Newcastle 4 Tottenham 0: Superb Isak, Van de Ven’s bad day, Bruno’s yellow joy – The Briefing

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Newcastle 4 Tottenham 0: Superb Isak, Van de Ven’s bad day, Bruno’s yellow joy – The Briefing

Alexander Isak was in superb form as Newcastle United outclassed Tottenham Hotspur, scoring twice in a 4-0 victory.

Eddie Howe’s side were ruthless, with Anthony Gordon and Fabian Schar also scoring, as Spurs created little and looked a long way off a team competing for a Champions League place.

Tottenham have now only won one away game since mid-December. Newcastle, meanwhile, are four unbeaten.

The Athletic’s Chris Waugh and Jack Pitt-Brooke explain the game.

Why were Spurs so bad?

Perhaps the most worrying thing for Tottenham was how reminiscent this was of their 3-0 defeat at Fulham one month ago.

In both games, they looked short of ideas, physically undercooked and overwhelmed by cleverer, hungrier opponents. Those two defeats, their worst of the season, underline how this Spurs team is still very far from the finished product.

Timo Werner and Tottenham struggled to create chances (George Wood/Getty Images)

Ange Postecoglou talks about wanting to compete for the big prizes but if Spurs were serious about that, they would not melt away in games like this. They did not look up for the battle: they could not hold up the ball going forward, Son Heung-min gave it away for two goals, they lost almost every second ball and they were vulnerable to every counter-attack. When Newcastle turned up the tempo, Spurs could not live with them.

Spurs cannot blame injuries, given they have almost a full squad to choose from. They cannot blame fatigue, given how few games they have played this year. They must look within themselves to find that competitive edge that is still not always there.

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Newcastle make most of the ball

As can be seen from The Athletic’s match dashboard below, Spurs dominated possession (72 per cent) but failed to create as many clear-cut chances as Newcastle (expected goals of 0.7 to 2.7).

Van de Ven exposed

Micky van de Ven has been one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League this season, making the transition into English football look remarkably easy.

But this was his toughest game for Spurs. He was left on the floor by Isak for the first goal, by Gordon for the second, and then had Isak race away from him for the third.

Postecoglou wants his defenders to push up as much as possible (see the graphic below), so Van de Ven has to play a high-wire act, leaving space behind him, relying on his pace and judgement to get him out of difficult situations. If anything goes wrong it looks disastrous.

Isak was just too athletic and too sharp for him — but defending like Van de Ven also relies on protection in front of him, and the Spurs midfield was absent without leave.

Yves Bissouma has been playing as the ‘No 6’ (defensive midfielder) recently but he does not do the defending required in a game like this. Spurs looked vulnerable every time Newcastle broke and Van de Ven paid the price.

Anthony Gordon

Gordon floors Van de Ven before scoring Newcastle’s second (George Wood/Getty Images)

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Why is Isak so good? 

He is the ultimate modern-day centre-forward and it is little wonder he is being linked with elite clubs. On this form, he could slot into just about any side in Europe.

Isak has scored 21 goals this season, including 17 in the Premier League, making him the first Newcastle player since Alan Shearer in the 2003-04 campaign (28 goals) to reach the 20-goal mark across all competitions (excluding Dwight Gayle’s 23 Championship goals in 2016-17). As can be seen from his non-penalty shots below, many of his chances come from Isak drifting in from the left.

This was the sixth successive top-flight home match in which he has scored — but in the early stages against Spurs, he was barely in the game.

Until his 30th-minute opener, Isak had only touched the ball three times — yet, when he does get possession, he causes havoc. For his second, Isak started sprinting before Bruno Guimaraes had even robbed Son of possession and, having beaten the offside trap, he ignored Van de Ven’s presence and coolly slotted across Guglielmo Vicario.

At 24, Isak is still improving and he has a relentless desire to maximise his talents. If he can stay fit for a full season — he has suffered from recurring groin problems in 2023-24 — his figures could become frightening. The £60million ($75m at today’s rates) club-record fee almost looks cheap in today’s ludicrous market.


Chris Waugh

What will have pleased Eddie Howe most?

Registering back-to-back top-flight clean sheets for the first time since September, securing successive Premier League victories for the first time since December 2, and his injury-depleted team cruising into a three-goal lead inside 51 minutes will have been welcomed by Howe.

But witnessing his makeshift side so successfully execute a new game plan, in a system they had never deployed before, with personnel and partnerships who had never played together, must have been especially satisfying.

When Newcastle lost 4-1 in north London in December, Spurs’ full-backs rampaged inside and cut Howe’s side apart. Evidently, his new setup was partly motivated by negating that Spurs threat.

Schar heads in the fourth (Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

This time, nominally deploying a 3-4-3, with Elliot Anderson and Jacob Murphy as wing-backs, Newcastle matched Spurs man-for-man off the ball, looking to win it back in the middle of the pitch and then flood forward in numbers, led by Gordon’s breathless running. But Anderson was a left-sided No 8 on the ball and sometimes Newcastle defended as a back four, with Murphy as a right-back.

It was a risk-reward strategy that paid dividends, with Newcastle’s lightning speed in transition unsettling the visitors.

He will also be delighted that Guimaraes managed to go 11 league games without getting a 10th booking, having collected nine in his first 20 games. The total now resets and he won’t get a two-match ban next time he picks up a yellow.

Chris Waugh

What did the managers say?

Postecoglou told Tottenham that “growth is painful” after the heaviest defeat of his tenure.

“There’s no point sitting around feeling sorry for yourself,” he said. “There’s another game in two weeks, we’ve just got to get ready for that. It’s not the first time it’s happened to us and it won’t be the last. It’s part of our growth. Sometimes, that growth is painful. That’s part of it and you’ve got to embrace it, use it and get ready for the next challenge.

“I don’t think there was any part of our game that reached the levels needed for us to play on our terms, so whether that’s the physical aspect, the technical, the tactical, all of it, we just never really got to any sort of tempo or intensity that we needed to, to stop a team that’s got momentum right from the start.”

What next for Newcastle United?

Wednesday, April 24: Crystal Palace (A), Premier League, 8pm UK, 3pm ET

What next for Tottenham Hotspur?

Sunday, April 28: Arsenal (H), Premier League, 2pm UK, 9am ET

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(Top photo: George Wood/Getty Images)