Tottenham flew out of the traps, but were then pegged back by a dogged Magpies side before Gareth Bale struck his second of the day to make it Spurs 2 Newcastle 1.
Newcastle set up and tactics
Newcastle continued with the same line-up that had stormed back past Chelsea last weekend, as Alan Pardew sent his charges out in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Without the ball, they were content to drop off and limit the space in behind, whilst in possession they were very much looking to hit down the right flank.
Yohan Cabaye continued to pull the strings from a deeper position just in front of James Perch. Moussa Sissoko, as we looked at in the Tottenham tactics for the game, floated out in to wide areas.
This game saw Sissoko do the same as in his displays against Aston Villa and Chelsea. With the Geordies heavily focussed on moving the ball down their right side, he was continually dropping in out on the flank to link with Mathieu Debuchy and Jonas Gutierrez.
Over on the left, as we’d looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Newcastle vs Spurs, Yoan Gouffran was coming inside looking to gain possession in central areas.
After Gareth Bale had opened the scoring from a free-kick, it was these four who combined for Newcastle’s equaliser in trademark fashion.
Moussa Sissoko drifted out to the right and took the ball from Mathieu Debuchy, playing it out to Gutierrez near the touchline. Sissoko then drove forward down the flank and received a return from the Argentinean. Now in space, Sissoko had time to square it to an open Yoan Gouffran to drive home via a deflection, having come inside from his starting position out on the left.
After going behind and withstanding an initial Spurs surge, Newcastle were able to stifle much of the first half from the abundance of players on the right. Jonas Gutierrez was helping out Mathieu Debuchy to double-up on Gareth Bale, whilst Moussa Sissoko would also come over to provide cover when the ball arrived at the Welshman’s feet.
Spurs set up and tactics
Andre Villas-Boas brought back Steven Caulker, Kyle Naughton and gave a first start to Lewis Holtby, as Spurs went 4-3-3.
With the ball, Tottenham were trying to move it wide and play passes in to runners cutting through the defence. In the first half, with the attention Gareth Bale was getting, Aaron Lennon was able to twice get in behind Davide Santon and square to Lewis Holtby who fired wide, then over.
Without the ball, we pressed hard from the front, with both Clint Dempsey and Lewis Holtby putting Newcastle’s centre back pairing instantly under pressure. This resulted in many balls going back to Tim Krul who cleared downfield looking for the head of either Sissoko or Demba-Cisse.
AVB moves Gareth Bale inside
We’ve seen in previous matches against West Brom and Norwich how Andre Villas-Boas has moved Gareth Bale inside as a result of the attention he’s been getting. The head coach had made comments that he could start Bale as a striker, but once again he opted for him on the left, then moved him inside to gain more freedom.
Bale had given Newcastle an early warning, as he exchanged passes with Lewis Holtby, before firing in an exquisite low-driven cross. Then he drove home the free-kick, but for the rest of the half, Newcastle were able to restrict him to getting the ball further away from goal.
The switch by AVB at half-time to move him in to the middle and Lewis Holtby to a role playing in from the left paid dividends.
Rather than playing as a number 10, looking to drift in to pockets of space between the lines in central areas, Bale actually played as more of a central winger. He drifted out in to areas on both sides of the pitch, looking to receive the ball in space and create overloads.
He gained possession less than he did in the first half, but actually saw more of it in threatening areas, where he could drive forward. He had several successful runs where he drifted out to the right to receive the ball, before cutting inside to fire with his left. Tim Krul produced two fine saves, tipping one over the bar and another at full stretch round the post.
The winning goal really came from nothing. Clint Dempsey hoofed a ball forward to clear it out from defence and as Emmanuel Adebayor tussled with Steven Taylor, it bounced through them and in to space. Fabricio Coloccini was slow to react and Bale was first to the loose ball, toeing it past the Argentine, before racing in on goal. Tim Krul came out to narrow the angle, but Bale fired through his legs to make it Spurs 2 Newcastle 1.
It was apt that Gareth Bale was in the position to profit when the ball bounced through Taylor and Adebayor’s challenge. The Welshman was in an advanced central area at the time, had he been out on the left, Coloccini would have been easily able to clear.
Spurs 2 Newcastle 1 conclusions
This game was another excellent performance by Gareth Bale, but once more highlighted an increasing reliance on him in recent weeks. Our last four goals have come from the Welshman’s left foot and here he took 8 of our 18 shots in the match.
Newcastle are the latest in a line of teams that have tried to stop him by deploying additional bodies on his side of the pitch and once again AVB moved him inside.
The tactic has worked in all three matches, but against better teams you wonder if it will have the same effect.
Until the second goal, which arrived through a piece of opportunism rather than good build-up play, we didn’t look like scoring. We were able to move the ball forward for much of the game, but struggled to find the final ball. Of course, we didn’t have a natural striker on the pitch until Adebayor came on, but then our chief passing creator, Lewis Holtby, was moved out to the left to accommodate the Bale switch.
We have a real run of tough fixtures coming up in the Premier League, with difficult trips to West Ham, Liverpool, Swansea and Chelsea. At the Lane, Arsenal, Fulham, Everton and Man City come to visit. If we’re to make it in to the Champions League places, then to have more than one man who is capable of breaking down an opposition defence is a must.