Dele Alli scores a goal during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham in the Premier League match.

Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham: battle of the flanks

Both teams fought to overcome narrow defensive setups to get the ball wide, as our opening Premier League clash finished Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino and Rafael Benitez both sought to control the centre of the pitch so that they could launch their attacks in the wide spaces. Pochettino went with a central midfield trio. Benitez had his team play with a narrow midfield four. The result was a hat trick of goals from the flanks as it ended Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Control of the centre

Tottenham lined up in our new 4-3-3 formation. As we’ve seen in preseason, the objective of this formation in the defensive phase is to be narrow and take away the centre of the pitch.

Narrow defensive structure concedes space out wide during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Narrow defensive structure concedes space out wide.

Pochettino had Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko in a three-man chain in central midfield in order to do this.

Newcastle played their usual 4-4-2 counter attack setup. Benitez equally wants to keep the opponent out of the centre and therefore he played his usual narrow four-man midfield.

The issue for Benitez was that the Tottenham trio, combined with Christian Eriksen floating in from the left, could overrun his midfield. As a result, both Ben Davies and Serge Aurier could get forward and be heavily involved in the attack.

Eriksen central and Davies free out wide against narrow defence during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Eriksen central and Davies free out wide against narrow defence.

Aurier put in several decent crosses and created a goal. Davies did equally well, including creating a guilt-edged chance for Moussa Sissoko. The former Magpie saw his shot on the swivel well saved by Martin Dubravka at full stretch.

Set piece start

For all of the work by both teams to control the centre of the pitch and attack in the wide areas, Spurs took the lead from a corner. Eriksen drifting inside in to a central position to overload the Newcastle midfield won the set piece.

The corner itself was well set up by Tottenham as we sought to isolate Davinson Sanchez and Harry Kane on the edge of the box. The team achieved this by putting three aerially strong players in Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen in the six-yard box. Newcastle had to mark them and so Kane and Sanchez were left with plenty of open space to attack

Spurs pack the six-yard box to give space around Sanchez and Kane during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Spurs pack the six-yard box to give space around Sanchez and Kane.

Lucas Moura made a nice run to lead Kenedy away from where the ball was going. Jonjo Shelvey, who for some reason was marking Sanchez, then gave the centre back far too much room. Shelvey was no match aerially for Sanchez. Davinson won the header and Jan Vertonghen nodded the ball in off the underside of the bar with a little help from goal line technology.

Mauricio Pochettino loves the ball in to the front post at corners. This set play was another example of how to achieve it by clearing out for a single player to get in and win the first ball.

Newcastle equalise from wide

Spurs defensive setup had been highly interesting. Taking away the middle of the pitch, the team slid over as a unit to try and hem Newcastle in on the sideline.

Spurs try to hem Newcastle on the sideline with 7 players during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Spurs try to hem Newcastle on the sideline with 7 players.

The issue for Spurs was that when Newcastle could switch the ball quickly to the other side then they had the ability to take advantage of the resulting space. It was this ploy that saw the Magpies back on level terms.

Newcastle initially begun by attacking down their left. Straight from a throw-in they were able to avoid the pressure and move the ball to Matt Ritchie on the right. In the process of the switch, Dele Alli was sucked out towards Jonjo Shelvey. As a result, Ben Davies was left one-against-one with Matt Ritchie.

Dele drawn out as Spurs try to slide over during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Dele drawn out as Spurs try to slide over.

Ritchie immediately cut back on his favoured left foot and whipped in a wicked cross before Davies could get back to him. In the centre, Davinson Sanchez had let Joselu run off the back of him. A gaping hole was therefore now evident between Sanchez and Aurier. The full back didn’t tuck in to get close to his centre back with the ball on the other side.

Joselu runs off Sanchez to score during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Joselu runs off Sanchez to score.

Joselu had the freedom of the penalty area to nod home and tie the score back up at Newcastle 1-1 Tottenham.

Spurs back in front

Seeing the early lead wiped out, Tottenham were quickly back in front. Once more the space in the wide areas caused by narrow defending teams was exploited.

Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen had a fascinating dovetailing of positions going on. Eriksen started as the wide forward in and Dele as the outside man of the three central midfielders. However, both players made moves to pop up in unexpected places. Eriksen constantly drifted into the centre, allowing Dele to assume the wide forward role.

The intertwining of the pair lead to Tottenham taking the lead. Eriksen had drifted centrally and with Newcastle so narrow, Dele was afforded space out wide.

Dele jets in to space out wide with Newcastle narrow and Eriksen central during Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.

Dele jets in to space out wide with Newcastle narrow and Eriksen central.

