Losing to Newcastle United wasn’t the ideal stat to the season, but neither was travelling to St. James’ Park for the opening game of the campaign. A solitary Timothee Atouba strike back in 2004 was the last time Tottenham Hotspur picked up all three points on Tyneside, and Saturday was to be no different.
Head coach Andre Villas-Boas opted to start new signing Jan Vertonghen from the bench, preferring William Gallas to partner Younes Kaboul in the heart of the defence, while handing the captains armband to the experienced Frenchman. Midfielder Sandro, fresh from his exploits with Brazil at the Olympic Games, started alongside Jake Livermore in the centre of the park, while Jermain Defoe was favoured ahead of Rafael van der Vaart in a starting XI that many had expected.
Spurs started off well enough, holding off the attacking threat of Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa, while looking to hit Newcastle on the break, which was working to an extent with Defoe and Gareth Bale both hitting the woodwork in the first half, while Sandro and Livermore, despite picking up early cautions, were stifling the input of Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye.
However, the hard work came undone nine minutes into the second half when Danny Simpson, with too much time on the right, put’s a ball into the box. Kyle Walker manages to get his head on the ball to alleviate the danger, albeit, temporarily. Gallas, unaware of Ba at the back-post, fails to close down the Senegalese front-man, who has time to bring the ball down and pick his spot at the far post with an unstoppable curling effort past Brad Friedel.
Spurs manage to restore parity on the 76th minute through Defoe. Bale picks out Aaron Lennon on the left and the wide-man opts against going for goal and lofts a delightfully weighted ball to the back post. Defoe meets the cross with his head, but Tim Krul gets down well to deny his initial effort. Nevertheless, the England man showed good reactions to meet the follow up and smash past the Dutchman.
Newcastle restored their one goal advantage just four minutes later after some good work by Ben Arfa. The Frenchman took a short corner before receiving the ball back, but Lennon is quick to close him down. Van der Vaart joins the winger and Ben Arfa looks as though he has too much to do when encountered by the duo. However, after attempting to dart between the two, the Dutchman clumsily leaves his leg out and fouls the Newcastle man, leaving Martin Atkinson with little choice but to point to the spot. Ben Arfa comfortably dispatches the resulting spot-kick, sending Friedel the wrong.
What we learnt
Sandro and Livermore work well together
Despite receiving a caution each during the first-half, both Sandro and Livermore provided a sturdy partnership in the middle of the park. Both looked comfortable on the ball and provided enough steel to stifle the input of Cabaye and Tiote. The two could again be utilised in tough away fixtures this campaign and did enough to warrant a starting berth again next week, should no investment be made between now and Saturday’s encounter with West Bromwich Albion.
We need a striker
Defoe may have netted in the encounter and struck the post in the first half, but he isn’t the striker that Spurs need. Physically frail, the England international isn’t the right striker to lead the front-line, especially with Villas-Boas opting to play the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1. He may be ideal to come off the bench late on, but starting; he isn’t a viable option. The 34-year-old said a new front-man remains a priority and that he and chairman Daniel Levy are both working hard to bring one in, following the loss to Newcastle. As fair as I, and a majority of all Spurs fans are concerned; the sooner than happens, the better.
Knee jerking isn’t necessary right now
Following the pre-season defeat to Valencia, a number of Spurs fans were pondering how this season was going to turn out. Some were at it again following the loss to Newcastle. It’s one game, and as mentioned, Spurs haven’t picked up maximum points at St. James’ Park since 2004. As clichéd as it sounds, the season is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s get behind the team for the upcoming encounter against West Brom and secure maximum points at White Hart Lane.
Don’t jump on Andre Villas-Boas’ back
When Harry Redknapp was sacked back in June, much of the media were up in arms about his dismissal. From the off, Villas-Boas was always going to be scrutinised; one bad result and he is in the firing line. Spurs fans, however, were stuck together and stood by the Portuguese tactician, blissfully aware that could be the man to the club forward. One negative result doesn’t change this. There are plenty of positives to take from the defeat to Newcastle, regardless of the loss and it’s important that fans are patient as he looks to integrate his ideas into the changing Spurs squad.
The sooner Modric is gone, the better
As good as Sandro and Livermore were on Saturday, both lack the creative nous to really make things tick going forward. Luka Modric’s input was evidently lacking on Saturday, but with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding his protracted move to Real Madrid; it’s clear to see it’s having an adverse effect on the team. Not mentally, but more in terms of the overall performance of the team. With the saga dragging closer and closer to the transfer deadline, it will be better for all concerned that Modric is sold prior to September 1st. A new deep-lying playmaker is essential, with FC Porto’s Joao Moutinho still the fans favourite as his direct replacement.
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