Alan Pardew made a switch to get his match-ups right, whereas we failed to press home our openings from their right back zone, as it finishes Spurs 1 Newcastle 2.
It was a nostalgic day at White Hart Lane with a fitting tribute to Bill Nicholson on the tenth anniversary of his passing. The great man once said that his players “must never be satisfied with their last performance, and they must hate losing.” And that was the way we started.
We dominated the first half and we created openings through attacking the weak spot of their defence.
Attacking the Newcastle right back
The team started very much with the echo of the roar for Bill Nicholson in our sails. We were swiftly moving the ball and were looking to impose ourselves.
Whilst we were free-flowing, Newcastle were set up to frustrate. They were only engaging the ball at the halfway line and looking to play on the counter attack.
With our inverted wide forwards constantly drifting inside it made us extremely narrow and the width had to come from our full backs, Danny Rose and Eric Dier.
As we’ve seen from many opponents who have caused us trouble, Newcastle set up with bodies in the centre and look to congest this area.
Newcastle did this early in their 4-1-4-1 formation, as they sought to keep Erik Lamela dribbling through this zone on the run. But also Nacer Chadli, who we can see here surrounded by four Newcastle players.
This tactic to stifle our narrow formation is well known, with many opponents opting to do this against us.
The space, as we looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Newcastle prior to the game, was in the full back areas. Particularly in Daryl Janmaat’s right back zone. We’d looked at how the Dutchman is more of a wing back than a full back and how he can be caught out of position.
Janmaat’s positioning to play narrow meant that Danny Rose was the open attacking outlet for much of the first half.
After just a few minutes he was free on the edge of the box, choosing to shoot when he had Nacer Chadli and Emmanuel Adebayor at the back post for a cross.
Soon after he was in once again, as Janmaat was caught inside trying to play narrow and Gabriel Obertan forward.
Rose’s cross this time was cut out.
Not long after he was in once again, as Janmaat was once more inside and Obertan slow over on the cover.
Rose was looking the most likely source of a goal. Had Emmanuel Adebayor flicked this cross on or let it run, Rose would’ve been in with Janmaat again caught pinching in to the middle.
With so many warnings, it was no coincidence to see us take the lead through Janmaat’s right back zone. The only surprise was that it wasn’t Danny Rose who got in here, but Nacer Chadli and Ryan Mason.
Emmanuel Adebayor received the ball, as both he and Christian Eriksen got between the lines.
The Striker was half tackled and the ball ran loose to Nacer Chadli who was wide open with Janmaat going to tackle Adebayor.
Chadli’s shot was half blocked by centre back Steven Taylor who had to come across. Christian Eriksen picked up the loose ball and saw his attempt blocked by Fabricio Coloccini. Newcastle were panic defending, but as the ball rebounded to Ryan Mason, both centre backs were now out of position.
Mason sent a deft chip towards the back post, where both Emmanuel Adebayor and Nacer Chadli were free with Newcastle’s centre backs now all over the place.
The goal was nothing less than we deserved having dominated the opening period. Newcastle were wide open down the left with Danny Rose the best option to exploit this.
Just before half time, we got in to this right back zone again. Nacer Chadli was in acres of space, but could only fire Christian Eriksen’s free-kick over the bar.
Pardew changes his match-ups
Alan Pardew’s side weren’t even in the game first half, but at the interval, the wily veteran made two changes and altered his side’s shape.
Off went winger Gabriel Obertan for more direct speed and a goalscorer in Sammy Ameobi. Also departing was Vernon Anita, who was replaced by the more attack minded dribbler and passer, Remy Cabella.
Pardew shifted from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1 to take away space between the lines. He moved Moussa Sissoko back alongside Jack Colback to get Cabella playing off his striker, Ayoze Perez. He also moved Yoan Gouffran to the other side to help defend against Danny Rose.
What’s more, Pardew instructed his charges to play more direct and get the ball in-behind. In the first half they had failed to do this with Perez looking isolated as Sissoko and Anita failed to support from midfield.
