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Newcastle Dragon

How Steve Bruce masterminded Newcastle United’s brilliant 1-0 win away at Tottenham

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How Newcastle United upset Spurs with their resolute defending

Newcastle United hit the ground running in the Premier League this term in an emphatic manner as the Magpies stunned Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 away from home on Sunday to register their first win of the season. 

The 1-0 victory was Newcastle’s first-ever over any big-six opposition since their return to the Premier League a couple of years ago. 

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When Crystal Palace shocked Man United 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday, many would have thought that they had seen the biggest upset that Round 3 of the Premier League had to offer. 

However, as unpredictable that the English top-flight can be, there was even more drama on Sunday as Steve Bruce’s side defied the odds and produced a perfect defensive display that spoke of pure resilience and industry.

Having lost back-to-back games against Arsenal and Norwich City, even the most ardent Newcastle fan wouldn’t have given the Magpies a chance of coming away with anything against Spurs away from home. 

Joelinton had other ideas though, and the Brazilian’s first Premier League goal proved to be a golden one. From Newcastle’s perspective, he couldn’t have scored at a better time. 

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Indeed, Joelinton grabbed the headlines with his well-taken winner but he wasn’t the only one who starred in the fascinating 1-0 victory. Truth be told, it was Newcastle’s defensive organisation, discipline and pure resilience at the back that earned them a coveted victory over a top-six opposition. 

Steve Bruce fielded a compact 5-4-1 formation to shut the doors on a Spurs side that boasted of the likes of Harry Kane, Heun-min Son and Lucas Moura in the attacking ranks.

As a matter of fact, those tactics were reminiscent of the ‘park the bus’ approach deployed by Rafael Benitez against top-six opposition in the Premier League last season. 

Benitez’s ultra-defensive tactics against the big clubs made it difficult for them to create chances and find openings, and Bruce followed the path used by his predecessor to good effect.

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In what proved to be a battle of creativity, innovation and relentlessness against discipline, shape and defensive organisation, Newcastle came out on top after a long and hard tussle, as Steve Bruce’s side successfully prevented Spurs from scoring and preserved their lead. 

The tactical part

Bruce might have fielded two wing-backs in Matt Ritchie and Emil Krafth in his back-three system, but realistically, it was more of a straight back-five in front of a midfield-four featuring Issac Hayden, Sean Longstaff, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin (replaced by Christian Atsu in the first half after an injury).

While Longstaff and Hayden closed down the spaces between the lines in the midfield, Ritchie and Krafth shut out the likes of Son and Moura in the wide areas, thus cutting the supply lines for the visitors.

The main part of the defending, though, was done by the centre-back trio of Paul Dummett, Fabian Schar and Jamaal Lascelles, led from the front by the man with the captain’s armband. 

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Interestingly, the most impressive thing about Newcastle’s defending was their organisation, and the fact that they defended well as a unit made it all the more difficult for Spurs to make any real inroads. 

Along with the defenders, the front trio of Almiron, Joelinton and Atsu spent most of the time inside their own half, providing extra protection to their counterparts at the back.

In other words, Newcastle’s defensive performance emphasized the need for the attackers to track back and join the backline in order to make the shape more compact.

Looking at the numbers, Spurs had 81% of the possession on Sunday but Newcastle’s impenetrable defensive wall meant that the Lilywhites were only able to get 2 of their 17 attempts on target. 

Son, for once, called Martin Dubravka into action in the first half but that was just about it as the hosts seemingly lacked the sharpness and the creativity to find a way to score.

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Lucas Moura missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise towards the end of the game and things could have been different had the VAR adjudged Lascelles’ dive across Harry Kane inside the box to be a penalty. However, in the end, Pochettino’s side didn’t have enough in the locker. 

The likes of Jamaal Lascelles (10 clearances, 3 aerial duels), Dummett (13 clearances, 3 aerial duels) and Schar (7 clearances, 4 tackles and 2 interceptions) all displayed incredible levels of concentration and composure at the back, and those numbers reveal that they pretty much dealt with everything that Spurs hurled at them. 

