Oct 13, 2011

Newcastle vs Tottenham: Tactical Preview

16.10.11 – Sunday 4pm

Location: St James’

Early prospects:   A thorough examination.

A largely refreshed Newcastle return from the international break to take on Tottenham Hotspur, looking for a 4th consecutive win (and 13th consecutive game unbeaten) in front of the late Sunday lunch crowds of Sky Sports ‘Super Sunday’.

For once the footballing gods have smiled upon us during international week.  Through a variety of reasons only three players from what would be considered our first team squad were involved in earnest in service to their nation, with only Gutierrez, Santon and Cabaye seeing any sort of pitch time – meaning 13 of the 16 players in the match-day squad at Wolves, including key men such as Coloccini, S.Taylor and Tiote, have had ample time to take a well earned breather.

Even as the most disingenuous have cried that NUFC’s position is irrelevant as we have ‘yet to play anyone decent’, this weekend will undoubtedly be the most stern test we have faced yet this season – Alan Pardew equally under no illusions, commenting:  “It sets us up for a real blue-riband game with Spurs who are far superior to us individually. They have top international players. But we’re a decent team, and we’ll get a gauge of how good a team we are…”.  Performances have been choppy, no doubt, but points have still been ground out (particularly in hostile environments away from home), and with the home advantage of St James’, where Spurs have only two league wins in 10 years, we have some justification to feel a little ambitious.

Lose this game and we’ll still have started the season brilliantly.  But if we win…

Team Line-ups and Strategies:

After an unusually low-key pre-season where the concentration was more upon who would leave Tottenham rather than arrive, the lilywhites have re-grouped well and now arguably look a more formidable proposition than the strong outfit which started last season.

Demba Ba looks to be clear to play after he had reported for his footballing national service but took no playing part due to “hard ground” being deemed too risky for the welfare of Demba’s debatable knee.  Elsewhere Davide Santon completed the best part of 2 games for the Italian u21’s to go with his reserve outings previous and should now be considered fit for selection – although given the high profile nature of the game and the form of the team as a whole it is likely that Alan Pardew will not change the LB position, nor the remainder of the team providing players report back from international duty entirely injury free.  Back on home turf, it is likely NUFC will attempt to adopt a possession game again, but likely with a far more cautious mentality.

Our opposition can call upon most of their healthy squad resource, with only William Gallas and the clumsy Michael Dawson very unlikely to feature through injury, along with the definite absence of Tom Huddlestone.  The menacing, on-loan Emanuel Adebayor is rated 50-50 for the game with media darling Harry Redknapp quoting “It’s touch and go for him really” – so expect him to play…  After a daunting start to the season where the lilywhites succumbed to the unstoppable juggernauts that are the red and blue halves of Manchester they have managed four wins in a row, scoring 10 and conceding just twice in the process.  Much of this, it can be argued, is down to some sensible signings, with the introduction of Scott Parker instantly slotting in as an excellent foil for Luka Modric, and the complete striker (when interested at least…) that is Emanuel Adebayor giving them much needed potency and presence up front.  Under Redknapp Spurs really only know to play flamboyant attacking football, so no change in strategy is expected for this fixture.

Opposition strengths and notable dangers:

Naturally with this Spurs outfit, their strength lies in an effective implementation of a heavy passing and possession based game – likely to probe and expose NUFC’s weaknesses like no other team so far this season.

Spurs av. attack sides, this season.

1.    Strength in width:  In something of a throw-back to the famous ‘entertainers’ Newcastle side, Spurs use the full extents of the pitch to their advantage, stretching and chipping away the sides of the opposition to create both space and chances.  The sheer athleticism of Gareth Bale, and trickery of Aaron Lennon is well documented in helping this, but what perhaps is not is the support they both receive from their respective full-backs.  Tottenham can attack with ferocity on either flank – flanks which are still looking vulnerable in NUFC’s defence.

2.    Modric dictating tempo:  The once NUFC target Luka Modric  has developed superbly in the PL and now looks every bit a top-class midfielder.  With the pitch spread wide, Modric uses the extra space in the centre to dictate play – averaging a pass every 90 seconds of which an impressive 87% of them are completed and 2.2 are key passes.

3.    Fluid forward-line:  Of late, Tottenham have opted for two men up front in a 442, although even when adopting a 4411 with Van Der Vaart off a lone striker, their attack line has been very dynamic and difficult to track for an opposing defender.  Both Jermaine Defoe and Van Der Vaart have been seen to drop deep into midfield this season to offer options and help build attacks – with Defoe (shown on the chalkboard, right) covering large areas of the field in the home win against Arsenal.  NUFC showed recently at Wolves the defensive headache caused by the dynamism of a constantly moving forward line and will again need the assistance of the midfield in combatting this.

Nine goals from open play (with two from set pieces) says enough in itself about Tottenham’s abilities – un-reliant on dead-ball situations, goals can come from anywhere, at any time of the game.

Tactical suggestions:

The temptation will undoubtedly be to keep the same team and style – but a slight formation and strategy change would surely be more wise to limit the effectiveness of what is a superior attacking opponent, whilst maximising our own effectiveness.

