Not exactly Monty Python agreed but the difference between performances from Sunday to Wednesday was considerable. And it wasn´t just the performance that was different.
The announcement of the teams – across the bottom of our TV screen in the bar here in Spain – was greeted with a mixture of glee, puzzlement and disappointment. The vast majority of pundits had expected Tim to select the same team that started so slowly against Everton and come away with the win, yet there were changes – not wholesale – but changes nonetheless.
Kaboul was in for Dawson – so our skipper was out having played every single minute of every Premier League game this season. Everyone of us loves Dawson to bits, he is wholehearted and a leader but he is also slow and been prone to mistakes. Most welcomed Kaboul´s return.
Rose was out – no one was aware he was suffering from concussion – so Naughton replaced him. If this was puzzling at first the next change was simply amazing – Eriksen on the bench and Capoue in his place. Why was our most creative player dropped in favour of our defensive “Tank”?
Who was going to play where? What formation were we going to play? Was there even a formation? With four holding midfielders where was the attacking spark – so missing at the weekend – going to come from? Lennon? Adebayor?
All the worry was for nothing as we came out of the starting blocks faster than Usain Bolt at the Olympics. On the ball we drove forward relentlessly, with everyone wanting to get involved.
At one point early in the first half Walker charged forward and laid the ball wide to Kaboul who was steaming down the right wing. Spurs players were getting on the ball and using it to good effect for virtually the entire 90 minutes. In the last minute six players burst into Newcastle´s half outnumbering the opposition and it was only two of our players getting in each other´s way that prevented a shot going in.
This was a totally different approach
Defence began with Adebayor – again every player was involved – hounding the opposition as soon as they got it, winning it back with forceful pressure. This was the approach favoured by AVB – but seemingly discarded by the new regime – until now.
In spite of the changes – or more likely because – of them we looked like a viable unit, a team capable of playing football, of forcing ourselves on the opposition. We played with a verve and cohesion not seen recently, we showed determination, aggression where required and above all we had attacking creativity.
Did we have a formation? We certainly had a better balance, Dembele wide right (now that was different) with Lennon on the left, providing excellent cover for Naughton.
But instead of one attacking central midfield player we had two – Bentaleb and Paulinho – with Capoue sitting in front of the back four. If we had a formation it was more 4-1-4-1 than anything else. It was something completely different – but it worked.
And one other major difference. It was enjoyable to watch. Not just the quality of our play but the whole sense of ease with which we achieved the victory. Normally when leading One-Nil or Two-Nil we are wary, unsure of whether we will prevail. This time, we knew we were going to win, it was as simple as that. And with that simple belief came enjoyment.
Of course, Newcastle contributed to their own demise. They rarely showed any belief that they would score and on the rare occasions they did test Lloris he was more than up to the task. He made a couple of very decent saves, but all were run of the mill for a man of his calibre.
At the other end it was some cruel (or should that be Krul) irony that the one man who had denied us so brilliantly when we last played the Magpies was largely to blame for their defeat.
In November Tim Krul made an astonishing 14 saves, and each time he made a save the ball flew to safety.
Last night he only made four and three of those fell to the feet of a Tottenham man. Our first came from a sublime piece of work from Bentaleb, drifting to the left he dropped his shoulder and then – almost Beckham-esque in its execution – delivered a swinging low cross which Krul parried onto Adebayor´s left boot.
Second half pressure began to mount and a long range effort from Adebayor was spilled and only one man – Paulinho – reacted.
Adebayor´s second had an element of luck as his high kick into the ground could have gone anyone but instead nestled neatly into the corner of the net.
Our fourth was the pick of the goals, a delicate backheel from Betaleb allowed Chadli time and space to pick his spot and leave Krul clutching at air.
A superb team performance, great individual performances from everyone, and inspired team selection from Tim.
It was something different – long may it continue.
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