Newcastle 5-1 Spurs: unable to handle right-sided raids

The Magpies overload their right side as our last Premier League match finishes Newcastle 5-1 Spurs but deeper problems are exposed.

Embarrassing, shambolic and disastrous are just three words that sum up this performance. The effort and energy that have been the hallmarks of our season deserted us as we succumbed to Newcastle’s raids down their right side. Four goals were the result of attacks down this flank, as a day to forget finished Newcastle 5-1 Spurs at St. James’ Park.

Running in to Benitez’s shape

The first half started with us running in to Rafael Benitez’s formation, which was set up to head us off through the centre.

Benitez is well known for his deep-lying set up and counter-attacking football. We ran right in to it here. The Spaniard had Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote screening their back four, with the whole formation tucking in and playing narrow. Colback and Tiote have been industrious and real grafters in Newcastle’s unbeaten streak and they were so again here. They hoovered up balls in the middle of the park as we didn’t get it wide often enough.


Newcsatle recovered the ball from our attacks through the middle.

Lamela, Son and Eriksen, as they usually do, drifted centrally but the clues to get play in to wide areas quicker were there for us. We’d looked at the Magpies’ vulnerability in the left back zone Newcastle vs Spurs match preview and this is where the gaps were. Early on and Lamela picked the ball up centrally, but failed to find Kyle Walker streaking in to the open space where left back Paul Dummett should’ve been.


Walker wide open with Dummett caught in.

Later in the half and Harry Kane drew Dummett in, releasing Christian Eriksen down the outside. However, Eriksen could only fire straight at Kyle Darlow covering his near post.

These were rare moments of chance creation. The rest of the half saw us continually run in to Tiote and Colback.

Newcastle right-sided raids

Once Newcastle had won the ball back they, in typical Benitez fashion, hit with quick counter attacks. These were from getting the ball out to Andros Townsend on the right, where Newcastle simply overloaded us. Mousa Sissoko would drift across to aid Townsend and Daryl Janmaat would overlap, creating 3v2 situations as we couldn’t cope.

Once the ball had been worked out here, Newcastle would look to cross for Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksander Mitrovic in the centre.

An early example saw Townsend and Sissoko combine to release Janmaat down the outside. His cross saw Toby Alderweireld slide in with Mitrovic to hinder the Serbian just enough to stop him making contact.


Overload on our right with Townsend, Sissoko and Janmaat to cross.

Alderweireld played this one well, but in the next attack, he didn’t. To be fair, his flick-on header, when he should’ve sent the ball back to where it came from, wasn’t the worst offence. That came from Christian Eriksen dawdling on the ball at the halfway line and being shrugged off it by Mitrovic.

The play went to predictably to the right, then the left, before going back to the right again for Janmaat to cross once more. His ball in was flicked on by Alderweireld when it should’ve been sent out. It ended up at the feet of Sissoko who passed it square to Mitrovic to lay it off for Wijnaldum to score. The Dutchman had sprinted in past the ambling Heung-Min Son and Erik Lamela.


Wijnaldum bursts past Lamela and Son.

You would’ve though that going a goal down in a game that we needed at least a point from would prompt a reaction? But it didn’t. The sluggish tempo, players being caught ambling on the ball and still trying to force a way through the centre continued.

Newcastle then added a second as their quick breaks and moving the ball to the right side paid off again. Andros Townsend skipped past Ben Davies, who struggled to get to grips with marking the former Spurs player, before finding Sissoko overloading once more.


Townsend finds Sissoko to cross.

Ben Davies being skinned had mean that Jan Vertonghen was pulled out to try and close Sissoko. Alderweireld was left in no man’s land, half marking Wijnaldum, who had been picked up by Eric Dier. This left Mitrovic running in free as Kyle Walker tried to get back, having spotted the danger.

Sissoko’s cross was straight on to the forehead of Mitrovic, who powered the header past the helpless Hugo Lloris. Two goals down and both from right-sided overloads and crosses.

