Newcastle United (H) 10/11/13 – Post Match Tactical & Statistical Analysis

Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United - Premier League

Another manager often referred to as tactically inept goes to White Hart Lane and frustrates Tottenham Hotspur. But this time, his side takes all three points.

Sunday’s match was slightly different to games of late. Alan Pardew didn’t put 10 of his Newcastle United players behind the ball as Steve Bruce did a fortnight ago. Spurs, after a tedious first half, created chance after chance.

Tim Krul literally, and repeatedly, saved the day for Newcastle. Despite the Dutchman’s more than impressive goalkeeping display, Spurs could and should have been more clinical.

Dominent display from Tottenham in possession, with lots of passes in the middle third.

As Rob Brown wrote in his pre-match piece, Newcastle - regardless of how they are viewed by many - are a relatively talented outfit. They play the least long balls per game in the Premier League, and with the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Loic Remy among their ranks, it’s fairly obvious why they will comfortably avoid the drop this season.

A fine through ball from Yoan Gouffran was enough to take the Spurs defence out of the equation on 13 minutes. Hugo Lloris’ absence proved pivotal; Brad Friedel wasn’t quick enough in closing down Loic Remy. The Frenchman rounded Tottenham’s goalkeeper and slotted home.

It’s difficult to pin blame on Friedel. At the age of 41, he’s not exactly expected to be rushing off his line at every opportunity. It is now, though, becoming all the more clear that Spurs must invest in a reserve goalkeeper that shares the ‘sweeper-keeper’ attributes of Lloris.

The second half saw one of the home side’s best attacking displays of the season so far. Although ultimately fruitless, Tottenham can take credit from a much improved way of going about things after the break.

Once again, predictability was Andre Villas-Boas’ downfall. When the Portuguese head coach was first hired, a handful of his players were questioned by the press on what was “going wrong”. Tom Huddlestone, a player who was struggling to get on the pitch in AVB’s early days, revealed that one of Spurs’ training sessions was titled: “Rigid team shape.”

Like Spurs, Manchester City and Chelsea often play three creative, attacking midfielders behind one centre forward. The differences lie in the movement and positioning of those attacking players.

Nasri, Silva, Toure, Aguero; they buzz about, switching places, moving incisively.

Hazard, Mata, Oscar; often it’s difficult to tell where exactly they are respectively positioned – left, right or centre?

It seems these players are instructed to use their natural movement to confuse and outwit oppositions, getting into varied positions in order to avoid marking and take advantage of space.

Tottenham, on the other hand, are extremely rigid. Andros Townsend, Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson rarely, if ever, moved from their assigned positions on Sunday.

Villas-Boas appears to be stubborn in this regard. Sigurdsson has played every one of his appearances in a lilywhite shirt on the left so far this season. Townsend is rarely moved from the right hand side, despite clearly being found out in the last two games.

Furthermore, Roberto Soldado is seriously suffering from the lack of service from inverted wingers, along with the teams’ inability to move the ball out quickly from the back. The formation below would, theoretically, go a long way to solve these key issues.

A previously shared formation from the @SpursStatMan twitter account.

Another negative was Sunday’s central midfielder partnership. Mousa Dembélé is a player whose stats repeatedly impress, yet mean close to nothing when it comes to what Spurs need him to do.

The Belgian has recorded 91% passing accuracy, 92% tackle success and beats his man 93% of the time. Dembélé is a master of dribbling, and rarely gives the ball away with an opposition player on his back. But Tottenham’s #19 fails to take risks with any kind of incisive passing, which is precisely what his team is crying out for.

Sandro OR Capoue must partner either Dembele OR Paulinho. The alternative would be dropping Lewis Holtby from his number ten role down into one of the deeper midfield positions. This would give the defenders a quick, accessible outlet to play the ball out from the back, instead of having to be overly patient.

Spurs recorded 14 shots on target against Newcastle – the most by any Premier League side this season without scoring. The North Londoners’ conversion rate is now 4.4% - the worst in the division. Despite providing their best attacking performance of the season in Sunday’s second half, the problem appears to lie in the build-up play and team selection. Villas-Boas will be keen to work it out for himself.


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