1.    Starve Modric and Bale:  The latter is easier said than done, but the former is not so much if the midfield is set up correctly. Modric tends to drop fairly deep to begin play (being protected by Parker) and move up with it – it’s within this early phase of play that as much pressure should be placed upon him to limit his time on the ball and ability to pick key passes.  As for Bale, much will be about the cover Simpson is afforded by his RM (more about this later), but would be wise generally to position himself a little deeper and narrower – offering Bale the flank (because let’s face it, it’s his if he wants it) but pressuring the cross from the byline rather than the shot or fired cut-back.

2.    Defensive vulnerabilities:  For all their attacking potency, Tottenham remain shaky at the back and often exposed – something which arguably only doesn’t become a significant problem because of Spurs’ strong share of possession.  With both full-backs regularly venturing up field to support the wings, the centre backs are often left a little exposed.  Within this the prospective Kaboul and King look vulnerable to our own dynamic forwards, if we provide them with service quickly.

3.    4141?:  A bit of thinking out loud here… With the opposition strengths noted, perhaps the adoption of a rough 4141 system would be worth a try, with Ben Arfa and Cabaye able to press high up the field whilst providing creativity and support to the lone striker.  With the threat from Bale noted, and Obertan’s insistence on leaving Simpson exposed then perhaps R.Taylor would be better posted back at a familiar RM position – providing greater cover to the wing and helping out in the middle on occasions when required, to squeeze central play.

Final thought and gut feeling:

Newcastle endured a torrid time at Molineux a fortnight ago but still managed to leave with a win despite a clearly desperate home team throwing everything at us.  Spurs visit with form and bags of ability, but to a ground where they traditionally do not do well, and face an NUFC morally buoyant and largely refreshed after a week off:  tight scoring draw.

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  • Nice balanced article. As a Spurs fan I think you’ve summed the game up pretty well.

  • I absolutely love the 4-1-4-1 formation idea…pace from Santon covering Lennon and protection for Simpson from R Taylor (Who’ll also be handy for any set-pieces)…introducing HBA to field of play can only be good too and would provide valuable support to Ba…nice post mate

  • Firstly i dont no if you cant make your mind up but you have 12 a side my friend and has for Spurs not doing well at Newcastle we had not won at Anfield for years and we won and Wolves we won Wigan the list goes on, Adebayorwill play apart and score he was not kean against Arsenal and is due a goal your defence works hard and you ran 121klm against Wolves and you sort of won with the refs help we ran 114 klm and Arsenal ran 119 klm we won 2-1 and it should have bean more.only NORWICH work harder then NEWCASTLE this will increase if we score and keep the ball Verdict without the ref 3-1 too Spurs Necastle 47 percent Spurs 53 percent

  • I think you’ll count 11 players for each side my friend – two options for Spurs forward line dependant upon fitness, which is yet to be confirmed.

  • Well, it would be Marveaux for me instead of R Taylor in that 4-1-4-1. Speed kills and Sylvain has much more of it. Cabaye can handle the free kicks.

    Of course, will AP make any changes? Is he the type of manager that will let a man play himself out of the line-up, or is he going to be more pro-active? Santon looked mighty comfortable for Italy in his U-21 games, HBA and Marveaux also look ready to add to the equation. So what will the gaffer do? I expect he will let someone fail first, but sure would like to see otherwise.

  • Bang on as per lads!

    Like the quip/observation about igor trying his usual cod psychology about adebayor being 50/50. Funny & sooo true!

  • Great post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that and that’s from Spurs fan to .. COYS!

  • Very thoughtful post and a good read. Chances are that VdV & Adebayor will not start as ‘arry is too honest for his own good with his media mates.
    Lennon is out of sorts after injury and also will not start. Don’t be surprised to see Sandro & Livermore drafted in for extra height and muscle, Modric further forward dictating play. One up front – however neither Defoe nor Pavlyuchenko are any good as a target man.
    Spurs win playing on the counter-attack …I hope!

  • Great write up, as always.

    Redknapp said Adebayor, VDV, Kranjcar, Sandro and Corluka are all doubtful. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2048493/Emmanuel-Adebayor-risked-Newcastle-says-Harry-Redknapp.html

    It would be nice to have Tiote man mark Modric in a five man midfield, but i dont think HBA will be fit enough to start and their defense is every shaky, so two upfront is a must.

  • “Tactical suggestions:

    The temptation will undoubtedly be to keep the same team and style – but a slight formation and strategy change would surely be more wise to limit the effectiveness of what is a superior attacking opponent, whilst maximising our own effectiveness”

    You’ve got no chance of that happening Smithy. Pardwho hasnt got a tactical bone in his body but he does know a “winning side” when he sees one 🙁

    Ideally the best we can hope for is an early injury to the Oirish Best so HBA can get into the action. Then again we’re talking Pardwho here so he’ll probably replace him with Lovenkrands 🙁

  • Fair write up. Think you have undervalued King/Kaboul though.
    Spurs may look quite different though because of injuries. Be interesting to watch the midfield contest between the two. Bit nervy about your set pieces against us. Should be a good game to watch though.

