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Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle: 16 Conclusions

1) The obvious sub-text of Tottenham’s draw with Manchester City was their performance: they were largely awful, but were efficient enough to take their chances as they fell and, somehow, resilient enough to withstand City’s heavy shelling. Mauricio Pochettino was after something much less passive here. In came Son Heung-Min, returning after suspension, and Lucas Moura too, who is very much a situation-specific player within this squad, but whose direct, aggressive style was the logical choice against a visiting defence expected to pack the middle of the pitch and sit deep. It seems to be a sign of the times for Pochettino. Unfortunately, no matter which changes he makes, he can’t push his side beyond third gear. They run in the same way, they attempt all the same inter-changes, but all the intangibles are conspicuous by their absence. Those no imagination, no conviction, and no confidence.   2) Newcastle were everything Spurs presumably thought they’d be. The headlines will all pivot around their resilience and while, clearly, this was a dramatic improvement on that terrible performance at Norwich, they showed shades of balance at White Hart Lane which, more than once, made the home side look vulnerable. Even before Joelinton scored the game’s only goal, Sean Longstaff had brought an excellent save from Hugo Lloris and, with the advantage, Spurs did look sporadically vulnerable to the counter. Small steps, yes, but this wasn’t just a backs-to-wall smash and grab.   3) The nature of the game had the home fans calling for Giovani Lo Celso early. An understandable reaction, but most likely they’ll have to be patient – mainly because of how busy Lo Celso’s summer has been, but also because that’s just what Pochettino does. He doesn’t hand out starting positions easily. He didn’t for Son and still isn’t for Moura. That’s not Lo Celso’s fault. He’s subject to the usual laws of acclimatisation, but until Christian Eriksen’s future is settled, Pochettino won’t be able to commit fully to the reconstruction of his midfield. Maybe, in time, that could actually work in his favour? The nature of his transfer, with the bulk of the fee not due until he joins permanently, has made him more novelty item that saviour. That helps. But a slow and steady adaption, in which his week-by-week performances aren’t scrutinised, is also the responsible way to treat a player who has a steep learning ahead. He’s the new toy, isn’t he? You want to get him out of his packet and see what he can do. He’s special, though, so let Pochettino take his time, handle him with care, and read the instructions first.   4) The beneficiary for now is Erik Lamela, who started his third game in a row. Lamela was a mixed bag in both of his previous outings. He was frustrating against Aston Villa, but ultimately forced the mistake from Jack Grealish which won Spurs the game. A week later, he was largely peripheral against City, but was involved enough to score the first goal and create the second. This was not his day, though. Referring to Lamela as divisive is almost cliché by now, but today his detractors had a point – at least in respect to the the role he was being asked to perform. He’s too unpredictable to play as a No.10. Whereas a Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen-type has established traits which allow the attacking players to make anticipatory runs, Lamela ad libs his way through matches. Sometimes that’s a virtue, because it can make him difficult to defend. On Sunday, though, it was disruptive and seemed to have an inhibiting effect on Tottenham’s attacking rhythm. Too often he was picking the ball up in a deep positions and tasked with finding a way through a forest of Newcastle defenders. He pirouetted and he pushed a few passes around, but – save for some encouraging opening minutes – with almost no consequence. When he has to think, it’s a problem. Lamela is gifted, that’s not contentious, but he’s definitely become more suited to open games, in which goals have already been scored and an opposition is compelled to do more than just defend.   5) Well done Joelinton, a nicely-taken goal to get off the mark and provide a quick correction after last week’s terrible miss. But Davinson Sanchez? At fault for that John McGinn goal and probably culpable again here. There’s something about his partnership with Toby Alderweireld which feels wrong. They’re fine players, Alderweireld is an exceptional one, but together – and without Jan Vertonghen – they’re prone to a couple of those moments each game. Vertonghen’s greatest virtue is probably his passing into midfield, so his absence doesn’t create any obvious defensive deficit, but the chemistry just isn’t right when he’s not there and that continues to show. At the point at which Christian Atsu delivered his cross, Sanchez had drifted well beyond his proper position, leaving Joelinton with five yards of space on the edge of the Tottenham box. Freeze frame with Atsu in possession and it just looks bizarre – and, taken a stage further, hardly an endorsement of Pochettino’s decision to keep Vertonghen on the bench.   6) Although, to be fair to Joelinton, perhaps he played a part in unsettling Sanchez? What the television cameras didn’t pick up was the jostling, physical challenge he presented almost from kick-off. He played much of the first-half in isolation, adrift from his support, but he jabbed and poked at his markers, proving a nuisance even when the ball was nowhere near him. To what value? Who knows, really, but even though Spurs dominated possession for long periods, their centre-backs were kept occupied by those little skirmishes and neither were allowed to ease into the game.   7) One of the stranger attacks being levelled at Newcastle supporters is this ‘need for patience’ line which a small group of journalists continue to peddle; it only really makes sense if the last twelve years are completely ignored. Like any other coach, Steve Bruce will take time to have a proper effect on the first-team. But expecting supporters to clap along and sustain themselves on micro positives is, at best, ludicrously disingenuous. It pretends that Ashley – and by proxy all the decisions he makes – are deserving of goodwill and, ultimately, benefit of the doubt. Clearly that’s not the case. Especially so because this was an appointment made on the basis of geographical synergy, rather than any footballing merit. In that context, it deserves...


Published By: Fottball 365 - Sunday, 25 August, 2019

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