In this round of Premier League fixtures, Newcastle United took on Tottenham Hotspur. With competition for a Europa League place heating up it was an important win for José Mourinho’s side as a goal from Son Heung-min and a brace from Harry Kane including his 200th club career goal was enough to get the 3-1 win.
This tactical analysis will provide analysis of Mourinho’s tactics illustrating how his team was able to win. The analysis will also provide analysis on Steve Bruce tactics to show how his side set up in this fixture.
Newcastle United may have nothing left to play for this season but with potential takeover rumours circling the club, it is a good opportunity for Bruce to have a good look at the squad in preparations for next season. As a result, it is no surprise that he made changes from their 2-1 defeat to Watford. Instead of the 4-4-2, they used last time out Newcastle switched to a 5-3-2. This meat that Allan Saint-Maximin moved into a central position alongside Dwight Gayle. The formation change moved Miguel Almirón into midfield this is to utilise the player’s ability to drive out of deference with the ball and to find an important forward pass.
Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, keep with the same squad that beat Arsenal 2-1 in the North London derby, however, they do move to a 4-3-3. This is so Son and Lucas Moura are able to operate as more natural wingers and are therefore further up the pitch.
In the early stages of the game, it was evident the tactics of the two managers as Tottenham looked happy to let Newcastle have the ball and only press when the ball came into their final third. Newcastle would look to stretch the game by having their players as wide as possible this initially comes from the wing-backs who would hug the touchline, then at the same time, the three centre-backs would spread across the pitch to have wide passing options. They were able to do this as Nabil Bentaleb and Jonjo Shelvey would provide the central pivots.
The interesting factor of this tactic was how deep and stretched Newcastle are. As the image below demonstrates the centre backs would often sit in a deep position across the backline to be a passing option on the ball so Newcastle could rotate the play. The two central would midfielders would then sit in the gaps in the centre to be in a position to control the game. The home side found this particularly easy because of Spurs approach to this tactic as instead of trying to pin Newcastle in this position they were hesitant in pressing forward and would therefore only commit a few players. As a result, Newcastle could comfortably play the ball up the pitch as they had so much space.
As the analysis has mentioned Tottenham were prepared to let Newcastle play out from the back with little pressure on the ball. This was so they could get numbers behind the ball in order to prevent their being space for Newcastle to run through, in particular, making it difficult Saint-Maximin.
The images below shows Tottenham have six players in a deep position but also centrally. This is to prevent their being gaps between the defence and midfield, therefore the only way Saint-Maximin can get on the ball is by coming deep, this block then prevents the Frenchman from being able to run at Tottenham.
From the way Tottenham set up, it was clear they were prepared for Newcastle’s wide system making it difficult for them to get the ball in the middle, and limiting them to crosses from deep. However, when defending this way it means that the midfield have to get back into shape quickly when Tottenham lose the ball, otherwise it leaves opportunities for Newcastle, this is what happened in the image below as after winning the ball back quickly they get the ball wide to Matt Ritchie who is able to cut the ball back on to his right foot and finds a cross to Shelvey who has been able to get into the box as Tottenham have not got players back fast enough. Spurs get away with it on this occasion as it is a poor header but show the danger of trying to defend in this way.
Despite not having much of the ball in the first twenty minutes of the game it was Tottenham that broke the deadlock. It came from Spurs attacking centrally. It was no surprise that they would target the middle of the pitch considering how wide Newcastle was set up. Tottenham would do this by getting Son and Moura to operate in a central position either side of Kane. In fact, 62% of Tottenham’s attacks came through the middle.
The goal itself came from Moura running into a central position and finding Kane with the pass. As Spurs attackers were so tight it enabled them to quickly move the ball onto Son. With little pressure on the forward, he was able to smartly find the bottom corner making it 1-0 and scoring his 11th goal in the league this year.
The second half started in a similar way with Tottenham sitting back and looking to hit Newcastle on the break, however, it was the home side that were able to get the next goal with a fine strike from Ritchie. The goal happened because of a combination of errors from Tottenham. The first was from Harry Winks who dived into a tackle on Valentino Lazaro this enabled the midfielder to come inside where he was tackled by the Tottenham defence, however, it was a poor clearance from Serge Aurier as it went straight to Ritchie. This meant that Davinson Sánchez was not able to get out to Ritchie in time to block the shot. As the goal demonstrates it is what can happen when Tottenham have a narrow structure as it gives space to Newcastle’s wide players who can be dangerous as Ritchie showed.
Nevertheless, the home side were only level for four minutes as Steven Bergwijn had an instant impact on the game having only come on two minutes before the goal. The goal came as Bergwijn moved from a central position to a wide position to collect the ball. He was able to quickly turn and pick out an excellent cross to Kane in the middle who put it away for his 200th club career goal.
The goal came from good movement from both Bergwijn and Kane as moving out wide meant that he came from behind the Newcastle midfield meaning they can’t track the run. It also highlights the difference in quality in the two teams as this exactly the type of movement that Saint-Maximin has been making for Newcastle; the difference is that Spurs had the extra bit of quality in Kane’s run and finish combined with Bergwijn ability to find the right cross.
Spurs seal the win
In the final stages of the game, Newcastle switched to 3-4-1-2 to try and push for an equaliser. This meant that they were committing more numbers forward leaving them vulnerable at the back. Tottenham then set up for the break by keeping Kane in an advanced position, then have players run off him when he holds the ball up.
This is what happens for the third goal as Kane is able to bring the ball out of defence driving Tottenham up the pitch, Érik Lamela is able to quickly get up the pitch with Kane creating a two vs two. Lamela does well to carry the ball into the box and even get a good shot off that Martin Dúbravka can only parry away, fortunately for Spurs Kane is in a position to put away the rebound to finish the move and the game.
This tactical analysis had provided analysis on Tottenham’s 3-1 win over Newcastle in the Premier League. It is a win that keeps Spurs bid for European football alive. It was not a convincing performance from Mourinho’s side as Newcastle still caused Tottenham’s defence problems and despite the three goals they only had eight shots five on target compared to Newcastle 22, demonstrating the lack of creativity.
Newcastle may have had 22 shots but only six were on target and the majority were from outside the box. This was because they did struggle to break down Tottenham and in the end did not have the quality to get back into the game after they went 2-1 down. It will be interesting to see what Bruce does in their remaining games as with nothing to play for and now three defeats in a row he may look to see more of the squad and what some of his players are really about in preparation for next season.