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Spurs' struggles

Tottenham's problems run much deeper than facing heroic Tim Krul, writes Peter Fraser.

Last Updated: 10/11/13 at 15:58

Andre Villas-Boas: Tottenham have scored just 34 goals in 25 home league games

Andre Villas-Boas: Tottenham have scored just 34 goals in 25 home league games

Tottenham Hotspur can point to their misfortune in coming up against a goalkeeper who enjoyed an afternoon to remember in their 1-0 defeat by Newcastle United but Andre Villas-Boas' problems run far deeper than a heroic opposition shot-stopper.

Had striker Roberto Soldado, a clinical finisher, been given a greater share of Tottenham's shots on target to test Newcastle's man-of-the-match custodian, Tim Krul, it might have been a different story on Sunday lunchtime, as Loic Remy's 13th minute goal decided the contest.

The key to any team with a lone striker is in supplying the service to that man. Tottenham, on far from the first occasion this season, and their inverted wingers in ongoing life after Gareth Bale almost completely failed in this, with Gylfi Sigurdsson having a particularly wretched afternoon. It is a main reason why Spurs have failed to take a Premier League point in a game after falling behind this season.

In-form striker Remy's goal was the first Tottenham had conceded in 294 league minutes and it saw the hosts miss the chance to move up from sixth, while the victory took Alan Pardew's excellently committed Newcastle into the top half. But the booing which greeted the final whistle tells the tale of the growing frustration at White Hart Lane.


Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United line-ups

Hugo Lloris was again missing from the Tottenham squad after being knocked unconscious at Everton last weekend as manager Villas-Boas made five changes to his side. France captain Lloris controversially played on at Goodison Park after a collision with Romelu Lukaku, a decision for which Spurs were heavily criticised.

But Lloris was not named in the matchday squad as Brad Friedel once again deputised, having also done so in the midweek Europa League victory over Sheriff Tiraspol, and Heurelho Gomes was named as the substitute goalkeeper.

Jermain Defoe was dropped to the bench despite becoming the club's all-time leading European goalscorer with a penalty against Sheriff. Soldado started in his place while Michael Dawson, Vlad Chiriches, Paulinho and Andros Townsend also returned for the hosts.

Meanwhile, Newcastle boss Pardew named the same starting XI who recorded a 2-0 win over Chelsea last weekend. Centre-back Fabricio Coloccini was back on the visitors' bench after recovering from a groin injury.

Story of the game

It was again a case of Tottenham failing to get the necessary service to lone striker Soldado. One clever, flicked header from a free-kick in the first half was the best chance the Spaniard had in his five efforts at goal of which two were on target. The reason he struggled was because he received just nine passes from his midfielders throughout the game.

The explanation was simple and a familiar one for fans who have bemoaned the fact Spurs have now scored only 34 goals in 25 home games under Villas-Boas. The inverted wingers of Townsend and Sigurdsson did not work as a tactic. Neither Townsend nor Sigurdsson played a single successful pass to former Valencia star Soldado in the game.

Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp had said before kick-off: "I have a little bit of sympathy for Soldado. People have been saying he has not been scoring enough goals. I do not think he has had great service. When he played in Spain, people were getting crosses in for him and he was nipping across the front of the centre-back and getting little tap-ins. That is what he is good at - a fox in the box, and he is one of the best."

Sigurdsson, especially, was shockingly ineffective against Newcastle. In the first half, he touched the ball just 17 times - the lowest total of any Spurs outfield player - and incredibly played only eight passes, of which amazingly just three were in Newcastle's half. His average position also saw him fail to cross the halfway line before the break.

Sigurdsson's (22) average first-half position saw him fail to cross halfway (l) and he touched the ball just 17 times

But Newcastle also deserve great credit after coming with a clear tactic to put Spurs under pressure in advanced areas. Pardew, in his pre-match interview with Sky Sports, had predicted his team would make a good start to the game given the Midday kick-off coincided with a time when his squad would usually be training. He could not have been disappointed when seeing his side have five shots - three on target - in an opening 15 minutes when Tottenham had only one wayward effort.

Newcastle also took the lead in that time period when Remy, in the 13th minute, scored his seventh goal in his last seven Premier League games. Paulinho did not do nearly enough in a challenge with Yoan Gouffran, who played a superbly weighted pass, and Remy rounded Friedel like a man in form. Remy has now scored 47 per cent of Newcastle's Premier League goals this season, which is the highest total of any player in the top flight.

Newcastle made fast start with their shooting (top) while Tottenham went more direct after half-time (bottom)

Newcastle's pressing played a big part in Tottenham's sloppiness. The home team's five midfielders lost possession on 35 occasions before half-time in comparison with the 23 errors of the visitors' midfield four. Redknapp said at the break: "Newcastle have pressed so well. There are no passengers for them today. Newcastle have been non-stop. They have closed from the front. It has been very impressive."

Rather than change either of his wingers, Villas-Boas decided it was Mousa Dembele who would pay the price at half-time, seemingly due to the Belgian's failure to have attempted a single shot in the first half, while Younes Kaboul came on for the injured Chiriches.

Tottenham improved in the second half in terms of their shots on target as they went more direct, with their pass count (230 in the second half and 242 in the first half) and accuracy (81.3% in the second half and 86.8% in the first half) both decreasing from their totals in the first half. But they did of course face the obvious barrier of Krul, who finished the game with a Premier League high-for-the-season of 14 saves and described the game as the "highlight" of his career. However, it was difficult not to think about whether the skilled finishing of Soldado would not have been more effective against Krul had he received better service.

Tim Krul: The Newcastle goalkeeper made 14 saves to deny Tottenham an equaliser at a frustrated White Hart Lane

When Sigurdsson had sliced a wretched 64th minute shot high over the crossbar and into the White Hart Lane stands it summed up Tottenham's afternoon. The Icelandic international was substituted five minutes later having won only 20% of his 10 duels, touched the ball just 26 times, played a miserable 11 passes and failed to ever play a successful pass to Soldado.

Villas-Boas' view

"We gave the first-half advantage to Newcastle, although I think we were very unlucky during all of the game. We had so many good, good chances that I think the result is very unfair. Obviously Newcastle came in strong and really played well in the first half. I think they deserved to get that lead, I think we did not recognise ourselves in the first half."

Pardew's view

"I thought first half, for an away team, we were the better team. Second half, they changed it a little bit, stretched the pitch and caused us no end of problems. We had to really defend with our lives in the second half. That is what makes football great, that you can do that. Our goalie was terrific, our centre-halves were terrific. They were the stars today."

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