A sloppy, lethargic home display saw Spurs drop three vital points at home in their feat for a top 4 place or a potential title challenge. A composed Loic Remy rounded veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel in the 12th minute to score the only goal of the game, punishing Spurs for their somewhat notorious slow starts at home this season. In what seems like a familiar theme this term, Tottenham dominated possession (65.3%) but struggled dearly to inject any fluency into on ball proceedings or to even simply progress the ball into the middle third of the pitch, let alone the final third. Captain Michael Dawson attempted by far the most passes in the game (84), more than 5 times the amount of attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson (15); surely AVB would not like to see Dawson on the ball so much?
Dembele the Half Back?
Tottenham’s main and most prominent problems in the first half came from the Belgian International who was deployed in a far deeper position than we’ve seen him before. Playing what is now referred to as the ‘Half-back’ role, expanding from his midfield partner Paulinho in order to almost form a 3 centre backs formation when in possession of the ball, essentially to:
A) Create a 3 vs 2 central overload against Newcastle’s two front-men (Remy & Ameobi) which should make the progression of play from the back easier and
B) Allow the full-backs to play higher up the pitch earlier in the play, with less risk. As a result Kyle Walker made more Final third entries (12) than any other Spurs player.
As we can see the full backs have vacated their position (red boxes) as Dembele attempts to initiate play. However, Dembele struggled whenever Newcastle activated their pressing within the final third and this resulted in Dembele losing possession 6 times in crucial areas of the pitch. One of them the beginning of Loic Remy’s eventual winner.
A tale of two halves…
The old cliché was in no way more evident than in this game. The second half saw the introduction of Brazilian enforcer Sandro who managed to inject not only much need steel and protection for the back 4 (making 5 interceptions, more than any other player) but also composure and urgency on the ball. Sandro registered 5% more forward passes than the replaced Dembele as Spurs went onto bombard the Newcastle United goal.
Spurs put the Toon under immense pressure throughout the entire second half and returned to their familiar lightening quick dribble heavy attacking transitions, getting the ball up the pitch on average within the first 6 seconds of winning the ball. Spearheaded by England international Andros Townsend; who attempted 9 dribbles in the game (more than any other player), Tottenham were ferocious in their attempt to get what maybe was a deserved equaliser at this point whipping in a total of 36 crosses (including set pieces). Furthermore, AVB’s men attempted 31 shots (with 21 being on target) and Newcastle keeper Tim Krul incredibly pulled off 14 saves; the most by any keeper since the 06/07 season.
A very poor loss for AVB and Spurs as their goal-scoring woes continue; with just 9 goals from 11 games. However, the second half did demonstrate Spurs’ current set-up does carry the capacity to one day be a good scoring side but a combination of poor finishing and the amazing Tim Krul stopped them cold on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for Spurs we live in the present and Tottenham currently boast the worst chance conversion rate (6%) in the entire Premier League, a truly woeful return.
Moreover, Mousa Dembele expressed his dissatisfaction with his current role within the team:
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Mousa Dembele” quotestyle=”style02″] I can not be satisfied with it, of course. I just want to play as many games. The coach explained that he makes a tactical choice. He wants more defensive players in midfield. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
On initial review, Sandro or Capoue would most certainly suit this ‘half-back’ position more if AVB wishes to fully integrate it into Spurs’ attacking build up play, freeing up the Belgian to play in a slightly more offensive role but which midfield combination will be more conducive to Spurs scoring the goals which they are in desperate need of?