The Newcastle fans should be happy with the character and the mentality that the team showed on Sunday and Bruce, who was a centre-back himself during his playing days, got his tactics absolutely spot on.

Arsenal

Premier League gameweek 4: Winners and Losers from the weekend including Chelsea’s slip and Leicester’s rise

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2019-20 Premier League: Winners and Losers from Round 4 

There was plenty to savour and admire for all sets of fans, as Round 4 of the 2019-20 Premier League season lived up to the expectations, with none of the games failing to produce a goal.

Man United kicked off the action on Saturday away from home at Southampton, with the Red Devils looking to bounce back from a shock 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace the week before. 

Daniel James continued his fine run of form early in the campaign and put United in the lead just 10 minutes into the game before Jannik Vestergaard’s headed equaliser in the second half ensured that both the teams shared the spoils. 

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United, though, will be bitterly disappointed for failing to break down a 10-man Southampton unit after Kevin Danso was sent off for a second bookable offence on Scott McTominay. 

Elsewhere, Chelsea failed to capitalise on Tammy Abraham’s second brace of the season, as the Blues squandered a two-goal lead at home against Sheffield United to earn a 2-2 draw.

Callum Robinson’s strike followed by Kurt Zouma’s unfortunate own goal towards the dying stages of the game meant that Frank Lampard’s side went into the international break with only a solitary win in their first four games in the Premier League. 

However, there weren’t any hiccups for defending champions Man City after Pep Guardiola’s side put in yet another dominant performance to claim all three points with a resounding 4-0 victory over Brighton, thanks to a brace from Sergio Aguero and goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. 

Similarly, Liverpool continued their merry way with a rather straightforward 3-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor, as an own goal from Chris Wood followed by goals from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino meant that Jurgen Klopp’s side went into the international break with a perfect record. 

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Shifting the focus to the North London Derby, there was nothing to separate the two teams, as Arsenal and Spurs played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Emirates. 

Christian Eriksen opened the scoring for the visitors and Harry Kane’s spot-kick doubled the advantage for Mauricio Pochettino’s side after Son was brought down inside the box by a reckless lunge from Granit Xhaka. 

However, Lacazette handed the Gunners a lifeline just at the stroke of the interval before a lively second-half performance saw Aubameyang bag the equaliser with an intuitive finish from Guendouzi’s perfectly-weighted lobbed pass. 

Meanwhile, Leicester City continued their unbeaten run in the Premier League with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Bournemouth at home, thus registering their second victory in a row after a 2-1 result against Sheffield United last week. 

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Jamie Vardy’s early opener was cancelled out by Callum Wilson but Youri Tielemans restored the lead for the hosts towards the end of the first-half before Vardy bagged his third goal of the season later in the game to cap off a dominant display from Brendan Rodgers’ side. 

Tielemans, though, was lucky to have escaped a red card for a horrible studs-up challenge on Callum Wilson, with the VAR surprisingly not spotting a clear and obvious error in the on-field referee’s decision.

Elsewhere, Watford opened their account in the Premier League this term with a 1-1 draw away at Newcastle, registering their first points of the season after three consecutive defeats.

Will Hughes’ opener handed the Hornets an early advantage before Fabian Schar drew Newcastle level just before the interval. 

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The West Ham fans will be happy with what they saw from their team in the 2-0 victory over Norwich City at home, as goals from Sebastien Haller and Andriy Yarmolenko on either side of the interval handed Manuel Pellegrini’s side their second victory of the campaign.

The Hammers created plenty of opportunities and it could have been four or five in favour of them, whilst Todd Cantwell was left to rue his missed chance from just a yard out.

There weren’t any heroics from Aston Villa this weekend as Crystal Palace followed up their surprise victory over Man United with another tidy 1-0 triumph over the Lions at home, thanks to a solitary goal from Jordan Ayew midway through the second half.

