Spurs 4 Newcastle 0: exposing the right side

We’re through to the semi-finals as our Capital One Cup tie finishes Spurs 4 Newcastle 0 at White Hart Lane.

“1-0 and you still don’t sing” was the taunt of the Newcastle fans after Nabil Bentaleb’s opener. By the end of the night a rampant Tottenham side were 4-0 up as a chorus of “Ohh when the Spurs go marching in” rang around the stadium.

There was much to be admired about this performance. The pressing, the energy, the one-touch passing, but the key was attacking Newcastle’s right side of their defence.

Central control

In Spurs 1 Newcastle 2 earlier in the season at the Lane, the Magpies had beaten us by congesting the centre of the pitch and then hitting on the counter attack. This time Mauricio Pochettino was not going to be outdone in the middle and got numbers in this zone to gain control of it.


Spurs overloading the centre.

He went for two very good ball winners in Benjamin Stambouli and Nabil Bentaleb at the base of midfield. Christian Eriksen was dropping in from in front of them. Nacer Chadli was moving in from the right and Andros Townsend from the left. Behind them Jan Vertonghen and Federico Fazio were squeezing up to really over run Newcastle in here.

So much so that Fazio often got caught pinching up high trying to intercept the ball. This twice saw him bypassed, leaving Jan Vertonghen behind him to read and intercept Newcastle’s pass when they had numbers on the break.

With Jan the less aggressive of the two in terms of positioning, it was ironic that his charging forward to intercept the ball from a Newcastle throw saw their best chance.

Ayoze Perez got in-behind and somehow Remy Cabella managed to get only the faintest of touches on the cross, when a firm connection would’ve seen him score. What was worse for the Frenchman was his waft at the ball also took it away from Riviere.


Perez picks out a cross to Cabella and Riviere.

Pressing and one-touch passing

With the central zone being bossed, control of the game was increased through pressing when not in possession and one-touch passing when the ball was regained.

After Christian Eriksen’s comments that the team have “increased fitness levels” and are “still 100% at the end of matches” it was good to see that energy being put to use.

The pressing and closing down was often intense, but also guided by several triggers. Not always would the team rush and close down, but when in decent defensive shape and a player was caught on the ball either with either his back to goal or in a wider area, the sharks would circle.

This forced turnovers and clearances downfield that were gobbled up by our centre backs, even an errant pass that went straight to Harry Kane. This give him a run at goal, unfortunately Andros Townsend cutting across his path didn’t offer him a target to pass to and ended up congesting his shooting lane.

Regaining the ball was one thing, but once we had it, the one-touch passing and movement looked a world away from some of the slow build-up play we’ve seen this season. Our players were extremely fluid and the ball often pinged between them. Our third goal was an excellent example of some one-touch passing, as Townsend drifted all the way across from the right and fed Kane first time to score.

Exposing the right side

Despite losing, the vulnerability of the more attack minded full back Daryl Janmaat had been something we’d exposed in Spurs 1 Newcastle 2 earlier this season.

This must have been in Mauricio Pochettino’s game plan, as we went after the right side of the Newcastle defence from the off and scored our first three goals from getting in here.

It started on our opener, which came from a corner, but was forced by Nacer Chadli running in-behind in this right back zone.

Daryl Janmaat was pinching in tight to his centre backs, leaving the area to be guarded by the midfield, which were attracted to Danny Rose.


Chadli runs in-behind in the RB zone.

Chadli ghosted in and his cross forced Mike Williamson to clear for a corner. Christian Eriksen swung the dead ball in and as everyone rushed to the near post, Jak Alnwick spilled the easiest of catches, with Nabil Bentaleb hovering up the loose ball.

As we looked at in the keys to Spurs vs Newcastle, the Magpies like to force teams out of the centre and over to the sideline to regain the ball. Newcastle had tried to do that here with a number of players looking to get out to stop Danny Rose, but Nacer Chadli would again outdo them.

The move for our second goal once more saw the Belgian trying to run in-behind the Newcastle right back.


Chadli runs in-behind RB Janmaat once more.

The ball had been moved to Chadli through some nice quick passing, but he was forced back by Janmaat’s recovery pace. This allowed Newcastle to get four bodies out to the sideline in an attempt to regain the ball.


Newcastle caught with 4 too tight to the sideline.