Half time switches

After a dire first half, Mauricio Pochettino made two changes. Off went Ryan Mason and Son Heung-Min to be replaced by Tom Carroll and Josh Onomah.

The move was a like-for-like replacement, but Carroll played with much more energy and tempo than Mason. His going in for a 50-50 started the move the got us back to 2-1. His challenge caused the ball to squirm loose and as it ran to Cheick Tiote, Christian Eriksen closed the Newcastle man down, stripped the ball and got it moving quickly to Harry Kane.

The speed of the attack had Newcastle off balance and committed in midfield with men now out of the game. These quick transitions from a midfield turnover have been the hallmarks of our season and we were off on the break once again. The ball went out to Eriksen, back in to Eric Dier and then to Erik Lamela as the vacant Newcastle full back area was now exposed.


Dier finds Lamela in the vacant full back zone.

Lamela drove a shot in at the near post that keeper Karl Darlow stooped under, got too low and could only palm up in to the top of the net, 2-1.

Red mist descends

The game was now beginning to swing. Momentum was with us and we were starting to gain control.

That all changed as the red mist descended, but it wasn’t just for Newcsatle, but for both teams. Aleksander Mitrovic was sent off for a horrendous tackle on Kyle Walker, but our judgement was also clouded. With the man advantage, we chased the game far too eagerly, massively over committing men forward, which gifted them counter-attack opportunities.

The situation wasn’t helped by Mauricio Pochettino’s elaborate change of formation. This was maybe another example of clouded judgement and impetuousness with a good 30 minutes still to go. However, it was a bold move and one I have to applaud him for it. I have criticised his lack of formational flexibility in match situations on this blog this season. Maybe removing Kyle Walker for Nacer Chadli and going with a back three was a bit extreme, but at least he was prepared to change tact.

The move was shot in the foot just 2 minutes after the switch. It also highlighted the removal of our right back as Newcastle broke where Walker would’ve been and Jan Vertonghen sold himself by lunging in. He didn’t need to and it allowed Mousa Sissoko to break free and head for the penalty area. Once he made it there, Sissoko threw himself to the floor, winning a penalty.

Maybe it was a make-up call by the referee or he was just simply conned, but it killed the game as we lost our shape and positional discipline afterwards. Newcastle sat back in a compact and narrow shape, using the speed of Mousa Sissoko and Andros Townsend on the break.

Newcastle had at least three counter attack opportunities which led to good scoring chances, the best being Sissoko’s 1v1 that was thwarted by Hugo Lloris narrowing the angle.

The save by Lloris led to Newcastle’s fourth going in from the resulting corner. It was taken short as they got quickly at our defence before we were properly organised. Andros Townsend hit the post, but the ball was recovered and Janmaat swung another cross in from the right.


Janmaat puts in another cross from the right.

Rolando Aarons, who was also brought in to the game for his counter attacking speed by Benitez, ghosted through the lines of our midfield and back four to lash home.

The game was well and truly up by this point, but another sloppy pass and Newcastle raiding down their right added a fifth.

This time it was Josh Onomah with the loose pass, as he tried to square the ball across Newcastle’s central blocking trio of Shelvey (who was on for Tiote), Colback and Aarons.


Josh Onomah with an ill-advised pass.

Rolando Aarons jumped on the pass, sped forward and found the overlapping Janmaat down the right, completing what was a miserable afternoon.

Newcastle 5-1 Spurs overall

An absolutely  tragic way to finish what has been an excellent season. Remaining calm and composed in the heat of an adverse situation has been the undoing of our team in recent weeks. Yes we were without Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli, but their bans for petulant behaviour have highlighted our recent impetuousness on the field.

In this match, we played in to Newcastle’s strong centre and didn’t deal with their continual overloads down the right. Danny Rose would’ve surely coped with Sissoko and the trickery of Townsend better than Ben Davies did?