Meanwhile, Wolves’ unbeaten streak came to an end at Goodison Park on Sunday as Everton bounced back from a defeat away at Aston Villa last week to register a well-deserved 3-2 win at home.

A moment of miscommunication between Rui Patricio and Conor Coady allowed Richarlison to fire home the opener before Romain Saiss equalised moments later, tapping it in off Adama Traore’s cross from the right.

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Alex Iwobi then restored the lead for the Toffees before the interval, only for Raul Jimenez to make it 2-2 in the 75th minute. 

It was Richarlison, though, who headed home the winner with ten minutes to go and Wolves weren’t able to muster any meaningful reply after that, as Marco Silva’s side went into the international break on a positive note. Not to mention, Wily Boly’s red card that worsened things for Nuno Santo.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

3 moments when VAR came into play in gameweek 3 of the Premier League including Tottenham’s game-changing call

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3 moments when VAR came into play in gameweek 3 of the Premier League

Some lacklustre refereeing by the officials in the Premier League last season led to large sections of the fans and media calling for the introduction of the VAR system in the English top-flight, with a view to removing the incorrect decisions.

However, there hasn’t been any shortage of controversy following the introduction of technology since the start of the 2019-20 season, with several fans, pundits and players taking to their social media accounts to criticize the VAR. 

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Prior to its introduction in the Premier League, it has been seen in the past that the VAR system is by no means completely foolproof, given that it led to some ridiculous decisions at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia last summer and also in the Champions League, where some calls completely altered the balance of the game. 

It will be interesting to see as to how the fans in the Premier League react when the VAR plays a part in the high-octane encounters later on in the season but for now, let us take a look at three controversial moments from Round 3.

 1. David Silva’s penalty appeal against Bournemouth

Man City picked up three points on their trip to the south coast with a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth but that scoreline could have been a bit more emphatic had Jefferson Lerma’s stamp on David Silva’s foot in the second half been given as a penalty by referee Andre Marriner. 

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With the scoreline 2-1 in favour of the reigning champions, Silva was brought down inside the box by Lerma but the referee, who was in no position to spot the infringement, waved on to continue the game before video assistant referee Kevin Friend came into play. 

Surprisingly enough, though, what looked like an obvious foul and a clear-cut penalty was not overturned by the use of technology, citing lack of conclusive evidence as to the reason behind the on-field call prevailing.

It is hard to slam Marriner for the decision given that he wasn’t in the right position to make the call, however, one cannot help but wonder about the utility of the VAR if the system isn’t empowered to take such blatant refereeing blunders out of the equation.

2. Controversial moment involving Harry Kane and Jamaal Lascelles

Spurs suffered their first major setback of the Premier League this term, as Newcastle United stunned Mauricio Pochettino’s side 1-0 away from home on Sunday.

Indeed, that result came as a massive shock to the home fans, although the majority of them are likely to feel deprived after referee Mike Dean declined to award them a penalty towards the end of the game. 

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Spurs, who were nowhere near their best on Sunday, had a shout for a penalty turned down when Harry Kane appeared to have been brought down inside the box by Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles, who was probably smart enough to make the incident look completely accidental. 

Lascelles slipped inside the box and just when Kane was about to get his shot away on goal, the centre-back went to ground and brought down the forward with his arm going across him. 

However, the video assistant wasn’t ready to overturn the on-field decision because he apparently thought there wasn’t a clear and obvious error made by Mike Dean. 

Accidental or intentional, Lascelles’ challenge did look clumsy and certainly robbed Kane of a certain goal, so much so that it could easily have been given as a penalty by another referee on another day. 

Now, the question is – does the VAR still need to look for clear and obvious errors even when the on-field referee isn’t in the right position to make the call?

3. Lewis Dunk’s disallowed goal vs Southampton

Brighton had a goal disallowed by VAR on Saturday in the 2-0 home defeat to Southampton, albeit it wasn’t the first time this season in the Premier League that the Seagulls found themselves at the wrong end of VAR calls. 

