Spurs suffered their first defeat in 14 games on Sunday at home to Newcastle, a team that has struggled thus far and was deeply entrenched in the bottom three until two wins pulled Steve McClaren’s men out of that mess. Whilst the Spurs run was always going to come to an end, the definitive reason for it was actually beyond Mauricio Pochettino’s men just “doing a Spurs”. We’ve picked out five reasons why the defeat against Newcastle happened.
1. Mousa Dembele didn’t play
Anyone that has ever underestimated the effect the Belgian box-to-box midfielder has on the team obviously doesn’t watch enough football. Making a team tick goes far beyond goals and assists after all. Dembele has the most dribbles per game (3.1), which is far greater than Harry Kane’s total of just 1.7 per game in second place and there’s not another central midfielder within earshot. Tackles per game is another area that he excels in with four per game and this completely outgains fellow central midfielders Eric Dier and Dele Alli. Lastly his pass percentage is 87.5%. This from a player that was very much on the periphery last season and if this Tottenham side are to make it to the promised land of the Champions League, Dembele will be at the centre of things.
2. Tom Carroll is not going to make it
Pochettino likes to blood youngsters into games and in that sense it was little surprise that Tom Carroll replaced Dembele, which then pushed Alli into a more advanced position. The problem is that none of the three central midfielders in Alli, Dier or Carroll was able to have a Dembele-like influence on the game. Carroll had the highest pass completion percentage with 81.8% and none of the trio made any regular dribbles from deep midfield positions. Granted, Newcastle were good. It’s just that Newcastle haven’t looked good enough at any point this season to suggest that Spurs’ winning run would come to an end on Sunday. It adds further fuel to the Dembele bandwagon.
3. Too over-reliant on Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen for goals?
For a second season running, the question over whether Tottenham are too over-reliant on Harry Kane for goals remains. No one else has above three goals and Kane, with eight, is far ahead of the other players at the club. The same can be said for Eriksen’s assist record (six) and encouraging the likes of Erik Lamela, Heung-Min Son and Nacer Chadli to make bigger contributions is key to this. If Spurs are hit by an injury to one of those two and fail to strengthen in January then it will get really worrying. Especially if the club enjoys a long run in the Europa League. Clinton N’Jie up front on his own for a prolonged period doesn’t bear thinking about.
4. Newcastle have their number…for now
There’s a lot to be said for having an opponent’s number on their own patch and Newcastle have put together quite the run of wins despite not having particularly good form coming into any game at White Hart Lane. On their last three Premier League visits to the white side of North London, the Magpies have won by the odd goal. This is the side of football where the statistics don’t count. A psychological block if you will. Even though there’s only a smattering of players remaining from the team that lost 1-0 two seasons ago, the three-in-a-row run will have an effect when the next clash at the Lane between the two comes around.
5. The Europa League effect
Where Tottenham are concerned, the effect of Thursday night Europa League football is always lurking in the background. With Spurs it’s not a problem that affects them every time they play a game in Europe’s second tier competition though. That much is clear by the fact they’ve lost just once (v Newcastle) off the back of a Europa League midweek jaunt. Instead, it feels increasingly like it is in fact the cumulative logjam of games at this time of the season. Since the last international break, Spurs have played six games in three weeks and Pochettino’s insitence on fielding an almost full strength team in all competitions is taking its toll.