When you make a gamble as a Premier League manager, you know what the headlines are going to be when it doesn’t pay off. When it pays off on the other hand, the same headlines will talk about your genius, tactical brilliance and managerial ability. For Tim Sherwood, tonight’s game was a gamble that paid huge dividends. His strange tactics to drop captain Michael Dawson in favour of Younes Kaboul, to play Aaron Lennon on the left wing and Dembele on the right were somewhat unorthodox. Tim Sherwood we have gotten used to plays 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 but not 4-3-3 where a central midfielder played as one of the wings. Also, dropping Christian Eriksen and adding Etienne Capoue made the fans ask: “How is this team going to create anything in the attacking third?” All those questions found an answer as the game went on.
Tottenham started the first half great considering how they have been starting the games over the season. They found real chances with Adebayor and Dembele connecting and Paulinho hitting the target. They were lucky not to go a goal behind thanks to an amazing save by Hugo Lloris and a terrible finishing by Cisse. After that Tottenham got the control of the game. They were looking slick on the ball and playing with confidence; Bentaleb and Paulinho were attacking more as they had Capoue at the back protecting the back four. Dembele was trying to prove himself on the wing and as always he was using his strength to hold on to the ball and get past defenders. Then, in the 20th minute, Tottenham got a lucky break. Bentaleb got the ball in the middle, dribbled it to the left side, used his strength to get past Sissoko and crossed it into the box. Tim Krul was there to tip it away but he couldn’t and the ball came on a plate to Emmanuel Adebayor who tucked it away for 1-0 Tottenham.
After the ugly win against Everton on Sunday, Tim Sherwood complained about the slow paced, lacklustre and boring display. He said he wanted to press high and play ‘risky football’. Well, in the first half, he definitely got them. Tottenham pressed high with almost anyone. Bentaleb, Paulinho, Dembele and Adebayor all put pressure on the Newcastle defenders. Newcastle had to get rid of the ball and get back on defence to look for a counter attack. That was a solid idea considering that Tottenham played a high line that would have made AVB absolutely delighted. Sometimes Tottenham had 9 players on the attacking end as Verthongen and Lloris seemed like the only players who did not want to attack. It’s not like this attack minded approach brought anything to the table as Tottenham players played dangerous passes to each other resulting in a Newcastle counter for about 25 minutes.
In the second half, two teams swapped roles as Newcastle got into the driving seat. They were the side attacking and pressuring to find a goal but their attacks did not yield anything thanks to Verthongen-Kaboul pairing and Capoue who were on his game to ensure Newcastle didn’t get a chance to get back in the game. Tottenham were looking to hit Newcastle on the counter and it reminded me a lot of Harry Redknapp when he had Bale and Lennon running up and down the field for a quick counter attack goal. Aaron Lennon was one of the players who were looking for that counter attack goal but this time he was combining with Nabil Bentaleb who showed us his attacking skills after playing a holding midfielder in every game he has played under Tim Sherwood. In the 53rd minute, the tactics paid off and Tottenham hit Newcastle with a quick counter. After couple of one touch passes around the box, the ball came to Adebayor and he shot from outside the box. Tim Krul couldn’t hold on to it as Paulinho put home the rebound. Tottenham, at that time, were two up and looking safer than ever. As the pressure mounted on the Spurs defence after the goal, Newcastle found couple of decent chances courtesy of Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy but Hugo Lloris kept them out with two world class saves. At this time, Tim Sherwood made a good change and brought on Andros Townsend in place of Moussa Dembele who picked up an injury. Townsend helped the defence in couple of occasions with his pace and awareness. Also, Nacer Chadli came on in the 75th minute for a tired Aaron Lennon who produced a much better performance after some anonymous displays against Manchester City, Hull City and Everton. These changes brought more energy to the side as the attack started by Nacer Chadli in the 83rd minute was finished by Adebayor as he hit the volley to the ground which confused Tim Krul and ended up in the back of the net for Tottenham’s third goal. Spurs did not stop there as Nacer Chadli produced one of the best goals of the season for his first goal in the Premier League in the 88th minute to put more misery on Newcastle and Alan Pardew. Later on Townsend found a decent chance to score but the Englishman couldn’t find the back of the net and the game finished 4-0 as Tottenham emerged victorious.
This game brought back a really key element from Harry Redknapp days: Ruthlessness. Tottenham did not let their feet off the gas pedal after 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0 as they attacked Newcastle every chance they got and this is a great sign for a team which have one of the worst goal differences in the top half. Now, there is a 10 day break in the Premier League and Tottenham are coming back with an away game against Norwich. After that they are hosting Cardiff at White Hart Lane. It is absolutely critical for Spurs to pick up 6 points out of these games to ensure their place in a 4th place fight when March comes. Things are looking good for Tim Sherwood and Tottenham now and it was a great pleasure to watch Spurs play with the old swagger everybody was asking from them.
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