Incisive vertical passing sees us take three Premier League points at St. James’s Park as it finishes Newcastle 1-3 Spurs.
After two flat performances against Burnley and Aston Villa, Mauricio Pochettino made some changes that had a big impact on this game. Paulinho and Erik Lamela came in and it was these two that provided a more physical and aggressive form of ball recovery that helped us spring forward.
Paulinho and Lamela
The main talking points of this match will be elsewhere. Newcastle’s fan protests, Harry Kane reaching 30 goals for the season, Christian Eriksen’s free kick with a host of players offside and Nacer Chadli’s driven effort giving him two in two visits to St. James’s Park. However, what ran throughout this match was the work of Paulinho and Erik Lamela.
The pair were brought in to the starting line-up and provided a more aggressive and physical style of ball recovery. Mauricio Pochettino wanted to control possession against a low on confidence Newcastle side and to stop them crossing from the left. Under John Carver, the Magpies like to get the ball to Remy Cabella down this side to get service in to the box. Lamela’s defensive contribution and work rate helped stand-in right back Eric Dier counter this threat, whilst the inclusion of Fazio got an increased aerial presence in to the back line.
Whilst Lamela was good at regaining the ball, his contribution on it was less spectacular. He committed the most turnovers of any Spurs player and often ran in to trouble.
On the other hand Paulinho was a big influence on both sides of the ball. The Brazilian was constantly buzzing around it in order to win possession back, but was then trying to get it forward. He was often looking for the runs of Harry Kane in-behind and twice tried to loop the ball over the top for him, only for the striker to be caught offside.
It was a much more aggressive Paulinho both with and without the ball. He seemed to be more at home playing as a number eight in the formation than he was when deployed further forward against Burnley. His passes in to the final third showed just how he was trying to get the ball forward for others, including the two offside passes to Kane.
It was this ball recovery and forward passing that saw us take the lead. Paulinho won the ball back in central midfield off Yoan Gouffran and knocked it to Christian Eriksen.
Not content to admire his work, Paulinho then moved forward and got the return back from the Dane. He fed it in to Nacer Chadli who drove on and unleashed a rasping shot in to the corner of Tim Krul’s net.
Getting the ball quickly up the pitch after a turnover made the goal and that was how we would score all three on the afternoon. This one was against the strong part of Newcastle’s defence and they should’ve stopped it. They were trying to keep us out of the middle by playing a central midfield three. With Chadli and Lamela constantly drifting inside we were also narrow and playing in to their hands. The goal came about as the Magpies simply backed off when they had the numbers in here to deal with the threat.
Newcastle vertical restart
After our goal, the first half continued to meander to its conclusion. Newcastle were content to play on the counter. We were operating too narrow and struggling to get in-behind them. All of that changed at the start of the second half as John Carver made two changes that removed one from his central midfield three and got his side further up the pitch.
It paid off within 21 seconds as the Magpies equalised through some ball recovery and swift vertical passing of their own. They were also aided by us still being in the dressing room.
Right from the kick-off the ball was sent forward towards Danny Rose. It was won back and Nacer Chadli tried to run it clear for some crazy reason, opting to try and dribble past Daryl Janmaat. The Dutchman stripped him of the ball and darted inside where both Nabil Bentaleb and Paulinho offered no resistance whatsoever. Janmaat then picked out a vertical pass for Ayoze Perez, who was coming back from an offside position. Replays showed Perez was still offside, but coming towards the ball saw him get the benefit of the doubt. He’d also slipped by Jan Vertonghen who was caught staring at the ball.
Now in-behind, our backline all got sucked in towards the ball carrier and whilst four were challenging Perez, two then blocked Janmaat’s shot, leaving three Newcastle players over. One of these was eventual goalscorer Jack Colback.
Just like their quick goal in Spurs 1 Newcastle 2 at the restart at the Lane, the ball here was sent quickly forward. Aided by some naive and lazy defending, the Magpies were level.
Spurs vertical passing pays off
We’d looked in the keys to Newcastle vs Spurs at how teams that have beaten the Magpies at St. James’s Park have got the ball forward quickly. We’d done that on our opener, but in making it Newcastle 1-3 Spurs we did it more ruthlessly on our next two goals.
Our second may have come from a free kick, but the move to get Eriksen in to a position whereby he was breaking forward and fouled highlighted two things. The first was our efficient forward ball movement. Danny Rose won it back in the corner and immediately glided it over four pressing Newcastle players to Christian Eriksen. This took these four out of the game and got us out on the run.
Eriksen then passed forward in to Harry Kane who was tirelessly working out towards the wings all afternoon. The Dane didn’t admire his pass and immediately burst forward past Kane to receive a lobbed return.
He nodded it forward and we were out on the break. Jetting in-behind Newcastle’s high back line highlighted the second contributing factor to this game opening up. The Magpies were really trying to squeeze up the field in an attempt to get forward and compress the playing area in to our half. This left them vulnerable to swift attacks.
Colback fouled Eriksen as he attempted to go beyond him, earning a free kick. His set piece was whipped in and with three players in an offside position, Tim Krul was frozen like a rabbit in the headlights. Before he knew it, the ball had curled in to the corner of the net and we were back in front.
After going 2-1 up, Newcastle continued to play with a high line and our vertical passing got us in to good scoring positions. Nacer Chadli was released in to the clear and put in a peach of a cross that Nabil Bentaleb headed just over.
Next, Bentaleb turned provider with an exquisite reverse pass that cut Newcastle’s defence in two, releasing Erik Lamela in-behind them. The Argentinean tried to chip the ball over the on-rushing Tim Krul, but saw his shot saved.
With 90 minutes on the clock and Newcastle pressing for an equaliser, we put the game to bed. Once more it came from quick vertical movement and passing as we broke from our own box.
Newcastle had tried to work a crossing situation, but Sammy Ameobi saw his attempt cleared for a throw-in. The Magpies then worked the ball to Remy Cabella, who had put in a number of decent deliveries, to cross again. This time Ryan Mason was first to it and headed down for Erik Lamela to race out. The Argentinean shot forward with the ball at his feet and with three against one, released Harry Kane in to the clear.
Newcastle were caught high and Kane romped in to the acres of green space behind them before calmly slotting past Tim Krul to seal the three points and make it Newcastle 1-3 Spurs.
The goal was testament to our breakout speed and incisive vertical passing, which had been a factor all afternoon. Lamela and Paulinho, who had both worked tirelessly without the ball to regain it, each had an assist to show for their work.
Newcastle 1-3 Spurs overall
After two sluggish performances, the energy, effort and application was much better here. Recalling Lamela and Paulinho played a part with both proving effective at winning the ball back to give us control of possession.
Lamela was decidedly worse when on the ball, often giving it away. After his horrific display at Burnley, Paulinho was rightly voted man of the match. He was a constant presence around the ball and then looked to get it forward when he had it. But for some better-timed runs, he would’ve put Kane in on goal twice.
Overall, it’s difficult to say we are back to the levels we saw just a few months ago as Newcastle were so poor. The manner of the performance was promising, especially with a much better side in Southampton to come next weekend. It was still in the category of pulling out a result when not playing at our best though. After the lacklustre Burnley and Aston Villa matches, there were signs that we have at least turned a corner.
Final score: Newcastle 1-3 Spurs.