4 lessons from Tottenham’s convincing win over Newcastle

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

1)      Don’t Expect a Fixed Formation for the Rest of the Year

When Tim Sherwood took charge of this Spurs team, he promised better football and more goals to the fans. To achieve that, he played 4-4-2 with Soldado and Adebayor up front. However, Soldado’s awful run of form forced him to change the formation to 4-2-3-1 with Adebayor as a lone striker. This worked better as Tottenham gained control of the midfield but still left acres of space to Manchester City at home by playing Eriksen too close to the striker. Against Everton, he chose to play 4-3-3 with Eriksen and Lennon on the wings and against Newcastle he played Lennon on the left and Dembele on the right dropping Eriksen and adding another body to the midfield in the form of Etienne Capoue. This worked great against Newcastle because it allowed Paulinho and Bentaleb to attack trusting Capoue in front of the back four to cover for them. And that is exactly what the Frenchman did. He was solid all game, allowing almost no space to the Newcastle midfielders and protecting his midfield and back four. However, Eriksen is a quality player and he will eventually come back to the squad. When that happens, Tim Sherwood will have to switch around again. Maybe he will drop a player and keep the formation but more likely, he will change the formation to adjust Eriksen into the squad. Therefore, I don’t think we will see a formation that will stick with this Spurs side until the end of the season.

2)      Capoue or Sandro in front of the back four is necessary

Against Newcastle, Capoue had a very important job. He had to keep his back four from getting caught in no man’s land against numbers, and to allow his fellow midfielders to support Adebayor and Lennon more in attack. That plan worked out perfectly as Capoue’s defensive ability almost led to the resurgence in the Tottenham attack as 6 players attack Newcastle on the counter at times. Capoue was solid all game long and his performance last night should give a clear idea to Tim Sherwood. He must play a holding midfielder against any opposition but especially the big teams Spurs will face in 3 weeks time. Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all have great attacking power and Spurs can’t rely on young Nabil Bentaleb to keep out all of those teams. Capoue, and Sandro when he returns, will provide the defensive insurance to the attackers and allow them to focus on the attacking side of the game only.

3)      Tottenham have quality on the bench

Last night showed that Tottenham has great quality on the bench and can rely on any player coming from the bench to provide moments of magic in crucial games. Against Newcastle, Tottenham brought on Townsend, Chadli and Soldado off the bench and they all performed greatly. Soldado did not have much time to produce but the ball he won from Steven Taylor and passed to Bentaleb ended up in the back of the net by Nacer Chadli who showed why Tottenham bought him in the summer. Also, Townsend was really good on the right flank where he helped his defence much of the time he was on but he attacked the Newcastle goal in the last 15 minutes by making smart runs on the wing. His blocked shot was turned in by Adebayor in the 83rd minute. Also, we will see Vlad Chiriches, Christian Eriksen, Sandro and Erik Lamela on the bench at some point when everybody recovers from their injuries and Tim Sherwood will have the full squad to work with which on paper, has the quality to qualify for next year’s Champions League.

4)      Younes Kaboul is a world class centre back at his best

Younes Kaboul finally recovered from his injury that kept him on the sidelines for much of the season and what a return it was for the Frenchman. He put on a performance that will give hope to the fans, his teammates and Tim Sherwood for the future. He was solid all around; in the attack, on the ball and on defence. He showed his great one on one ability by blocking Sammy Ameobi’s shot after Naughton gave it away and he did not make a mistake all game except for Cisse’s early chance which was saved by Hugo Lloris. He was also smart and confident on the ball, making smart passes and opening up the play. But the biggest surprise was his contribution on Spurs’ attack. He constantly darted forwards to chase a goal scoring opportunity. One of the strangest moments came in the 70th minute when Kyle Walker got the ball in the middle of the park and passed it to overlapping Younes Kaboul who dashed 70 yards on the edge of the box. He did that more than once as Paulinho’s first half chance that was saved by Krul was created by Younes Kaboul’s creative run into the box. Also, his incredible defensive ability combining with Verthongen’s, allows Tottenham to play the high line that AVB looked to play all season. AVB failed because Michael Dawson was playing centre back but now that Kaboul is back, he and Verthongen will make a world-class, formidable centre back pair that could easily shut down opponents.

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  1. I don’t believe anything has ‘forced’ Sherwood to stop playing 4-4-2.

    I believe 4-4-2 was adopted immediately as the players had been groomed to playing AVB’s system. It was a system that wasn’t working. A change had to be made, and 4-4-2 is a default system that all footballers inherently understand.

    Anyone who followed Sherwood’s career at Spurs prior to his promotion to first team coach will know that he was instrumental in the adoption of a ‘club style’ throughout the squads – from academy up, and that a major future of this was a 4-3-3. There was such a rush to judge Sherwood, to judge him for changing AVB’s system for a 4-3-3, and, it seems to me, to portray him as ‘Arry Mark 2, that most commentators didn’t bother to familiarise themselves with this.

    Soldado was interacting well with Adebayor in a 4-4-2. They is no reason to believe he wouldn’t have ended his goal-drought if Sherwood had continued that formation. So there is no reason to believe Sherwood was forced to stop playing 4-4-2 because of Soldado’s form (or lack of).

    In agree with the rest of what you say, though :)


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