Steve McClaren's game plan saw off Liverpool last weekend, but Alex Keble thinks success won't come so easily against a tactically astute Tottenham team...
The Sky cameras and the atmosphere of a big game seemed to have galvanised Newcastle’s players in last weekend’s victory over Liverpool, and another televised encounter this Sunday could yield similar results. However, their relentless attacking down the right-hand side could leave them vulnerable to Spurs’ tactical strategy – and Mauricio Pochettino’s team are significantly more organised than Klopp’s Liverpool were last week.
Newcastle's relentless attacking down the right-hand side could leave them vulnerable to Spurs’ tactical strategy
The most important factor in Newcastle’s victory was their psychological position as underdogs; McClaren abandoned the open shape and short-passing system he has tried to instil at St James’ Park (leading to a large gap between defence and midfield that is frequently exploited) and played in a narrow formation. The main forward-thinking approach in this is utilising Georginio Wijnaldum as a left –cum-central midfielder, whose ability to dribble in congested areas helps release passes out to the right.
43% of Newcastle’s attacks come down the right hand side (the most in the Premier League), and this was taken to extremes against Liverpool last weekend. Spurs can expect a similar model, and as such it will be up to Mousa Dembele (Tottenham’s left wingers rarely cover this space defensively) to prevent success. Dembele averages four tackles and two interceptions per match, breaking up play effectively and using his muscular presence to dominate aggressive midfields (such as Newcastle’s).
Such a relentless use of one zone of the pitch can leave Newcastle lopsided; right winger Jordon Ibe was Liverpool’s best outlet after receiving long passes into an area of the pitch where few Newcastle players resided. Ordinarily, Harry Kane drifts into the left channel (most of Spurs’ attacks - 38% - come down this side), but he will most likely adapt his movement to correspond with where the space lies. Expect Christian Eriksen or Erik Lamela to profit in right-of-centre zones if Dembele successfully controls the midfield.