Eriksen was repelled, but Serge Aurier was first to the loose ball. Aurier swung in a peach of a delivery for Dele arriving at the back post to head home. The unfortunate DeAndre Yedlin was caught narrow, concerned by the presence of Harry Kane.

Dele’s run in to the space where Eriksen originally was caught the Magpies off guard. His goal made it Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham as we took the lead for the second time.

Newcastle attack the right back

Down by a goal, Newcastle made a concerted effort to attack down our right side. Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko were often on different wavelengths as they frequently allowed space to Kenedy and Paul Dummett.

Mo Diame burst in and rung a shot off the outside of the post to cause us a major scare. Kenedy then had Newcastle’s best chance of the match with Aurier caught narrow and not paying attention.

Kenedy steals in as Aurier is caught central during Newcastle 1-2 Totenham.

Kenedy steals in as Aurier is caught central.

The Brazillian swept in with acres of space to move in to. However, a poor first touch allowed Hugo Lloris to scamper from his line and block any shooting opportunity.

The biggest scare came from Salomon Rondon. Rafael Benitez had brought new signing Yoshinori Muto on to attack the space Aurier was leaving. He combined with Jonjo Shelvey to find Rondon’s run off our other full back, Ben Davies.

Rondon shrugged off Davies before unleashing his shot. However, Jan Vertonghen arrived from nowhere to block the Venezuelan’s effort. The ball squibbed up on to the bar and bounced back out for Sanchez to clear.

Spurs had survived the scares with a gutsy effort to run out winners. Three vital points in the bag as it finished Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham at St. James’ Park.

Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham overall

A tremendous effort from a number of the players, several of which had just returned after a World Cup break.

As in preseason, the new 4-3-3 formation was once more susceptible to teams that can quickly switch the ball wide and then cross. That didn’t change here as we once more concede from a ball in from the flank. It is something to keep an eye on as fitness improves, as does opponent’s tactical intelligence of our system.

Whether Pochettino makes tweaks to ensure the full backs aren’t so isolated in the defensive phase is also something to watch. Serge Aurier had a good game going forward, but a very mixed bag defensively. Ben Davies was better than Aurier, but his vulnerability to speedy opponents was also flagged up here.

Overall, an excellent three points with half the team running on empty near the end.

Final score: Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham.
MOTM: Jan Vertonghen.

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23 Responses to Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham: battle of the flanks

  1. Carrigbawn 11th August 2018 at 7:18 pm #

    Aurier had an awful game defensively. He seems to have no positional awareness at all. He constantly left acres of empty space down Newcastle’s left hand side for them to run into. Newcastle’s finishing let them down fortunately for us. Can’t wait for Trippier to return.
    Personally I’d play with 3 at the back (Alderweireld, Sanchez & Vertonghan) and two wing backs (Trippier & Rose, or KWP). We’ve done well with that system before.

    Playing 3 at the back and 2 wing backs means no place for Sissoko. Thank God! He tries hard, but his first touch is awful and his passing ability is not much better.

    Lucas Moura is so, so, lightweight . He’s a bloody fairy!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th August 2018 at 7:30 pm #

      Aurier’s crossing has improved but his positional sense sadly hasn’t. Trippier’s return can’t come soon enough!

      Three at the back would’ve been very useful against a team playing with two strikers like Newcastle. Also would’ve given us width against their narrow setup. Hopefully we’ll see a move back to it more often as more players regain their fitness.

  2. Andy B 11th August 2018 at 8:12 pm #

    Great write up.

    I personally cannot understand why Sissoko and Aurier are still at the club, let alone actually playing.

    Surely Alderweireld, who can easily play right back would have been a better option than Aurier. Kyle Walker Peters is also a far more reliable option than Aurier.

    I really hope that Spurs manage to keep Alderweireld and that he gets in the team soon, either in a back 3, or instead of Sanchez, who has done great, but is not at the world class level of Alderweireld.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th August 2018 at 11:01 am #

      Sissoko will be out of the line-up once everyone returns to full fitness. It was surprising that of the players that were the least effective – Sissoko, Aurier, Moura, Kane – three of them had a full preseason. Kane’s circumstances are entirely understandable. I was surprised having only just returned to training and had another kid this week that he wasn’t given the game off as he must’ve been shattered.

      Alderweireld’s case is a curious one. Our window has shut but the European one is still open. It leaves us in limbo. If all windows were closed then we could play him so that prospective buyers can see he’s 100% for a sale in January. If he avoids injury again then it will justify the £50 million price tag and he helps our team in the process, maybe he even signs a new deal and stays. The problem is that with the European window open, if he plays and breaks down again then we are in a difficult situation as potential buyers will back off, much as they have done with Rose, as they’ll take a punt on Toby on a free rather than pay the transfer fee now. Tricky situation.

