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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.