Spurs disunited in Newcastle defeat
Pochettino admits his team are lacking spirit as Newcastle see off tepid Tottenham to grab their first three points of the season
26 August, 2019 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
FA Premier League
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 (Joelinton 27)
HOW quickly the mood has changed.
From the brightness of a seemingly good transfer window, a summer where leading players have had a decent holiday, to a manager saying just three games in that his side has never been so unsettled: how Spurs fans must wish – with a north London Derby in a weeks time – that they could hit a reset button and start this campaign again.
A hugely disappointing home defeat to struggling Newcastle, who turned up to play a game of defence against attack, has brought sharply into focus the facts that this Spurs side has not yet found it’s groove – and the questions posed by the absence from the starting XI of out of favour Jan Vertonghen, unsettled Christian Eriksen and the injured Dele Alli have yet to be answered.
Spurs had plenty of possession – at times an obscene amount – but failed to make clear chances. A second half penalty call for a foul by Jamaal Lascelles on Harry Kane looked good, but referee Mike Dean waved away the calls and his decision was backed by VAR. The striker also shinned a chance late on, while Lucas Moura bashed a shot over from a good position. They were the best of the scant chances created.
From the kick off, it was a question of whether Spurs could unpick a well bolted defence without Eriksen’s trickery and Alli’s penetration.
The answer on the full time whistle was a firm no.
After the game, manager Mauricio Pochettino did not try to hide behind possession statistics, which reached 80 per cent of the ball, to suggest his side were any thing but poor.
“We didn’t play well,” he said. “I am very disappointed. We conceded a very cheap goal in the first half and then it was difficult. Newcastle showed they were well organised with their defensive line and were very compact. We weren’t capable of breaking down their organisation.”
He noted how few real chances his players had managed to conjure. How his team were calling for an interested Eriksen, still waiting to see if a European giant is going to come in with an offer before the continental deadline, and a fit Giovani Lo Celso to make a real impression.
“We should be playing better, more desire, more capacity to be more aggressive in this type of game, because 80 per cent of possession is too much for only a few shots on target,” he added.
For the first time in his tenure it feels that the group ethic that has carried this team along is also missing – the continued mysterious benching of Vertonghen, a clear leader on the pitch, has made things even harder to understand.
“This is my sixth season and the most unsettled group we are working with,” said Pochettino.
But he said there was little the club could do.
“We are relaxed and calm. Some situations we cannot fix,” he said.
“After playing the Champions League, we knew situations like this would happen. What can we do? We can only wait. This type of stuff happens in the Premier League and that’s why you not only need quality players, you need a very good dynamic, and strong team bond and at the moment that situation in our group is still far, far away from what we expect.”
In a first half Spurs will want to forget, United took the lead on 27 with a well placed finished from Joelinton De Lira. Spurs had up to that point dominated the ball but lacked any creativity in the final third.
United broke down the Spurs right hand side and a well placed ball into the feet of Joelinton caught Davinson Sanchez out of position. The Magpies front man was in enough space to steady himself and place a low struck effort into the bottom corner.
Pochettino had to roll the dice and on the hour mark Eriksen and Lo Celso were introduced. Yet the creativity they were hoping to offer still saw Spurs try to play through a thicket of defenders centrally instead of find space on the flanks.
It didn’t feel like it was going to be the home teams day, underlined by Kane going down in a pile on 78 as he shaped to finish
To compound matters, the usually clinical Moura smashed a shot over the bar from close range when the goal was welcoming.
Now, for Arsenal – as good as any place to put a season back on track.
But it will need Pochettino to locate that vital team spirit if talk of catching Manchester City and Liverpool this year is going to be anything more than a wistful pre-season fantasy.
SPURS: Lloris, Rose (Davies, 86), Alderweireld, Sanchez, Son, Winks, Kane, Lamela (Lo Celso, 59), Walker-Peters (Eriksen 59), Sissoko, Moura
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Dier, Skipp, Davies.