In the second half, they looked to get the ball forward quicker and in-behind us. They also went heavily after our right back, Eric Dier.
I’ve commented before how Dier looks, as does Jan Vertonghen when he plays at left back, out of place there. He lacks the speed against modern tricky wingers, whilst also doesn’t have the same positional sense that he does when playing in the centre.
Newcastle looked to expose this and did so after just 8 seconds. The kick-off was sent to Jack Colback who pinged a ball in-behind Dier. This had him turning one way, then the other, as he got his positioning all wrong. Ameobi used his blistering pace to run by him and finish across Hugo Lloris.
45 minutes good work of going after their right back had been undone in matter of seconds. Now the Magpies tails were up and they were going after our right back.
Ten minutes later and they exposed us again. This time Dier was caught forward on halfway as the ball was turned the over and Moussa Sissoko picked it up.
In the first half, Newcastle had no one to run off their striker, as Perez was left up front on his own. The introduction of Cabella gave him someone else to do the legwork, whilst he could get in to the box.
Sissoko drove forward with the ball, as he easily went past Mason, Lamella and Dier, before he fed it to Cabella in space in our right back zone.
Cabella picked out a cross to drop it on the head of Ayoze Perez, who had got between Vertonghen and Rose.
After dominating the first half, we now found ourselves behind. The response wasn’t that of a Bill Nicholson inspired team, but we did gain a foothold back in the game. Predictably it was down the left through Danny Rose.
Alan Pardew had switched Yoan Gouffran to this side after the interval, as the Frenchman offers better protection for his full back.
Despite this, Rose was still able to get in to a couple of good crossing positions, as he first found Christian Eriksen and later Harry Kane. The Dane saw his shot deflected wide by Fabricio Coloccini. The Englishman clawed the ball back from behind him, but this meant his shot had no power and it was easily caught by Tim Krul.
The constant threat which was there in the first half was much more sporadic after Pardew’s changes.
Pochettino fails to play the spread
Whereas the Newcastle manager got his substitutions right, Mauricio Pochettino sent on forward after forward. Harry Kane came on for Etienne Capoue as he withdrew our defensive midfielder for a second striker. Roberto Soldado was introduced for Emmanuel Adebayor in a straight switch.
The changes were quite agricultural and more ones that would be suggested by TV commentators. Take off a defensive player and lob on a striker without regard for the balance of the team.
The problem for us was not a striking one, but a width one. We were far too narrow, and as our full backs tired, our attacks lacked any spread to pull Newcastle around. Here we can see Chadli, Lamela and Eriksen in the middle, with Dier also infield, as Newcastle have four central players to counter.
It wasn’t until the introduction of Aaron Lennon with 12 minutes to go that any kind of natural width was introduced. It was a good change as Eric Dier struggles to get forward and quickly. However, it was made very late and even switching the sides of Chadli and Lamela prior to that would have offered some kind of width.
As it was, it was all too easy for Newcastle to defend. Harry Kane getting in-behind to fizz a cross through the six-yard box was a rare moment when we opened them up.
Lennon barely received the ball and Newcastle played out the five added minutes arguably in control of the possession.
Spurs 1 Newcastle 2 overall
Bill Nicholson once said “If you don’t have to drag yourself off the field exhausted after 90 minutes, you can’t claim to have done your best.” I wonder how many of our lads could’ve claimed that?
Mauricio Pochettino said that our problem was that “we need to improve. It’s not our tactical or physical condition, it’s our mentality.”
This was true, we switched off from the second half kick-off and it could be argued that we were complacent having bossed the opening period.
However, we still lack pace and tempo to our attacks and playing so narrowly is tactically naive with only one full back that has the conditioning to get up and down. Danny Rose is rapid and put ten crosses in to the box, Eric Dier is a converted centre back and attempted just three. The imbalance is massive and makes us predictable.
The return of Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton, even the arrival of DeAndre Yedlin, can’t come soon enough so that Dier can return to his rightful home in the centre. I would hate to see such a talented centre back become a target or a weak link by filling in at right back.
Final score: Spurs 1 Newcastle 2.