  • Good to see the spurs lads joining in the appreciation of a good balanced & fair article.

  • Think this post is very very good. In my opinion I think newcastle are more physical in there games than spurs which is y the run more as we like to pass more. I would like to c spurs play a tougher mid 5 keep modera bale Lennon if fit or replace with gio but play Parker and sandro to get stuck in to give even more bite against a tough Newcastle mid. But that is my opinion ; )

  • Very good article, balanced and detailed.
    Lennon is a threat, and a big one. We can’t have our fullbacks backing off him and allowing him time and space – ie. Danny Simpson last season, final minute of the game. Same goes for Modric – although he’s of such quality it will be hard to limit him.

    All in all, going forward we’ve enough to grab a goal or two. Keep it tight at the back, let the lads get the job done in midfield and I think we could nick it 2-1. Here’s hoping.
    Well done on the article again!
    Dooce 🙂

  • I think your strategy will not be addapted at all Smith i say this with the greatest respect.
    pressing modric in their own half exposes us to the quick wide ball and with their wide players massiver threat. David Santon will not start the game, he has not played a single first team game and in a big game you wouldnt put the 20 year old in, if anything shane furgusen would have a better chance.

    Ryan Taylor may protect Simpson, but his lack of pace will reduce our impact on counter. You yourself have said that Totenham are a possession team, so our best bet will be counter attack. You might instead use marveux or loverkrands who has played in that position before.
    Ben Arfa will not start the game either, as he is coming back from a massive injury, he will be given 10 – 20 minutes and nursed back (mental and physical reasons) just like marvuex.

    I think to combat their midfield threat, we could pack the midfield so a 4-5-1 formation. But being a home game Pardew will stick to 4-4-2.
    Our advantage definately will be the crowd, if their vocal we could do well in this game.

  • Being a Spurs fan, I dont like saying this but a well written analysis of the game, can you come and support Spurs please?

  • according to the metro paper rednapp has been quoted as saying he won’t risk adebayor at all against us and give him more time to recover for next week. so thats good news and i think we should go with santon at LB cause taylor gt no pace if lennon get goal side least santon has a fighting chance.

  • Good article
    Newcastle will confirm their status with a good win 4-1.
    Davspurs might want to use to instead of too next time he has a go at the team numbers.

  • I see Lee is on the weed nice and early this mornin 🙂

  • Thanks for the comments all – on the whole very productive and respectful. Although, I must stress for those who haven’t picked up on it that the ‘tactical suggestions’ are just that – suggestions! The ‘team strategies and likely line-ups’ are what I generally will believe will occur in a given game – in this instant Adebayor will probably not play but (call me cynical) but I don’t take everything that Harry Redknapp says as gospel… Cheers again all.

  • Cheers for your comments – although will equal respect I can’t agree with some. Pressing Modric will more likely catch players out of position and unavailable for the pass, whereas leaving him unpressured to dictate tempo simply is not an option. I agree with the principles of Santon and Ben Arfa’s injuries, but Santon has proven his fitness and played in far higher profile games than this before and has the benefit of excellent cover from Gutierrez – Ben Arfa would be a gamble in terms of whether he is 90%-95% fit but the less combative nature of the game would at least be far more inviting to introduce a player of his style in, especially with the support of Cabaye.
    The counter attacking option may be a good one but to do so we would have to play Obertan RM who exposes Simpson often – neither Marveaux or Lovenkrands would provide anywhere near the defensive cover to Simpson against Spurs’ strongest side, which to me is more important – especially given this season the mass majority of our goal threat has came to decent effect from the centre.
    However, I very much agree the midfield should be bolstered, and if the crowd get firmly behind the lads it could push them just that little bit further to get a result, much as it did in the same fixture last season.
    Ho’way the lads!

  • Great analysis, enjoyed reading it. I thought I was the only one who could talk sense about football. Nice to see the positive comments from the Spurs fans, great, after all we are all football fans, second. HWTL

  • I cannot see Lennon starting. He is not ready. Expect to see a 4-5-1 from Spurs. Bale Sandro Parker and Modric on the inside right. VDV, then Defoe. You won’t have to worry about Lennon, but Walker will be bombing down the right. Bale will be wide left. Watch Sandro. He is a beast and will no doubt be Spurs next big star.

  • Excellent write up again Smithy.
    I look forward to watching this in the Burswood Casino, Perth at 11pm!

  • Marveaux for Obertan, Ben Arfa for Best and, possibly, Santon for Ryan Taylor (depending on how fit and in-form young Davide is). Saying that, I don’t think Pardew’s the kind of manager to change a winning team.
    Top stuff, as ever.

  • Re Santon not being selected (Jawad) in a big game; he mde his Champions League debut against Cristiano Ronaldo, a fairly big game. He has captained Italy u21 twice in the last two weeks so is fit to play and has experience of big games.

    Good preview as ever chaps, would take a point from this game.

  • You’ll be missed from the match day routine Don!


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