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Leandro Trossard had a goal ruled out against West Ham in the previous game and this time it was Lewis Dunk, who scored with a thumping header towards the end of the first half, only to have it cancelled after the intervention of technology. 

Dan Burn, who was in an offside position when the goal was scored, didn’t get a touch on the ball but he was clearly blocking the view of goalkeeper Angus Gunn. 

This incident came after Florin Andone had been sent off for a shocking studs-up challenge on Yan Valery and amidst all the blemishes of the VAR, these two calls on the south coast seemed to do justice to the introduction of technology in the Premier League. 

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Aston Villa

Top 5 expensive Belgian imports to the Premier League – a rundown of their performances

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Top 5 expensive Belgian imports to the Premier League

Aston Villa’s spending spree this summer has grabbed the headlines in the British tabloids.

Manager Dean Smith has already shelled out a lot of money to bring as many as ten new players so far, and with just a week remaining before the transfer deadline, it won’t be surprising to see Villa bag a couple of more scalps in the market.

Apart from ironing out permanent deals for last season’s loanees Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi, Villa have also splashed the cash to bring in the likes of Wesley Moraes, Matt Targett, Jota, Trezeguet, Ezri Konsa, Bjorn Engels and Douglas Luiz as a part of their massive squad overhaul this summer.

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Interestingly, it is the towering Brazilian centre-forward Wesley Moraes who has arrived at Villa Park in a club-record £22million deal from Belgian heavyweights Club Brugge, making him the most expensive Belgian import ever in the Premier League. 

Looking at the past records, Aston Villa have every reason to be confident of Wesley’s ability to make the step up to the Premier League because this is not the first time that Villa have raided the Belgian market for a centre-forward, having enjoyed resounding success with the transfer of Christian Benteke from KRC Genk back in the 2012-13 season.  

Besides the other elite leagues in Europe, the Belgian top-flight, despite not being regarded as a highly competitive ground, has emerged as one of the most reliable markets for the Premier League clubs over the years.

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Starting from Romelu Lukaku, Benteke and Aleksandar Mitrovic to the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Wilfred Ndidi and, most recently, Leander Dendoncker, there have been numerous success stories of players acclimatising brilliantly to the Premier League after arriving from Belgian clubs. 

Apart from Aston Villa, the likes of Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton have also completed big-money raids on the Belgian market this summer to bring in Leandro Trossard and Moussa Djenepo, which further underpins the fact that the English clubs are not reluctant to show confidence in the Belgian league players.

While players arriving in the Premier League from the lower leagues in Europe are still viewed with suspicion by the English fans, it is worth mentioning here that a big number of the Belgian imports in the English top-flight have done their reputation no harm.

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It is definitely worth taking a look at some of the most expensive Belgian imports to the Premier League and how they have fared over the years.

Note: Only the initial sign-on amount in each case is taken into account and the values mentioned below do not include add-ons or performance-related bonuses.

Here are the 5 most expensive players to arrive in the Premier League from the Belgian market:

1. Jose Izquierdo – £13.5million

The diminutive Colombian winger rose to prominence in Europe during his three-year spell at Club Brugge in Belgium, where he carved out a real reputation for himself with his pace, breathtaking solo runs down the flanks and a terrific eye for goal. 

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The left-winger plundered 38 goals and 19 assists in 117 appearances for Brugge in all competitions, winning the Belgian Cup and the Belgian Pro League, whilst also impressing in the Europa League and the Champions League.

Izquierdo’s heroics in Belgium earned him a £13.5millionmove to the south coast of England with Brighton and Hove Albion in the summer of 2017 and the 27-year-old enjoyed a decent first season at the Amex Stadium, registering 5 goals and 3 assists in the Premier League. 

However, the Colombian fell out of favour in his second season under Chris Hughton and managed only 9 starts in the league. Now, it remains to be seen whether new manager Graham Potter has him in his plans for the upcoming campaign. 

2. Aleksandar Mitrovic – £13million

The towering Serbian centre-forward was one of the best emerging talents in Europe when Newcastle United splashed out £13million to sign him as a 20-year-old from Anderlecht in the summer of 2015.

