MF looks back at the Newcastle defeat

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A disappointing result but one that arguably we didn’t deserve. As we’d probably all feared might be the case, the loss had its roots in our lack of firepower. We were well on top in the first half but failed to take our chances.

The game in brief – Defoe and Bale had efforts strike the woodwork before Ba scored for Newcastle after the break with their first proper opportunity. Defoe equalised after some good work from Lennon before shortly afterwards Van der Vaart and Lennon let themselves get bamboozled by Ben Arfa in the area and the latter fired home his pen to Friedel’s left.

The last third of last season was characterised by our inability to make the most of our periods of good play and despite the changes up top we were the same here. As expected Villas-Boas went with a high pressing game with the full backs pushing up to support the midfield. There were a couple of personnel decisions that weren’t widely predicted though with Gallas starting alongside Kaboul at the back (with the younger of the Frenchmen on the left hand side) and Livermore and Sandro both being picked ahead of Van der Vaart and Huddlestone with the latter not even making it on to the subs bench. The choice of Gallas ahead of Vertonghen was an interesting one; clearly AVB hasn’t been impressed by the contribution of the Belgian so far.

We lacked composure in midfield, Sigurdsson was prominent throughout but Lennon and Bale were quiet for too long. Creativity massively improved once Van der Vaart came on. No doubt Villas-Boas will be doing plenty of thinking and tinkering in the coming weeks but to me it seems obvious that given our current personnel, a place needs to be found for VdV in the side.

If we’d got a draw then I think everyone would’ve been happy, and impressed with the start, so there’s no point in getting depressed about a defeat in which we had twice as many shots on target as the home team. It’s the continuation of the pattern of being unable to finish teams off which is the main concern. West Brom next up.

By MF

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9 COMMENTS

    • As a neutral I can say that Spurs controlled the game for at least the first hour. Their first half pressing left Newcastle playing aimless long balls straight into Friedel's hands which is the reason for the stats showing a massive territorial advantage to Spurs.

      Newcastle were better in the second half once they match Spurs in the midfield but Demba Ba's goal still came against the run of play.

      Spurs only have themselves to blame for not taking their chances.

    • The stats on bbc.co.uk are incorrect, official opta data for the game had Newcastle at 52% possession to our 48%, so Newcastle did shade it but not like you say. However… Spurs had 15 shots at goal to Newcastle's 7 (4-3 to Spurs on target) and we created 11 chances to Newcastle's 2.
      Get your facts straight, you have our wastefulness to thank for your victory.

  1. We didn`t lose this due to lack of fire power we lost it due to defensive errors and a brilliant strike from Ba. Going to N`castle is difficult at best of times so AVB set out to contain and snatch the win or at the very least get the draw..which on reflection would have been a fair result…and a good one on the opening day of the season. No need to state the obvious regarding strikers..my concern is that once again Levy lets the season get underway knowing we need a striker..irrespective of the Modric sitn. No sure why Thud was not on the bench, his passing ability could have made the differrence in the last 20 mins. Could be worse we could be Liverpool!!

  2. A defeat was expected and an even heavier loss wouldn't have been surprising. It's the same old story of not picking players with the required qualities to complement each other in the system of play. Somehow many managers get confused between a role in a formation with its associated qualities and the nomenclature of the position the role fills. If we talk about a 4-2-3-1 formation in terms of positional nomenclature, then only one striker is required. Given the circumstances of last Saturday, Jermaine Defoe would have to be picked, simply because he is by definition a 'striker', even though he is hardly suitabe for the role of 'someone who has to hold the ball up and bring others into play', i.e. a 'centre-forward'. Had we managed to secure the services of Adebayor before the game, Adebayor would have been picked, because he is also a 'striker', and Jermain Defoe would have been left out, since the formation stipulates the need for only one 'striker'. Trouble is that the second half of last season has given ample proof that Adebayor on his own doesn't get too many goals. He creates play really well, holds the ball up and pressurizes defenses, and brings Bale and Lennon into the game effectively. However if there are no other natural finishers in the game, goals are hard to come by. My point is, we have to start thinking about formations and systems of play in terms of the qualities of the players in each position rather than the available players for each position by virtue of what they call themselves (striker, attacking midfielder, etc) or what they have been used to playing, and pick the team with the right complement of qualities. That is then a team that will gel and get goals. It may mean playing Dawson as a central midfielder instead of Sandro or Livernore, because Dawson is sharper in his tackles and distributes the ball well from deep, so that we very easily turn defence into attack. It may mean playing Ekotto or Kabul up top for the time being, because skillwise, they are the only ones with enough close ball control skills to hold off opposing defenders and hold the ball up long enough to bring others into play. It may mean playing Defoe as one of the three in the advanced midfield positions, because he is really good bearing down on goal but not with his back towards goal. I wished we'd only look at all the players we had, disregarding their 'natural positions' and decide who the best people are for each role in the system of play. I think if we did that, we might not even need to buy any more players. It will also help us in buying the right players. All too often, we've bought a star name who has performed tremendously well for their previous club, but become totally ineffective in ours: Darren Bent, David Bently, Mido, Danny Murphy, Mathew Ethrington, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Kevin Prince Boateng, to name but a few. They then move to other clubs and become linchpins. What has happened is that we've bought only a reputation and a name, but not a required quality to complement the rest of the team. I'm not sure if our scouts even look at these players and determine their true worth in the context of what the rest of the other players in their previous teams have provided for them to thrive, and whether such an environment already exists in our squad. It's okay to spend 50 million on the right player with the exact qualities that will bring our level of play up. But it's an unforgivable sin to spend that kind of money simply on a star name with a great reputation, but a total misfit in our team. That's why I never cease to admire Alex Ferguson. He is not shy to spend 28 million on Berbatov, 32 million on Rio Ferdinand and something close to that region on Wayne Rooney. At the same time, he isn't afraid to play Ryan Giggs as centre-forward or left-back, nor Michael Carrick as centre-back, or John O'Shea anywhere in midfield or defence. At the end of the day, his ability to see players as a repository of qualities and potential waiting to be tapped and put together as a synergistic unit has brought him more success than we with our 'buy whoever has done well for their previous club and could possibly fit the bill' strategy. Jugding by how the Saints played yesterday, they'd give us a good hiding any day, even though they are a team of unknowns.

  3. We were a lot better than i thought we were going to be, and it was interesting to see us playing in a different way. I'm a lot more optimistic about the season ahead after that.

    Vertonghen – i doubt it's a case of not impressing, but rather not throwing him in at the deepend unnecessarily. Probably better to introduce him slowly.

    In pre-season AVB seemed to prefer to start with two more defensively minded midfielders in the lower three, and then introduce more creativity in the second half. I was a little surprised it was a like for like when VDV came on for Sigi, but perhaps we need to recognise that it will take time for the team to settle into what AVB wants and we'll probably see him be more adventurous against weaker opposition.

    Considering we were away, against a strong and settled opposition, missing our two best players from last season, that was quite promising.

    Shame big tom didn't make the bench, but i suppose he's still got to build up his fitness.

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