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EPL 2017/18, Newcastle 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur: 5 Talking Points

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The Dane delivered a sumptuous cross to allow Alli to open the scoring just after the hour-mark
Greg Lea

Tottenham Hotspur got their 2017/18 campaign off to a perfect start, beating newly promoted Newcastle United 2-0 at St James Park on Sunday.

Goals from Dele Alli and Ben Davies were enough for Spurs to pick up all three points away from home, as Rafa Benitez's side were hamstrung by Jonjo Shelvey's red card and two first-half injuries.

Below are five talking points from the game.


#1 Eriksen’s creativity proves decisive

Until Shelvey was sent off for a mindless stamp on Alli in the 48th minute, Newcastle more than held their own. Tottenham enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but struggled to penetrate their opponents’ defensive shape, which has at times been an issue for Spurs when playing away from home in the last couple of seasons.

Not for the first time, Eriksen was the man who unlocked the door. After a first half in which he had been the visitors’ most threatening attacker, drifting infield from the left flank to take up dangerous positions between the lines, the Dane delivered a sumptuous cross to allow Alli to open the scoring just after the hour-mark. His second assist was a little more fortunate, but Eriksen also created chances for Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in a terrific second-half showing.

#2 Shelvey’s questionable temperament costs Newcastle

Newcastle cannot afford to give their opponents any sort of advantage at this level
Newcastle cannot afford to give their opponents any sort of advantage at this level

There is no doubt that Shelvey’s ridiculous decision to tread on Alli’s foot shortly after the interval cost his team on Sunday afternoon. Players can be forgiven for some red cards – a last-man foul, for instance – but this was a completely avoidable dismissal that undid all of Newcastle’s excellent work in the opening 45 minutes.

Shelvey, who began the day as the hosts’ captain, has a liking for this sort of thing; last season, the former Liverpool midfielder was banned for five matches after he allegedly racially abused Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Romain Saiss, while he was also sent off in a defeat by Nottingham Forest and booked on 10 separate occasions.

Newcastle cannot afford to give their opponents any sort of advantage at this level, as Spurs duly demonstrated in the remaining 42 minutes.

#3 Walker-Peters impresses on debut

The 20-year-old delivering an assured performance on his maiden Premier League appearance
The 20-year-old delivered an assured performance on his maiden Premier League appearance

Mauricio Pochettino had previously said that Walker-Peters was not ready to play at this level, but the Tottenham boss clearly changed his mind at some point in the last few days. He will be glad he did, too, with the 20-year-old delivering an assured performance on his maiden Premier League appearance.

Walker-Peters was immediately thrust into action in the opening stages, as Newcastle looked to test the debutant in front of a noisy home crowd. The Spurs academy product stood up to the challenge commendably, though, and soon grew into the game in an attacking sense as well.

The full-backs in Pochettino’s system are vital, providing width high up the pitch and allowing the likes of Eriksen, Moussa Sissoko and Son to drift infield; Walker-Peters proved adept at doing so, and in turn suggested that he is good enough to compete with Kieran Trippier for the right-back spot going forward.

#4 Newcastle can take solace in their organisation 11v11

Tottenham were restricted to just two shots on target in the opening 45 minutes
Tottenham were restricted to just two shots on target in the opening 45 minutes

Despite having had to replace two members of his back four, Paul Dummett and Florian Lejeune, due to injury, Benitez would have been the happier of the two managers when the half-time whistle sounded. The ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid head coach had spoken before kick-off of the need to strike a balance between taking the initiative and being susceptible to the counter-attack, and Newcastle did indeed manage to find the right equilibrium in the first period.

Tottenham were restricted to just two shots on target in the opening 45 minutes, and both of those came from outside the penalty area. Granted, Newcastle did not register an effort on target themselves, but Dwight Gayle’s movement and Christian Atsu’s speed had asked questions of the Londoners’ back four.

Benitez has always prided himself on his ability to organise a team and make life difficult for even the most talented of adversaries. This was another case in point, as the Magpies frustrated Tottenham and, despite ceding possession for large periods, held them at arm’s length.

Benitez probably planned to take a slightly more proactive approach in the second half, but Shelvey’s sending-off meant that was no longer possible. Tottenham ultimately took full advantage of the extra man, but there were plenty of positives to draw from Newcastle’s shape and discipline in the first half.

#5 Both teams have work to do in the transfer market

Pochettino has not been quite as outspoken with regards to Tottenham’s inactivity
Pochettino has not been outspoken with regards to Tottenham’s inactivity

Newcastle may have signed five players this summer – Mikel Merino, Christian Atsu, Lejeune, Jacob Murphy and Javier Manquillo – but Benitez has made it clear that further reinforcements are required before the window closes at the end of the month. Although Newcastle won the Championship last term, there are doubts over whether certain members of the group are good enough to thrive at this level, while squad depth will be another concern for Benitez – particularly after the injuries suffered by Lejeune and Dummett.

Pochettino has not been quite as outspoken with regards to Tottenham’s inactivity, but it would be a major surprise if the north Londoners did not bring in at least one new face before the start of September. Improving the starting XI is a hugely difficult task given that Spurs operate under a strict wage structure, but adding one or two backup players – Davinson Sanchez has been mentioned as a target in recent days – is necessary if Tottenham are to challenge for the Premier League title this year.

Edited by Sankalp Srivastava

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