Without a match now until August, there isn’t the chance to put this performance to rest and work it out of the system. It will fester for a while. The only positive spin would be that it serves as motivation to improve and be better next season. A learning experience to chalk up alongside what happened against West Brom and Chelsea, so that we take the next step forward in developing the huge promise of this team.

Final score: Newcastle 5-1 Spurs.

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12 Responses to Newcastle 5-1 Spurs: unable to handle right-sided raids

  1. James Bailey 16th May 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    It hurts to relive this one, but another nice break down, Mark. How ironic that the best looking 15-16 Spur on the pitch was Townsend. If there is any positive to come from this late season implosion, it is to highlight that this squad is still a work in progress, particularly when our first 11 are not available for whatever reason. There is no disguising the need for mental toughness and quality depth. We need to be able to rotate everywhere next year, to keep guys both fresh and motivated. This will be a very interesting transfer window.

    We took a big step forward this season, but there is an equally large step yet to be taken.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th May 2016 at 11:29 pm #

      Great comment James. The squad depth really needs to be addressed. This season Poch has really only rotated the full backs, which shows how thin he thinks it is.

  2. chazza36 17th May 2016 at 10:39 am #

    The suspensions of Dembele and Alli had a MASSIVE effect on the team’s performances of the last couple of weeks. The squad has no-one that plays their type of game and/or is anywhere near their quality and I suspect Mason’s days are numbered after this week’s appalling lack of effort and energy. He left Dier high and dry, reducing him to an also-ran. (Oh, to have had Newcastle’s Shelvey as a replacement!).
    Replacing him with Carroll in DM is like sending the cat out to get the morning paper. Where the heck is Kevin Wimmer? I appreciate we went on the offensive but Poch weakened two defensive positions and it proved fatal.
    As James Bailey has said – an interesting transfer window coming up.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th May 2016 at 11:47 am #

      Dembele and Alli missing was huge for us. Hopefully they will both have learned something from being banned for moments of avoidable craziness. Squad depth is going to be key and i’m pretty sure Mitchell, MacKenzie and co have already identified a number of targets, quite a few of which won’t be identified beforehand in the media.

  3. Chris 17th May 2016 at 10:19 pm #

    Coincidence that our worst and slowest performances of the season (as far back as I can remember), came in two matches played in the middle of very warm, sunny days?

    As an intelligent football fan, I don’t actually hate Arsenal – they play good football and haven’t just bought their success, but what does bother me is that on Monday a guy at work who hadn’t mentioned football all season to me joined in a conversation to take a dig. I mean, wtf man, we’ve just had our best season in my lifetime while you’ve been pissed at your lack of success for ages, and yet he still feels he can take the high ground?

    I’d still rather be a Spurs fan, where we’re finishing 3rd when we should be 5-7th. Arsenal fans should be applauding 2nd, given they should be 3rd-4th, rather than fixating on us. It’s crazy.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th May 2016 at 11:33 am #

      It’s strange how this has brought a lot of closet Arsenal fans out of the woodwork. The ones that you had no idea were even Arsenal, or football fans, are the worst. Pathetic!

      Heat is a problem for our high-tempo style. Although the sun was out, the temperature at kick-off was only 14 degrees celsius (57F), so it shouldn’t have been a problem. Although, that huge cd rack like shadow across the pitch always looks bizarely hard to play in. Especially as Newcastle wear black and white, so the vast shaded areas almost provide a camouflage! I Would love to know how it looks from a player’s perspective at pitch level?

  4. brian 17th May 2016 at 11:39 pm #

    Anather excellent article Mark.As you have pointed out,we were caught on th counter attack,all credit too newcastle,for sussing it out.And yes i thought Ponchi got rather over ambitous,with his team changes.
    And in awnser to Chris, I have no hatered for the arse.And they have played some excellent foot ball under Wenger.But overall the majority of their fans,(not all mind you)Are an arrogant bunch.Far more arrogant than Man u fans.And yet Man u fans have alot more to be arroagant about,in all truthfulllness.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th May 2016 at 11:43 am #

      These counter atacking teams eg West Brom and Leicester, have caused us a lot of trouble over the last few seasons to be fair. We do need a plan to solve it. Fair play to Poch for trying the back three and introducing a higher positioned player. It was thinking outside the usual lob on another striker idea, but it just didn’t have time to work as it was caught out after just 2 mins of changing it.