Chadli played it to Eriksen and as Newcastle closed in on him, he slipped the pass back to the Belgian. Chadli was now able to turn and run across the edge of the penalty area before firing a low drive in at Alnwick’s near post.

Two became three and a trio of chances carved out from getting in to the Newcastle right back zone.

A throw in from Danny Rose was taken to Mousa Dembele, who once more saw himself surrounded on the sideline. In typical Dembele fashion, he used his sizeable frame to roll around them, away from trouble and suddenly there was space inside of him.


Dembele rolls away from the crowd to find Townsend.

Dembele laid the ball off to Andros Townsend whose first time pass pierced the Newcastle backline to Harry Kane on the move. The youngster, who had often threatened to find the corner of the net in this match, finally did as Alnwick had no chance against his cross-goal shot.

Icing on the cake

With the game won from getting in to the Newcastle right back zone, the scoring was completed through an old fashioned poacher’s goal.

Christian Eriksen regained possession in the middle of the park, highlighting our ball recovery once more, and charged quickly forward to get before Newcastle’s midfield could regain their positions.

This left him faced by Fabricio Coloccini, but his defensive partner Mike Williamson was the one caught napping.

Eriksen unleashed a low-driven shot, but as he did, Williamson was deeper than the other members of his back four and playing Roberto Soldado onside.


Williamson plays Soldado onside.

We’d looked in the keys to the game at how Newcastle’s centre backs can become separated and be on different levels and that was the case here.

Jak Alnwick got down well to stop Eriksen’s effort, but could do nothing as Soldado swooped to rubber stamp the victory.

Spurs 4 Newcastle 0 overall

“It was a fantastic night, a very good performance from the team,” purred a proud Mauricio Pochettino.

This was arguably our best showing of the season and one that was the closest to what you’d associate with a Pochettino side. There was great energy, there was good and calculated pressing, but there was also rapid movement of both ball and man when in possession. This was key to getting around and through a Newcastle side that was looking to force us to the sidelines and trap there.

The speed of our play meant they struggled to do this, but even when faced by numbers, we were able to quickly move out of the area through passing or dribbling. Our play was an intelligent, as well as purposeful.

Overall this could well be a turning point in our season. The game where we finally saw that the players have internalised how Mauricio Pochettino wants us to play and also have the fitness to carry it out.

What we do know for sure is that it sets up a Capital One Cup Semi-Final with Sheffield United. Avoiding both Liverpool and Chelsea give us an excellent chance to make it to Wembley.

Final score: Spurs 4 Newcastle 0.

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12 Responses to Spurs 4 Newcastle 0: exposing the right side

  1. TommyHarmer 19th December 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I thought it was a good performance and the pressing and ball winning were good. We could have given away an early goal through the centre a couple of times, but we got away with it. I thought that Townsend was his usual oafish self – he didn’t pass to Kane, he lost control …… and Ithought Stambouli’s tackling and distribution need work. Initially I felt that Chadli was much under-used – your explanation has made clear the reasoning behind his positioning. However, remember we have had a number of false dawns this season, and one key is recovery time for Saturday. COYS

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th December 2014 at 12:10 pm #

      Good observations Tommy. Townsend is a frustrating player and i wonder if he’ll ever ‘get it’ in terms of developing a footballing brain to go along with his skills. Stambouli does need work, but i do see potential in him and a player we should persist with. I like his attitude and energy. Hoping we can continue with a similar energised performance on Saturday! COYS!

      • YouShubes 19th December 2014 at 1:46 pm #

        As per your answer to my Lamela question, it seems both Andros and Lamela lack (right now) that footaballing brain (that extra two yards in his Sheringham was often quoted as having)

        The Poch is still evaluating his players. Can decision making that say Eriksen (and Lamela in his assist against the Goons) be improved by coaching.

        I thought Rose was out of position for the chance the excellent Perez crafted.

        One question mark against this style is the ability of players to sustain it. Do we have the squad depth to do so. And rather than harvesting opportunities from forcing a turnover, should we not develop the ability to craft out opportunities from intelligent build from the back up as well.

        There is a time to play tiki taka, the bielsa way, and route one Wimbledon.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th December 2014 at 2:10 pm #

          I think we do have the squad depth, Pochettino is trying to get two players for each position. Where we are lacking this is in the striking department.

          Rose was trying to get back, but Vertonghen hurtled out to try and nick the ball from the Newcastle throw-in. It seemed like a rash decision on his behalf, but fortunately we got away with it.

