An excellent rear guard effort from Newcastle saw them come away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with an unlikely 1-0 win as Joelinton’s first half strike sent them on their way to victory.
Tottenham went with a 4-2-3-1, with Son returning from suspension replacing Eriksen, whilst N’Dombele missed out with injury and was replaced by Sissoko. Saint-Maximin passed a fitness test for Newcastle, however went off with injury after 17 minutes for Christian Atsu.
Atsu & Ritchie Impress:
Newcastle took a little time to settle into the game, but following Longstaff’s effort after 24 minutes, they never looked back. Playing a deep 5-4-1, they were clinical in taking their chances and restricted Spurs to long shots and hopeful crosses for much of the match. Despite only having 22% possession, they still managed to have 8 shots at an xG of 0.51 to Spurs 1.37, a testament to both taking their chances and how good their defensive display was.
Tottenham Shots: Newcastle Shots:
Bruce’s decision to go for a narrower 5-4-1 as opposed to the 3-5-2 he had opted for in the previous two games paid dividends, and had much to do with the role of the wing backs. Sitting in for long periods, Newcastle required an outlet to get up the pitch, and whilst Joelinton fulfilled this role well for periods of the match up front, it was Matt Ritchie and Atsu down the left have side exploited a weakness in Spurs’ side.
Tottenham’s Player Influence: Newcastle’s Player Influence:
The space that Newcastle were afforded when breaking was highlighted by the positioning of Walker-Peters and Rose (above), so when Newcastle did break, Ritchie’s and Atsu’s link up play was excellent in creating chances. Of Newcastle’s passing combinations throughout the match, Atsu to Ritchie (8) and Ritchie to Atsu (11) were both the highest on the team, demonstrating how key their link up play was. In Ritchie managing to play so high, it created 2v1s against Walker-Peters. The wingers of Spurs rarely tracked Ritchie’s run throughout, leaving Sissoko to deal with him and Atsu. The warning signs were there early and Spurs didn’t react. Below shows Longstaff’s effort, where he chose to shoot when Atsu and Ritchie hadn’t been tracked in the middle.
Ritchie and Atsu were once again key to Newcastle’s goal. Ritchie found Atsu who had drifted centrally, before overlapping to isolate Walker-Peters. The overload of Newcastle’s midfield down the left also meant that the Spurs defence had shifted across, however Rose didn’t, leaving a gap for Atsu to pick the pass, allowing Joelinton in to give Newcastle the lead.
It is worth noting that Atsu was only on the pitch due to Saint-Maximin’s injury in the opening 20 minutes, arguably a blessing in disguise given the influence Atsu went on to have.
Throughout the game, very narrow, forcing Spurs to either look wide or force the ball through the crowded penalty area. Newcastle’s defence were comfortable defending the crosses that Spurs looked to deliver, whilst crowding out anything worked through the middle. Newcastle stopped Spurs from getting to the byline too often, and as a result they were forced to cross from deep, a much easier scenario for defenders to clear (Spurs only completing 6 of 37 crosses). Almiron’s defensive contribution towards this was notable. Blocking 3 crosses (highest on the pitch) and making 2 interceptions, for a player who traditionally looks to play much higher up the pitch, it was an exceptional effort. Rose’s struggles are showcased below, being forced to cross earlier due to Almiron and Krafth’s defensive work.
Unsurprisingly, the defensive statistics for Newcastle were impressive, in particular from Paul Dummett. He topped the charts in the match for both defensive aerial duels (3/3) and headed clearances (7/7), whilst ranked second for interceptions (2). Below shows his and Lascelles’ main area of influence throughout the game, showing both how deep and compact they played, but also making them very hard for Spurs to break down.
Newcastle’s defensive dashboard once again demonstrates just how narrow they defended, as well as how effective they were once the ball went near the box.
The choice to not play Eriksen will be questioned, however Tottenham didn’t help themselves in the tactics employed. They looked to play through the congested middle for large parts of the game, rather than try utilise the wide areas where Rose and Walker-Peters were in space. Although they did both see plenty of the ball, the build up to them was often too slow, allowing Newcastle’s wide defenders to close them down.
Lamela was asked to play the central role instead of Eriksen, and he struggled to add any creative edge before being replaced. He lost possession 17 times throughout the match, struggling to cope with the congested midfield. His forward passing into the box was disappointing, and in positions where it can be argued Eriksen would be the difference, he was found lacking.
Tottenham’s one dimensional build up play showcased their struggles in breaking teams down, especially without Eriksen. They lacked a change of pace despite having Moura and Son on the pitch, with players showing a reluctance to dribble at Newcastle’s defence and take players on. The compact nature of Newcastle’s defence won’t have been a surprise and a lack of space in behind should’ve been expected, and so the lack of take ons during the game (Moura and Son only completing 2 each) meant that they were predictable in their build up play. Although the introduction of Lo Celso and Eriksen did help create more (both creating 2 chances each in 28 minutes), it is worrying at this early stage for Spurs as they struggle to break teams down, both against Newcastle and Villa on the opening day. If Eriksen does go, Lo Celso will have big boots to fill, and with Arsenal on the horizon next weekend, massive improvements will be required.
Images and Stats from StatsZone, SofaScore and InfoGol (InfoGol.net)