      4-4-2 may be the answer, and maybe in a diamond formation rather than the traditional set up. Another option may be introducing 2 or 3 playmakers, although we’d need to source more and better types of this player as currently we really only have Eriksen then Carroll and potentially Pritchard. It does need to be solved though, as AVB, Redknapp and Ramos all struggled vs reactive counter-attacking teams. We have plenty of possession, but creating little in the way of good scoring chances.

  5. Kevin 18th May 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    I know it will be weird commenting here but as an arsenal fan I have to admit your game this season has been really good.There was a time I thought you guys were playing exactly what Arsenal was supposed to- what with the speed of your attacks,the high press and the sharp passing coupled with our oft-lethargic slow passing game that seemed to engulf us this season. You have a nice fearless young team playing fantastic football and one bad result should not put a blot on what has been a fantastic season. Pochettino is a good manager but I think one think he is overlooking is the influence of great game changers when it comes to some games. There are games when a team struggles and has yo bailed out by a moment if genius from a Messi,Aguero,Bale,Suarez,Ronaldo or dare I say Sanchez. When I look at this spurs team,its filled with good players but I can’t point out a game changer who can win the game when the team is playing badly. And all teams play badly once in a while,no matter how great they are. On the issue of we arsenal fans,yes I believe we have some of the most arrogant and spoilt fans in football. Just look at how we treat our own manager( I know he has his own failings) and you will understand what you are dealing with. However I happen to come from Kenya where the biggest hatred from arsenal fans is reserved for Man U and the chavs.
    All the best guys

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th May 2016 at 4:52 pm #

      Cheers Kevin. I think we do have a game changer in Harry Kane and also potentally Dele Alli if he continues to improve at the rate he has shown over this season, his first in the Premier League. I do know what you are trying to say though and it does have its merits.

      I also am concerned that Pochettino has never managed big names and big egos – he prefers to work with youth – so he may not be able to handle a Zlatan or player of similar ilk.

      Also, as Arsenal had when you were building the new stadium, I don’t think there will be the money to bring in a ‘star’ quality player like we had in Bale or any other player at that level that you’d care to mention. Levy is trying to balance the books, make up a £300m financing shortfall in stadium costs and was really bitten by the squandering of the Bale money. Paying so much for Soldado, Paulinho, Lamela etc has seen him reluctant to splash the cash again – just look at the recent Berahino saga.

      I think until the new stadium is finished we will be trying to recruit them young and grow star quality game changers (eg Kane, Dier, Alli) rather than buying the finished article.

  6. Kevin 18th May 2016 at 6:37 pm #

    Hi Mark. Your point is valid about the stadium. I think its fair to say you are at the stage Arsenal was around the construction of the Emirates. Am a big Wenger fan but I too believe that some of his decisions cost us during that period. Yes we had less to spend, but why spend it on Silvetre and the like? luckily for you ,pochettino seems to have avoided some of Wenger’s mistakes and I think you will be challenging for the title as you build your new ground. about him never having managed big players,I think with time,he will gain the respect of the big names if he can win some silverware. almost the same thing happened to Wenger in 1996- I remember reading about how the English core led by Tony Adams never trusting him the moment he walked in. That changed immediately after he proved to be a winner. My only worry for you is that inexperience comes with its cost in the game. the team and the manager are both relatively young and experience comes in handy as the season progresses-knowing when to hold onto a lead and when to attack etc

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th May 2016 at 3:09 pm #

      Yes we do have the benefit of being able to look at other teams that have been through building a stadium and the good and bad decisions that they took during that time. This gives us information to base our own choices on, so maybe we will be able to continue to challenge at the top of the table.