Tactical Focus: Newcastle v Tottenham

It is that time of year again, the start of a new football season when for football fans everything feels possible.

The long summer is drawing to a close and we will once again be treated to competitive domestic football. It is at this point that even the most pessimistic of fans will allow them a brief sense of optimism regarding their clubs.

Investment in new talent is bordering on the obscene as the Premier League arms race continues apace, clubs from around the country have been heavily involved in the transfer market, that is however with the exception of Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur.

This week has seen unrest at both clubs in their lack of activity in the transfer window this summer. The Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has given an interview and made no secret of the fact that he was expecting significant investment this summer having agreed to stay at the club following promotion last season.

Also this week, the Tottenham and England left-back Danny Rose has made his unrest known with a significant interview in which he called for 2-3 top class signings for the squad whilst also making it clear that there were issues with the wage structure at the North London club.

It is somewhat fitting that the two clubs will face off on the opening Sunday of the new season, but what will be the key tactical battles going forwards though?

Newcastle need to attack the wide areas

The only major departure from Tottenham this summer has seen English international Kyle Walker move to Manchester City for a significant fee.

This deal was sanctioned by Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino safe in the knowledge that Kieran Trippier was perhaps a better fit to the Spurs system in that role. In pre-season, however, Trippier has suffered an injury and Spurs are left with the prospect of the undoubtedly talented but untried Kyle Walker-Peters starting on the right hand side.

On the left we are likely to see Ben Davies starting with Danny Rose unavailable for the match.

If Spurs, as expected, continue with their three at the back system then Newcastle may be able to get behind the defensive block by capitalising on the unrest in the wide areas. The likes of Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu in particular will be key in unlocking what is a very well set up defensive unit.

This of course assumes that Newcastle are going to begin the season in a progressive manner looking to take the game to their opponents. Spanish coach Rafa Benitez is a superb tactician but he is known as more of a pragmatist and, if Newcastle start the match tentatively with little in the way of attacking intent, then they could well lose the initiative to the more established side.

With the passionate home support behind them the onus will be on Newcastle to come out and try to take the game to Spurs. If they lose the momentum early and lose an early goal then we could quickly see the match get away from the newly promoted side.

More of the same for Spurs

Last season, Spurs were one of the most progressive attacking teams in European football. The irony is that they were also one of the best defensive units, and whilst the lack of action in the transfer market is causing some uncertainty in the squad and fanbase, there is also an argument that continuity is a positive thing.

Spurs are at their best when taking the game to the opposition and once again this season the key connections will be between Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

Those three are the keys to the match for Spurs with Eriksen likely to once again be played in the advanced central areas whilst Alli will enjoy something of a free role as he drifts between the midfield and attacking lines to join Harry Kane in the attack.

Expect to see Spurs continuing to focus their build up on the central areas, the central defenders are excellent in possession and tend to dribble the ball out from the back to provoke the opposition to engage the ball and leave their defensive positioning.

The ball is then driven vertically in to the advanced midfield areas where the likes of Kane, Eriksen and Alli are able to take possession and build the attacking phase from there.

How Newcastle prevent Spurs from building in this manner could well be one of the keys to the match.


Just how optimistic are the fans of Newcastle and Tottenham likely to be this week after the negative news coming out of each club?

The truth is that by the time the match kicks off on Sunday all of that will be forgotten; the joy of the new season will take over and at least for the first few minutes of the match, anything will be possible.

Tactically the match up between Benitez and Pochettino will be a fascinating one, the clash of styles is likely to serve up a fantastic spectacle for the opening weekend of the Premier League season.

Will Newcastle be able to continue the form that saw them promoted to the Premier League at the end of last season? There is no doubt that an opening day clash with Spurs will be a real test for the newly promoted side.