We dominated possession and the shot count, but failed to take advantage as Loic Remy stole in-behind our defence to make it Spurs 0 Newcastle 1.
This was a frustrating performance, partly due to our hesitancy with the ball, but also due to Newcastle’s stifling approach.
Tottenham set up and tactics
Andre Villas-Boas lined us up in a 4-3-3 formation but the most interesting part was it’s lopsided nature. Andros Townsend on the right was playing much higher up than Gylfi Sigurdsson on the left.
Both players were moving in to central areas, but at different phases in the attack. Townsend was starting wide to receive the ball and then moving inside with it in the final third. Sigurdsson was roaming in field looking for possession whilst the ball was much deeper, which condensed the space in this central area.
As a result, the play was going down the right much more than the left. Whereas Townsend’s movement with the ball allowed Kyle Walker to overlap and provide width, Sigurdsson’s didn’t permit Jan Vertonghen to do the same.
Our chances this season are being created via passes to a runner going through the defence who can then hit a short cross or cut back from inside the box. Townsend’s and Walker’s dovetailing with Christian Eriksen creating overloads allowed to us to do this down the right. Sigurdsson and Vertonghen’s lack of cohesion meant that very few chances were created in this manner from the left.
The problem was that whilst we were having some joy in fashioning opportunities in this way, Newcastle had set up in order to frustrate us down our right side.
Spurs fail to look left
Newcastle lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with a distinct game plan in both the attacking and defensive phases.
Without the ball, as teams have figured out against us this season, they were content to sit deep with two banks of four.
Other than on their goal, as they had overcommitted men forward from a previous move, Newcastle didn’t press the ball until it approached the halfway line.
Shola Ameobi and Loic Remy were more concerned with denying our centre backs from moving the ball out to our full backs yhan pressing them in possession. This meant that the two strikers held wider, deeper positions. This forced Moussa Dembele to come short to receive the ball centrally or our centre backs had to play longer diagonal passes out wide high through the air.
Newcastle also doubled up on Andros Townsend to prevent him from moving inside with the ball to fire his usually array of shots from just outside the area.
Yoan Gouffran and Davide Santon were teaming up on the England winger and were aided by Yohan Cabaye or Cheick Tiote coming over to help.
This saw Newcastle win the ball back on countless occasions in their left back zone.
The space for Spurs was down our left flank or through the inside left channel – an area in which Moussa Dembele usually executes his dribble-drives. But with the Belgian sat in the deeper holding role and Sigurdsson coming in field and not offering anything wide down the left, we didn’t exploit this.
When we were able to find a way through the Newcastle defence, we ran in to a keeper who was in red-hot form.
Tim Krul made a staggering 14 saves, the most by any goalkeeper in the Premier League this season.
The two finest were an amazing double save on the line from Younes Kaboul and hanging a leg out to deny Christian Eriksen when one-v-one. However, apart from these, Krul was very much aided by a distinct lack of finishing ability and too many shots that were within easy reach.
Pardew exposes the weakest link
When the team sheets came out, Alan Pardew must have put a big circle around Brad Friedel’s name.
With the American in goal and his tendency to stay back in his net, Newcastle were looking to attack the space between him and our back four.
Why our defence didn’t decide to drop 10 yards deeper without the speed and presence of Hugo Lloris I’m not sure, but the warning signs were there. After just ten minutes, Yohan Cabaye sent a peach of a pass through to Remy on the run.
Their goal came after pressure in our half caused by an over hit pass from Vlad Chiriches to Paulinho. This was one of the rare occasions that Newcastle brought bodies forward, but they had to do this to slow down our transition after having several of their players caught up field.
Yoan Gouffran picked out the Remy’s run this time, but as he stole the ball, both forwards were on the move looking to get in-behind.
Friedel stayed back on his line and Remy rounded him with ease to score, Spurs 0 Newcastle 1.
Looking for the runner in-behind was a successful tactic to beat AVB’s Chelsea side with the static Petr Cech in goal. Similarly, Newcastle were looking to expose Brad Friedel’s lack of movement and willingness to rush from his line.
Their passing in the final third highlighted their game plan to play longer through balls in to this space from midfield.
As did their number of offside passes.
In the end, with a goalkeeper in fine form, one was all they needed
Spurs 0 Newcastle 1 conclusions
Another frustrating game where we fired a massive 31 shots, but 17 of these were from outside the box. Newcastle had just 8 efforts, but 6 of these were from inside the area due to their game plan to hit the space between our back four and keeper.
Andre Villas-Boas’ verdict that “Tim Krul made the difference, he managed to keep Newcastle alive and take the win” was true, but we also have to continue look at our ability to finish off chances.
Rather than hit his shot first time before the defence and keeper could get set, Christian Eriksen’s hesitancy when clean through highlighted our lack of confidence in front of goal right now. Something that needs to be addressed during the international break, but unfortunately not many of the squad will be around.
A small silver lining for us rather than Roberto Soldado is that him missing out on the Spanish squad means he’ll avoid their two games in Africa. As for Christian Eriksen, his Denmark side only play on Friday night, giving him at least a full week with the squad. Small mercies.
Final score: Spurs 0 Newcastle 1.