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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.