          We should be devleoping chances from intelligtent build-up play and that is why we’ve struggled to break teams down that sit back and counter attack eg WBA, Stoke, Crystal Palace etc. Creating from turnovers is also important though, as it gives you the opportunity to attack when a defence is not set and this usually provides more and better openings.

  2. george 19th December 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    I think we are taking huge gamble playing Bentaleb as a holding midfielder, he is too weak to play that role!
    I cant believable people raving about him, for me he needs to develope alot both aggressively and physically to play there and he is not, and keeps getting beat far too easily in the centre of the pitch and on occasions we have looked very light in the middle and teams have just waltz through and should have scored on every occasion!(swansea,newcastle!) he may have potential but not in the same mould or aggressive as say Fabian Delph!!

    • ultrapunch 19th December 2014 at 1:14 pm #

      Oh come on George. Bentaleb is still only 20. Why compare him with Fabian Delph? They don’t play in the same position. Since when has Fabian Delph been played as a holding midfielder? Never!

      • George 20th December 2014 at 3:27 am #

        Delph is only 21 and plays that role for England and Villa! play and learn the game ultrapunch!

  3. Dr JAB 19th December 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Green shoots of a recovery?

    Much of what we had been hoping for came to pass in this game. Speed, Pressing. One-touch passing. With the exception of the night’s two full backs we are looking more confident.

    I think what has been quite pivotal in both this and the Swansea game was our scoring first which seemed to give the team a burst of confidence rather than the dropping of shoulders when we have had to chase the game.

    Two questions: Why do you think the passing was so quick compared to the pedantic build ups we have seen in earlier games.

    Secondly. If Poch’s preferred system is the 4231, this really requires a lone striker with the ability to hold up play, bring others into the game and be clinical with finishing. Do you think Kane can fulfill that role at some stage in his burgeoning career?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th December 2014 at 2:04 pm #

      Great post and some good questions John. I think the passing was much quicker for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Eriksen was in the centre and could dictate play more from being allowed to roam from there. Many of his passes were first time or saught to move the ball quickly out to the flanks – see his initial pass to Chadli on our second goal. The second factor was that we looked like we had a game plan to get the ball forward before Newcastle could get set. This was a problem for us in the 2-1 loss at the Lane where we were often slow moving the ball and it was noticeable here how we were always looking to pass forwards. Bentaleb not playing as defensive midfield and having Stambouli to play this role appeared to free his game also, as he doesn’t look like the most natural holding player.

      Re Harry Kane, i think he can play the hold-up role as a lone striker at some point in his career, but he needs to learn the position. At the minute he looks better playing behind another striker, but that’s not to say he can’t do it in the future. The problem with having him playing off another striker is that it pushes Eriksen out on to the left. He looks far more dangerous in the middle, so it’s a difficult decision for Pochettino to make as he has to compromise somewhere if he was to fit these two in their best positions.

      • YouShubes 19th December 2014 at 2:50 pm #

        Hi Mark

        I know we play the Bielsa way, but given that Eriksen is ex Ajax, could we not introduce some elements of that positional interchange that the Dutch club are famous for, that would allow Eriksen and Kane to

        Not sure how that would work in practice

        Stambouli worries me as while he can read the game well, he does look as if he is running through treacle at times. Nabil will have to lean how to read the game better when defending etc but given his age I think he can learn this

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th December 2014 at 7:09 pm #

          There are elements of the Bielsa way, although our pressing is not as intense as his, but i would also argue that there is some crossover from the Ajax school also. Pochettino has been playing a lot of 4-3-3 and with the players intercahnging positions.

          Overall, it is Pochettino’s system based on the way he wants his team to operate and the players have to fit in to it.

      • Chris 20th December 2014 at 2:50 pm #

        Kane looks so much better behind a striker – I fear that this good game for him up top might give people the incorrect impression he can play there against better teams. Indeed, he may mature into that position, though. Obviously, just my opinion, though.

        I wonder if he can play as a wide forward, then you could have Eriksen behind a striker (yeah I’d still go with Soldado for the quick passing) with Kane and Chadli wide. That’s three players who all attack the box and know how to score behind a striker (who can’t score). Purely a thought experiment, maybe he would suck out there – I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him play a wider role (and if I did it certainly didn’t stick).

        I’ll email Poch and see if he can fix it for me.