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.
Mike Sz. says
This seems pretty on point from what I saw (which was most of the game…more sporadically toward the end…when I could barely watch, as Spurs slumped to a loss). On the one hand, the commentators for the broadcast I was watching (maybe the same as you?) seemed to agree with your analysis, particularly concerning the need for width, which made/makes sense. So, I guess the charge of tactical naivete is inevitable and apt. On the other hand, maybe I’m just a bit protective, but these commentators also pretty much panned Pochettino and Lamela, suggesting, in essence, that they’re out of the league…that Spurs took a huge risk on the “unproven” Pochettino…that (Lamela) doing well in Europa is one thing, “But this is the Premier League!” OK, OK…but it just seemed a bit harsh to me. Of course, I like Pochettino and I would like to see him at Spurs for, uh, more than a season, and hopefully beyond…and I think Lamela deserves a bit more deference, despite his apparent inconsistency still.
Meanwhile, I suppose there’s another obvious — but maybe not so useful now, because obviously in hindsight — question: should we have started either Soldado or Kane? Or both? I’ve acknowledge my bias elsewhere, but, for me, despite the lack of width, Soldado immediately added some great link-up play and passing when he came on. If so, too little, too late, though.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I’m with you Mike and would have started Soldado. He did show a couple of nice touches and passes in the few minutes he was on. His confidence has probably taken another blow after getting the start last weekend and now back on the bench this.
Lamela gets a pass for this year from me as he is 12 months behind our other signings from last summer. They don’t really have the excuse of settling in to the league and the speed/power of it anymore. Lamela still does as he didn’t really play last season and watching from the sidelines or even training doesn’t make up for lack of time in real games.
Very good, Mark. I don’t understand why MP did not start Chdli on the right and Lamela on the left. It worked well against Tripolis. He did not switch them later in the game either. Erik and Eric spell failure, didn’t he see that?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Thanks Bleedlilywhite. In the first half when we were getting Rose forward, then having Chadli and Lamela on their sides cutting in can work and can be effective. Pochettino should have switched them or introduced Lennon when Pardew’s changes became apparent and natural width was required.
Good article – I hope MP reads it! It takes quite some doing to lose to a side as poor as Newcastle! Especially at home against team that sit back and pack the middle, we need wide players that stay wide and give us width!!! I can’t believe MP has fallen for this again. Insanity – trying the same thing over & over again and expecting a different outcome. He got out-thought by Pardew and couldn’t or wouldn’t react in time. Already I fear for MP.
My other major question is what have Soldado (& Kane) done to pi** off MP? I think most fans expected Soldado to start on Sun (I would have started Kane as well). I know Ade scored but I think that was more to do with Mason. I was not aware of any other significant contribution Ade made during the game. For our next home game (v Stoke), here is my team (very harsh on Mason):
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Decent suggestion Andy. For me Stoke are a counter attacking side and to have someone like Naughton back would be good, especially as Stoke use Victor Moses on that side, so we need speed at right back.
They are also big in the middle of the park, esp N’Zonzi, so i would go for Dembele in this game alongside Capoue. Also this gets Eriksen further forward to get between the lines of a sitting defence.
I would just like to say that I enjoy this site immensely, such a well written oasis amidst all the circus: Especially since this summer. Thank you! COYS
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
You’re welcome Reinert, thank you for reading and your kind words. COYS!
Excellent article, Mark. Pardew out thought Pochettino. He was prepared to change his tactics at half time to attack a perceived weak link; namely Dier’s poor positional sense at right back. Dier didn’t help himself by losing concentration for the first goal. However Pochettino seems to be very stubborn and slow to make changes and when he finally does as you pointed out he panicked and flung on strikers to the detriment of the team balance and shape.
Why oh why has he no plan B? Why does he persist in playing so narrowly with inverted wingers when it’s apparent to seemingly everyone, apart from Pochettino, that it’s not working and teams with poorer squads than ours have sussed Spurs out?
We lost to Newcastle a year ago, but then their goalie played a blinder saving shot after show. Yesterday Krul hardly had a shot to save all match. We are going backwards under Pochettino. Spurs were better under AVB and Sherwood. If Spurs are hovering around the relegation zone in the New Year I can see Pochettino getting the sack. Lets hope someone advises him to be more flexible.
Dier reminds me of when we had to play a young centre half, Nethercott, out of position at left back in an FA Cup semi-final around 20 years ago because of an injury to Justin Edinburgh. We had Klinsmann and were favourites, but lost 4-1 because the opposition tore the lumbering Nethercott to shreds. He had no pace and didn’t know where to position himself, rather like Dier.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Good post Ultrapunch, are you talking about the 4-1 loss to Everton? I’m still trying to forget that game!
Pochettino’s changes have been hit and miss. When we’re in front he seems to make some decent moves to protect or build the lead. However, when we are behind he often doesn’t make good decisions or reacts too slowly.
More excellent analysis. I was tearing my hair out in the second half, begging Pochettino to switch the wingers. We were so narrow and were never going to find a way through the massed Newcastle defence. We must do better.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Thanks Anotherwisemonkey, tactically we need to improve as it’s all one paced and one style at the minute.
The irony (for me) is that when AVB refused to play Adebayor I thought he was being pig headed and stupid. He does have much to offer, and it was obvious that when Sherwood showed him some love he would start to bang in some goals. Briefly, at least.
I was a big AVB supporter, btw.
And now I’m wondering the exact opposite about Poch – why does he keep playing Adebayor!? At least rotate him and Soldado, who links play so much better and (to me at least) is a joy to watch. He has that football brain you see so much in Spain, along with effortless control and vision. Sure he’s failing to score, but it’s not like Adebayor’s spanking them in each week, is it.
Again, very much a Poch supporter.
My preference would actually have been for Van Gaal to have taken the managers job – not because of any coaching or style preferences, but just because I feel the Spurs job is a poisoned chalice and so we might as well get someone in who’d be willing to do whatever he wanted and two-fingers to Levy. Would have been fun for a season, surely.
Instead we get to watch our club destroy another young (probably talented) manager along with several players.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Adebayor divides opinion and it’s because he can be almost unplayable at times, whilst at others you’d barely know he was on pitch. I’m not sure why Pochettino continues to play him, but the manager does seem to have his favourites and right now that is to the detriment of both Kane and Soldado. Adebayor’s contract is up at the end of the season and he can leave on a free, so maybe Poch is playing him in the hope that he hits some form so we can recoup something for him in January?
Thank you for that wonderful albeit painful analysis. In the first half I was getting frustrated as they should have banged in at least another 2 goals. Chadli was all alone and could have trapped the ball before shooting at the fee kick. I think I noticed straight away as the second half started was that Dier was the last one in position and did not seem to have his head ready. Couple that with Kaboul being too central – he was closer to Jan than to Dier- meant a lot of space to exploit.
After that they did not know what to do. MP did not change a thing which was worrying to me. Toon had obviously changed and were now more direct. I felt that MP could have switched to a 3 back system with an extra midfielder. Dier is a better CB than RB and he might have been more comfortable. Furthermore, an extra midfielder would have allowed us to control the centre more. In the second half we lost control and they took advantage. Adebayor, despite the goal, was poor in the attacking sense. Great pressing but poor movement when not actually involved. A lot of standing still when he does not perceived that he may be involved. He could have made some runs away from the ball to drag defenders away to create space, but didn’t.
A very frustrating game. Toon were shite but we just stunk worse in the 2nd half.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Great post Bretto. I think your last line sums it up very well!