      • Andy B 12th August 2018 at 12:52 pm #

        Yes I agree that when Winks and Dembele play, they should keep Sissoko out of the team.

        It is a tricky situation with Alderweireld. You could also argue that if he doesn’t get to play, he is more likely to want to leave.

        I personally think it would be madness for Spurs to sell their best player in August, when it is too late to bring in a replacement. Cameron Carter Vickers isn’t at the level to replace him. Foyth has potential, but is not at that level yet. Dier is not at that level and is needed in defensive midfield (particulalry with Wanyama injured).

        I think that Alderweireld should have played instead of Aurier. Either Alderweireld could have played at right back, or Sanchez could have played as right back with Alderweireld partnering Vertonghen in central defence.

        Sissoko, Aurier and Llorente should all have been sold and replaced with decent players, in this transfer window. Spurs also should have bought cover for Eriksen.

        I don’t buy into the nonsense that Spurs players are difficult to improve on. There is more to it, than the first 11 players. It is about the whole squad and currently it does not have sufficient quality in depth, to challenge for the premier league title.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th August 2018 at 11:28 pm #

          I do agree with you in improving the squad. My one guess from this transfer window debacle is that Poch has to sell before he can buy. Therefore the issue was that these players were up for sale, but were very difficult to find interested teams at the right price. Consequently none of them could be shifted which, unfortunately, doesn’t create funds or free up an overseas player squad place.

          • Andy B 13th August 2018 at 12:44 am #

            What happened to all the TV money? Has it all been spent on the stadium and training lodge?

            I don’t think Aurier was even put up for sale. Sissoko and Llorente should be got rid of, on the cheap. What club is going to pay big money for them?

            N’koudou and Janssen also need to be shifted out.

            There are too many flops still at the club.

            • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th August 2018 at 10:01 pm #

              The TV money has all gone on the stadium, which is way way over budget, the lodge and all those increased contracts that keep on being signed by players that many say will leave because we are supposedly showing no ambition. Not having a stadium sponsor has left a huge hole in the accounts. Levy can’t give it away, which is what HSBC wanted, but he also needs a deal done soon. What it boils down to is that Poch has to sell before he can buy. Funds need to be raised before they can be spent. That’s why Levy can’t offload the deadwood on the cheap as there won’t be much to spend.

          • YouShubes 14th August 2018 at 3:24 pm #

            There are at least 4 foreign players who I bet we would be eager to shift… I think the window closing early has made it difficult for us esp if we wanted to shift them abroad as now we may have to shit from for far less than we would have wanted…

            Even if we shift Janssen to Turkey, there is still GKN, Nando and Sissokho… HSBC trying to buy on the cheap, having worked for them I know that play all too well.

            This stadium… we have to be careful it does not become a millstone around around our neck…

            Have to say I don’t like this 433 as it currently is prefer to be plan D behind the 352

            I think Moura fluffed his lines a wee bit, but I think if we can do what England looked to do albeit with better players we could really make it work…

            Wonder if we do start Trippier we see a return of the love train at corners for us

  3. Brian 11th August 2018 at 11:49 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Once again,me old mate,an excellent summing up of the game.Have to agree with the rest of the comments about Aurier,some of his positional sensThe least said about Sissoko the better..Meanwhile Sanchez was caught sleeping for Newcastles equaliser,and should have been prevented..Plus I thoght some of Diers passing was not up too scratch.But enought of the negativity stuff.The boys had to dig in late on. And i thoght they deserved the win all round.,

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th August 2018 at 11:09 am #

      Hi Brian, spot on observations. A number of our players were at early preseason friendly level of fitness given they were coming back from the World Cup. Dier going down with cramp highlighted that, something that wouldn’t happen given the amount of fitness work Poch does given a full preseason. Its encouraging that we are going to improve.

      The jury is still out on the 4-3-3 formation for me. However, given some tweaks and once all the players are up to speed with it – i’m not sure how much work the world cup boys have done on the system – then I think it’ll become a viable option to 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1. A plan C if you will.

  4. Toby4eva 12th August 2018 at 12:03 pm #

    Great start to the season Mark!

    The lads as well!


    The big change under Pochettino is that we can go to the north, get a lead – and hold it.

    That never, ever seemed to happen five plus years ago.

    There were some positives here, none better than the sublime Aurier (talk about glass half-full!) first-time cross onto a geometrically brilliant Dele forehead.

    That – put simply – was a beautiful goal.

