him to a PL club especially a rival but there is small pool of clubs that can afford to buy him…agreed wages will be an issue though

  4. Matt 14th August 2017 at 6:16 pm #

    Great analysis as ever Mark. I wonder if Rose googled Davies would he find he’s played every game in the most successful run we’ve had in modern times? Bang on with Son, I think his speed at Wembley will be even more important and I’d start him next week. And if N’K’ doesn’t make the grade we need another fast attacker.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th August 2017 at 5:28 pm #

      Strange how Davies and Trippier have been a large part of that good run, our supposed back up full backs for last season!

      The links with Keita Balde Diao and Martial indicate were in for another fast wide forward type. Poch can’t be confident in GKN.

  5. paddieu 15th August 2017 at 1:22 am #

    I do wish Poch would give GNK more game time. He’s impressed me in almost every single cameo, whether going forward, chasing back, or even on the right when creating that goal for Janssen recently.

    I honestly think he has in him to be our ‘mini mane’

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th August 2017 at 5:30 pm #

      GKN really divides the fan base in opinion on him. Jury is still out for me.

  6. Jerry Ward 15th August 2017 at 3:47 pm #

    Mark, you enhance the Spurs-watching experience. Thank you. Nobody’s mentioned the (at least) 2 beautiful floated crosses, made under pressure, from KWP. Walker did many excellent things, but no beautiful floated crosses.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th August 2017 at 5:34 pm #

      You’re welcome Jerry. Trippier and KWP both good crossers of the ball. Our right side is loaded!

  7. Chas 16th August 2017 at 3:21 am #

    Good read, Mark and a valid point about KWP being predictable. I hope we see him cutting back onto his left foot every so often.
    I found myself knowing what he was going to do often in that second half, and if my tiny mind can do it, I’m sure opposition fullbacks will, too.
    Nevertheless, a promising debut and good luck to him on his MOM, sentimental though it may have been!.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2017 at 10:47 am #

      Lots of time to work on it in coaching. Seeing what Poch has done for Walker, Rose and Davies, the sky is the limit for KWP given the level he is already at.

  8. Toby4eva 17th August 2017 at 9:09 am #

    “Mark, you enhance the Spurs-watching experience. Thank you”.

    Says it all Jerry.

    How uplifting it is to visit here after seeing what’s on offer at other “fan” sites.

    One is a lot of fun – but is full of very, very sour people.

    This is an oasis in the desert.

    I really hope we go all in for Sanchez as he on the right of an all Ajax back three will give us the platform to go all the way.

    We MUST get him.

    Balde would be a great fit as well.

    Massive game Sunday.

    COYS!!!!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th August 2017 at 2:27 pm #

      Thank you for the kind words Toby4eva. I really like our chances against Chelsea on Sunday.