Prior to his move to England, Mitrovic had already won the Serbian title with his boyhood club Partizan Belgrade and the Belgian Pro League in his debut campaign at Anderlecht.

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A strike rate of 44 goals in 90 appearances was apparently enough to convince Newcastle of Mitrovic’s talent and the Serb showed strong signs of promise in his debut season in the Premier League, although his 9 goals in the 2015-16 season weren’t enough to prevent relegation.

Despite Newcastle’s relegation to the Championship, Mitrovic stayed at St.James’ Park with a view to guiding the Magpies back to the top-flight at the first time of asking.

However, a drastic dip in form in the 2016-17 season saw the Serb find the net on only 4 occasions in 25 league appearances in the second-tier, although Benitez’s side did manage to secure promotion, courtesy of Dwight Gayle’s free-scoring form.

Mitrovic struggled in the 2017-18 season in the Premier League before resurrecting his career on loan at Fulham in the Championship, scoring 12 in 20 games in the second half of the 2017-18 season to propel the Cottagers to the top-flight. 

His promotion-winning heroics earned him a permanent deal at Craven Cottage and Mitrovic impressed with 11 goals in Fulham’s 2018-19 Premier League campaign, which ultimately ended in relegation.

3. Wilfred Ndidi – £15million

The tough-tackling and all-action central defensive midfielder made his professional debut for Genk back in the 2014-15 season and his resounding success in the Belgian top-flight over the next couple of seasons paved the way for a £15millionmove to Leicester City in January 2017. 

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Apart from impressing in the latter half of Leicester’s remarkable run to the quarter-finals of the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League, Ndidi soon established himself as one of the most daunting and energetic defensive midfielders in the Premier League and nailed down a regular starting role right from the beginning of his time at the King Power Stadium.

Still only 22, Ndidi has already proven himself to be an exceptional talent and Leicester might struggle to hold on to him for too long if he continues to develop at such a rapid rate.

The Nigerian international continues to be a massive bargain for Leicester and the Foxes are likely to recoup at least two to three times the money should they decide to move him on in the near future. 

4. Marouane Fellaini – £15million

The Belgian international’s towering frame and bushy haircut became a familiar sight for the Premier League fans for almost a decade, especially for those at Goodison Park and Old Trafford.

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Former Everton manager David Moyes was the man responsible for bringing the 6ft 4in central midfielder to the Premier League in 2008 for a fee of £15million from Standard Liege and he reunited with Fellaini at Man United in the summer of 2013.

Fellaini went on to enjoy an illustrious and distinguished career in English football, and racked up a mammoth 354 appearances in all competitions for Everton and Man United combined, registering a total of 55 goals and 38 assists in the process.

The 2018-19 season proved to be Fellaini’s swansong in the Premier League, with the Belgian moving to the Chinese Super League in January 2019.

However, he has to go down as one of the best ever Belgian imports in the history of the Premier League, having won the FA Cup, League Cup and the Europa League with Man United.

5. Romelu Lukaku- £12 million

Currently one of the stalwarts in the Premier League, Romelu Lukaku bagged 41 goals in 98 appearances for Anderlecht and won a host of honours in Belgium, including the Belgian Pro League in 2009-10 and the Ebony Shoe before earning a £12million move to Chelsea in 2011. 

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Lukaku, however, struggled for playtime at Stamford Bridge and established himself as a free-scoring forward in the Premier League during his loan spells, netting 17 for West Brom in the 2012-13 season and following it up with another 16 at Everton in the following campaign.

The Belgian centre-forward joined Everton permanently in 2014 and subsequently carved out a massive reputation for himself owing to his free-scoring form, which saw him rack up a staggering 87 goals in 166 appearances for the Toffees.

Following his resounding success at Everton, Lukaku moved to Man United for a fee of £75million in 2016 but his returns have dipped slightly during his stint at Old Trafford, as he has accumulated just 42 goals in 96 appearances for the Red Devils till date.

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