    And great to see the technology on our side prior for Jan’s first goal since God wore shorts.

    I can choose from a wide array of alternative adjectives there.

    But the lads dug very deep when the Toon Army got well behind their lads in the second stanza.

    Yes we got a bit lucky, but we earned the win.

    Massive there points.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th August 2018 at 11:14 pm #

      A very good start indeed. Aurier’s cross was sublime and after his two crosses for goals in preseason, it’s the one part of his game that has improved!

      Dele’s finish to combine the timing of the run with the header was brilliant. I’m expecting big things from him this season. Spurs fans know that he was great last season, especially with his assists, but in spite of this I think he wants to show the wider world that their criticism isn’t warranted.
      It’s great to be back! Looking forward to the Fulham game already!

  5. Erik Zen 12th August 2018 at 12:42 pm #

    Hello all and here we go on another rollercoaster! Phewf not sure I can handle the stress.

    Thanks Mark for your impeccable analysis as always and to Toby4eva for the geometrically brilliant Dele forehead. Will your handle change if the unthinkable finally happens?

    So sad to see Tobes on the sideline. Will it never end?

    It was a soul sapping second half but tremendous resilience to hang on.

    Let’s just mention Lloris, World Cup winning captain, who pulled off two or three stunning stops and was an utterly commanding presence throughout. MOTM for me, love that man!

    Let’s be patient, lots of people coming back and I’m sure Moura will eventually find his Moujo.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th August 2018 at 11:20 pm #

      Moujo – love it! After his excellent preseason I was expecting a big game from him, but it just never happened. Always seemed to be on the periphery. We’ll see what he’s made of if he rebounds against Fulham. It’s a big chance for Moura to establish himself with Son away!

      Hugo was excellent. He’s another, along with Dele, that I’m expecting to take it up a level this season after being heavily criticised last term.

  6. Toby4eva 13th August 2018 at 7:02 am #

    Hi Erik

    Yes I’m struggling with the Alderweireld saga – a real shame because we all now what a vital player he is for us.

    I’d love to see him back on the right side of an imperious back three – but it appears that “when you cross the Poch boss it’s your loss” – as many have found in past years…

    And I suppose Erik11eva is already taken…


    Very glad that Dele took his protractor to Ibiza after the World Cup.


  7. Toby4eva 13th August 2018 at 12:31 pm #

    Here’s a good one.

    Was just discussing Sissoko with a mate and I suggested that he was rubbish.

    Sissoko of course – not my mate.

    Quick as a flash he opined thus…

    “Mate he’s a commercial rubbish dump!”.

    Loved it.


  8. Toby4eva 13th August 2018 at 12:34 pm #

    “Commercial WASTE Dump” rather.

    That went well…


  9. Erik Zen 13th August 2018 at 2:33 pm #

    Have to say I’m one of the Sissoko apologists.

    I think his attitude has always been top notch and he does a good job for the team, constantly hoving his large frame around and hounding the other lot.

    I just find something about the lumbering lug rather endearing!

  10. Toby4eva 13th August 2018 at 3:09 pm #

    Nup – cant buy that one sorry Erik.

    Goes to show how well we did last year playing away from the Lane with 10 players on the park for most games…


    • Andy B 13th August 2018 at 6:20 pm #

      I often think that having Sissoko in the team is worst than playing with 10 players, because he just gets in the way.

      I think the team would be better off playing with 10 players, than playing with 11, including Sissoko.

  11. Toby4eva 13th August 2018 at 11:50 pm #

    Love it Andy!



    What a plonker.

    Sissoko – not you.

    Glad the boss gave Amos a taste, maybe Skipp next?

    Amos looked over-awed and under-sized, but as you infer, the kids couldn’t possibly do any worse than the big oaf.

    Nort exactly sure that it’s a nailed on strategy for success in the most competitive league on the planet though….


    • Andy B 14th August 2018 at 1:32 pm #

      I agree that the kids couldn’t be any worse than Sissoko, but I don’t think they are ready to play against the top teams in the premier league. They played well in pre-season against other B teams, but came unstuck against the first team of Girona, although it was very hot and they had flown all the way from USA.

      Amos is 4 years older than Skipp, with far more experience. He is not really a kid anymore. It makes sense for Pochettino to give him some minutes here and there, to see how he copes and to bring him in gradually.

      Skipp is a fast developer and for a 17 year old, looks a fantastic prospect. I hope that he will be a great player for us, in a couple of years. Maybe give him some minutes in the cup games.

      I really hope that Foyth gets to play more this season. It was really bad timing that he got injured pre-season and missed all those games.