The FourFourTwo Preview: Newcastle vs Tottenham
8th vs 5th. No real concerns for either camp then, right? Er, far from it…
Newcastle and Tottenham are regularly labelled as two of the Prem’s most unpredictable sides, but for Alan Pardew’s men one constant has crept into their game since Boxing Day – and it makes pretty grim reading.
- Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-3 S'land (Prem)
- Norwich 0-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- West Ham 1-3 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Tottenham 1-0 Everton (Prem)
- Hull 1-1 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 1-5 Man City (Prem)
- Swansea 1-3 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 2-0 Palace (Prem)
The Magpies’ 3-0 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday means they have failed to find the net in six of their last seven league games, and with their only scorers during this woeful run (Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy) either sold or suspended, the St James’ Park faithful are understandably scratching their heads as to where the hell the goals are going to come from against Spurs.
Luuk de Jong came closest to finding the target at Stamford Bridge, but the on-loan Dutchman played like a striker in desperate need of some support up front. He’s unlikely to get it from Papiss Cisse on Wednesday, so expect Pardew to persist with wingers Sammy Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa either side of De Jong as the manager takes to the Toon dugout for the 150th time with a seriously depleted squad.
Goals, points and a threadbare subs’ bench haven’t been a problem for Tim Sherwood since he first donned his gilet as Spurs boss in December – the north Londoners have lost just once in the league since his appointment, winning six and drawing two – but even a crucial victory over Everton last weekend couldn’t silence his many doubters on the club forums.
Despite taking all three points against one of their top four rivals, Spurs lacked shape and were regularly overrun in the middle, with Emmanuel Adebayor’s goal handing Sherwood’s side a win they scarcely deserved – as even he was honest enough to admit. “We played far too deep in the first half and Everton opened us up,” he said. “We were fortunate to come away with the three points.”
Still, as his opposing manager pointed out in the post-match press conference: “Sometimes in football it’s better to be lucky than good.” Wise words, Roberto.
Newcastle’s injury list is even more depressing than their recent goals-for tally: Fabricio Coloccini (knee) and Mathieu Debuchy (calf) are out, along with Cisse (back) – “I don’t think he’ll be ready for Spurs,” said Pardew on Saturday. Then there’s Cheick Tiote (hamstring) – “Maybe Cheick won’t make it either… we’ll have to wait and see" – although Yoan Gouffran has a better chance of playing. Away from the overcrowded treatment room, top scorer Remy serves the third and final game of his suspension.
For Spurs, with only Erik Lamela (thigh) absent, Sherwood’s biggest decision will be whether to continue with Christian Eriksen and Aaron Lennon either side of Adebayor, or recall Roberto Soldado to play in a 4-4-2.
Key battle: Taylor vs Adebayor
Whatever question marks hang over the Spurs manager’s tactical acumen, he deserves much credit for getting Adebayor back to his barnstorming best. A first-team outcast under Andre Villas-Boas, the striker was even forced to train with the youth team just a few months ago – “If I’m lower than this, it means I’m dead,” he declared – but he’s returned motivated and firing since Sherwood’s appointment, scoring 7 in 11 games.
Isolated up front against Everton in a game of few chances, his work-rate was excellent in the second half – in the closing minutes he was chasing down every ball – and his match-winning goal came courtesy of some quick thinking between him and Kyle Walker from a free-kick just inside the Toffees’ half.
On Wednesday Adebayor will be up against Taylor, who has been one busy boy in central defence since winning his place back in the first team last month. The 28-year-old was one of the few Newcastle players to emerge with any real credit at Chelsea, making a series of last-ditch tackles as well as comfortably providing the most clearances in the game (10). “I thought we dealt with pretty much everything in the first half – except for the two goals we gave away,” he told press after the game, in typically positive fashion.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 0-1 N'castle (Prem, Nov 13)
- Spurs 2-1 N'castle (Prem, Feb 13)
- N'castle 2-1 Spurs (Prem, Aug 12)
- Spurs 5-0 N'castle (Prem, Feb 12)
- N'castle 2-2 Spurs (Prem, Oct 11)
Not only has he enjoyed the best start of any manager in Tottenham’s history but Sherwood is officially the most high-flying English manager in the country right now, with Pardew number two on that list. Enjoy it while you can, Tim – if anyone knows how quickly the stats can turn against you, it’s your predecessor. Indeed, it was the meeting between the clubs at White Hart Lane in November when the wheels really started to fall off for AVB, Pardew overseeing a Tim Krul-inspired 1-0 win, which Spurs followed up with an embarrassing 6-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City.
Pards and Sherwood have never met in the dugout, but the two were familiar foes on the pitch, the midfielders going head-to-head in the ‘90s as Pardew’s Palace/Charlton faced Sherwood’s Norwich/Blackburn.
Facts and figures
- Newcastle have scored just 1 goal in 5 games without Loic Remy this season.
- Newcastle have failed to score in 6 of their last 7 matches.
- Newcastle have lost half their 16 home games against top-half teams since the start of last season (W5 D3 L8).
- Spurs have won 8 of their last 14 trips to middle-third teams and they won the second half in 9 of these matches.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Adebayor on target again as Toon’s troubles pile up. 0-2.