Premier League, April 23 2023
Murphy (2, 9)
Isak (19, 21)
Newcastle grabbed hold of the battle for Champions League qualification by blowing top-four rivals Tottenham away at St James' Park. Eddie Howe's side took just 61 seconds to open the scoring after Jacob Murphy swept in a rebound from Joelinton's effort, before a barnstorming opening 21 minutes in which Spurs could not cope with anything Newcastle threw their way. By the midway point in the first half, Newcastle were completely out of sight, a five-goal lead sending them above Manchester United in the table and up to third place. Now boasting a lead of six points over fifth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand, Newcastle look extremely likely to end their 21-year absence from the Champions League.
"It was an incredible start," Howe said after the game. "The crowd were incredible for us, and it elevated our performance in that opening half an hour. We were lethal in our finishing and everything about that opening half hour is where we want to be. We want progressive football; the lads have to take on a lot of information and they do that incredibly well."
SHOTS / ON TARGET
ATTACKS INTO AREA
EXPECTED GOALS (XG)
Newcastle made an incredible start to the game, scoring three goals in the opening 10 minutes. From their 4-3-3 shape, right-back Kieran Trippier pushed forward to support right midfielder Jacob Murphy, who moved inside both with and without the ball. This rotation helped pin back Spurs forward Son Heung-min in the opening exchanges, as Newcastle targeted the defensively weak full-backs in Spurs' back four. Although Joelinton provided similar attacking runs from the left (below), he did so without the support of left-back Dan Burn, who formed a back line of three. Although Tottenham then settled for a brief period and started to look like they might have started to get the out-of-possession distances between their players right, Newcastle then penetrated right through Tottenham’s central defence. First, they did this through an outstanding bending ball in behind from Joe Willock to send Alexander Isak in on goal, and then moments later Isak got in again to grab his second.
After going five down, Tottenham brought on Davinson Sánchez, changed to a back five and defended in a 5-4-1 block. Newcastle’s number eights, Willock and Sean Longstaff, pushed higher into positions between the lines, beyond Tottenham’s second line, for extended periods. With only Harry Kane left high for Spurs, Burn was able to push slightly further forward, allowing Willock to push up on to Sánchez, Tottenham’s right-sided centre-back. Murphy moved inside much earlier, allowing Trippier to advance forward even more freely (below), while Joelinton held the width on the left. Newcastle were able to move the ball from side to side more often, looking to work around the Spurs block.
The home side’s number eights operated well beyond Tottenham’s midfield line throughout the second half, attacking the pockets of space between Spurs’ wing-backs and wide centre-backs (below). Isak pinned Cristian Romero in the centre, with Joelinton still attacking around the left and Murphy in narrower positions. Runs into advanced positions from the number eights helped stretch Tottenham and created space centrally for Newcastle to progress, while also creating space out wide as Spurs’ back five were forced to narrow. Whenever the visitors defended in a low block, Willock and Longstaff created a narrow front three with Isak to provide a constant attacking presence around Tottenham’s three centre-backs.
The left-footed Miguel Almirón came on to operate on the Newcastle right, and he made similar movements infield to Murphy – though he dribbled inside more often rather than making off-the ball runs. This pulled left wing-back Ivan Perisic out of the Spurs back line, allowing Trippier to advance forward even earlier, and he then dragged Eric Dier out of shape (below). The right inside channel was then free for Longstaff to move into, with Bruno Guimarães able to find this space consistently. Substitute Callum Wilson, Willock and Joelinton were all well placed to finish from the left side, with Wilson providing the last goal of the afternoon with a well-taken finish from Almirón’s cross.
Tottenham were initially set up with a back four for the first time in well over a year, and they looked horribly out of sorts in a 4-3-3 shape. As a result of Newcastle’s fast start, Tottenham’s front three moved into narrow and deep positions to receive, and could only get on the ball under pressure while facing their own goal (below). Spurs then had little attacking width, and struggled to play away from pressure in central midfield or attack the space in behind Newcastle’s high back line. The deepest midfielders and full-backs were unable to provide cover or counter-pressure following a loss of possession, and Newcastle punished them ruthlessly.
Davinson Sánchez came on with the game already over at 5-0, with Tottenham converting to a back five. Pedro Porro and Perisic became wing-backs, with Son and Dejan Kulusevski joining Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in the central spaces to provide a numerical overload against Newcastle’s central midfield three (below). Tottenham could now avoid Newcastle’s pressure by switching play out to the wing-backs, with instant support in the inside channels and Kane available for the next pass. Should Spurs lose possession, their back three plus double-pivot screen gave them more defensive presence to stop Newcastle’s quick transitions through the centre of the pitch.
Left centre-back Eric Dier moved wide to push Perisic higher, with Højbjerg dropping deeper to fill in in the back line. This created room in central midfield for Kane to drop into, before Højbjerg rejoined the central midfield after Kane had then moved out (below). Spurs then targeted the space in behind, and it was this movement that brought their only goal of the afternoon from a well-worked move. Tottenham's left-sided players continued to rotate in the second half, giving Spurs a secure method to build around the press from Newcastle’s stretched front three.
Continued rotations helped Spurs build down their left, as Newcastle pushed more players forward to press. Porro then moved very high, almost as the highest attacker on the right, as Kane dropped deeper to support the combinations on the left. Spurs then switched play out to the right, either directly to Porro or into the advancing Sánchez to work the ball on to Porro (below). From here they tried to work the ball into the box, but also locked Newcastle into their own half for longer, which gave the defence a little respite. However, once Newcastle changed the personnel on their right, they stopped these rotations and regained complete control of the game.
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Author: The Coaches' Voice