Newcastle 2 Spurs 1: Tottenham dominate but are undone by Ben Arfa

Newcastle 2 Spurs 1

Our first Premier League match of the season and for Andre Villas-Boas and the boys, the performance turned out better than the result, which finished Newcastle 2 Spurs 1.

Spurs played much the better football, but Newcastle profited from two defensive lapses and proved the old saying that you are most vulnerable when you’ve just scored.

Hatem Ben Arfa was a constant thorn in the Spurs side all day, with his movement and trickery proving to be the difference.

Formation and attack sides

Spurs went with a 4-2-3-1 pairing Sandro at the base of the midfield with Jake Livermore. The two combined well defensively, but offered very little going forward. There seemed to be a gap between them and the attacking three of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, causing the attack to be less fluid in the build-up.

The average position of Livermore and Sandro can be seen to be quite deep compared to the four more attacking players, leaving a big gap.


Sandro (30) and Livermore (29) offered little link to the front four.

This space seemed to be better filled by Rafael van der Vaart when he came on for Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Dutchman sat slightly deeper, linking the play with the Sandro and Livermore, whilst looking for through-balls to the attackers. With him filling the space in the image above and becoming the link man, it was no surprise that we equalised eight minutes after his introduction.


van der Vaart sat in the space left vacant before his arrival.

Sandro won’t be in the midfield with Jake Livermore every week, as Scott Parker will be returning in a month or so. After learning that we can’t play two defensively minded players last season when Sandro partnered Parker on several occasions, maybe Andre Villas-Boas will look at a more attacking link option?

A Luka Modric style playmaker would be ideal, but he used Jermaine Jenas in pre-season and also has the options of Tom Huddlestone or dropping Gylfi Sigurdsson deeper.

Newcastle 2 Spurs 1 chances created

Despite the slight imbalance between the defensive and attacking midfielders, Spurs created by far the better chances, hitting both the post and bar in the first half.

Tottenham created eleven chances in the match according to Stats Zone, whereas Newcastle just two! We also out-shot them by 15 to 7 as Spurs looked to have control of the game.

Interestingly enough, the majority our efforts came from the left side of the penalty area. The goal however, was created on the left by Aaron Lennon, but scored on the right by Jermain Defoe after the ball bounced back off the post.


Newcastle 2 Spurs 1, Tottenham needed to get more on target.

We hit the woodwork three times; hopefully we don’t become the Liverpool of this season, picking out the frame of the goal almost as many times as we hit the net.

Spurs Press

The fabled Andre Villas-Boas high line and press was much talked about last season and how Spurs would deal with it was highly anticipated.

In pre-season we had some troubles – most notably against the New York Red Bulls, when Jan Vertonghen pulled down Tim Cahill for a penalty after a ball over the top.

However, here we seemed to cope quite well. The press was in operation, but due to the hot weather and the team still not 100% match fit, meant it wasn’t as fierce as it will probably be in weeks to come.

We managed to create 13 interceptions in the game, but rarely were we able to force turnovers in the Newcastle half. When we did win the ball back from pressing, it was out wide in the full back positions.

This was also highlighted by the first Newcastle goal that got through and initial press by the attackers and then through Sandro and Livermore pushing up as well.


Spurs did press, but the heat and a lack of match fitness slowed it down.

Newcastle‘s first goal evades the press

In the 5 keys to Newcastle vs Spurs preview, we saw how Newcastle soaked up play looking to spring in to attack. The game turned out like this with 32% of play in the Newcastle final third to 24% in Tottenham’s.

Newcastle took the lead this way, as they worked the ball from back to front through our pressing play, to isolate Demba Ba at the far post with Kyle Walker. The right-back’s miss-timed jump causing him to head straight up in the air and Demba Ba was able to curl a right-footed shot in to the corner.

Newcastle force long balls

Spurs’ need for a striker has been well documented and Newcastle used Jermaine Defoe’s lack of height against us by forcing the back four to play a lot of long balls. As highlighted in the 5 keys to Newcastle vs Spurs, the Magpies play a bridge press whereby the front four of Ba, Cisse, Cabaye and Ben Arfa press. Then there is a bridge or gap to the six players behind who perform defensive functions.

Newcastle used this to hurry and force our defenders in to a number of long balls aimed downfield, which Jermain Defoe could not win with his height.


Newcastle pressing our defence lead to a number of long balls being played that we didn’t win.

Spurs stop Yohan Cabaye’s through balls

Another point we looked at in our 5 keys to the game was Yohan Cabaye and his through balls for Papiss Demba Cisse. This was a feature of the Senegalese striker’s scoring spree last season, but Spurs stopped this happening all afternoon.

Cabaye looked a little off the pace, having played only 20 minutes since appearing for France at Euro 2012, but all of his through-ball attempts were stopped.


Yohan Cabaye couldn’t complete his through-balls.

Hatem Ben Arfa proves decisive

Hatem Ben Arfa was the one player who proved a thorn in the Spurs side all match. The Frenchman’s dribbling was the highlight of his game and he completed five of his ten dribbles, but was fouled on numerous occasions.

His mazy runs got both Sandro and Jake Livermore booked, whilst driving past Lennon and van der Vaart won him the penalty after being tripped.


Hatem Ben Arfa was looking to skip past our players all day and his persistence paid off by winning the decisive penalty.

After being fouled, he got up to slot home the resulting spot-kick and bag the points to make the final score Newcastle 2 Spurs 1.

Newcastle 2 Spurs 1 Conclusion

All in all there were many positives to be taken from the Spurs performance. The team played well, created the better chances, whilst limiting Newcastle’s opportunities.

The Magpies didn’t deserve to take all three points, but Spurs have a few questions to be answered about the team selection and formation after their first 90 minutes.

The need for a bigger front man was highlighted, but also can we continue with Sandro and Livermore at the base of the midfield against the Baggies next weekend?

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3 Responses to Newcastle 2 Spurs 1: Tottenham dominate but are undone by Ben Arfa

  1. Boss Man 20th August 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Very good analysis. It was a good performance from the lads, we deserved something from the game. The game highlited to main things for me. First being the obivious, we need a striker asap, hopefully well get Adebayor in soon. Secondly, I think AVB experimented having Livermoore alongside Sandro because he thought he could be an enforser aswell as a distributor on the attacking end. Jake’s distribution is too limited at this point though. I think we should try Gylfi in the deeper center mid position with VDV as an attacking mid, with this creativity wed be able to cut teams open, wih still Sandro to be an enforser. If not this then i’d like to see Tom Huddlestone play along side Sandro, his incredible range of passing could prove very useful.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th August 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      I’ll be looking to see how we line-up against West Brom and if AVB makes any changes in this area. Huddlestone being left out of the squad was interesting, apparently he was injured, but time will tell whether he is in AVB’s plans.

  2. AVB is my GOD 21st August 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    AVB was right we proved we were the superior team, who cares about the score? That doesnt really matter does it? Who needs the points anyway……….

    If that happens every week I think it will be a good season for us.