Alarm bells were being sounded by some fans ahead of kick off as the then-Acting Head Coach of Spurs, Cristian Stellini, opted for a departure from the familiar back-5 system of his predecessor Antonio Conte, and chose to utilise a back-4, matching Newcastle man-for-man. In what proved to be a disastrous tactical decision, Pedro Porro (an attacking wing-back) and Ivan Perišić (a winger who has also been used in a front-2 alongside Harry Kane at times this season) were employed as traditional full-backs.
As early as the first minute, Porro’s defensive frailties were laid bare as he allowed Joelinton to saunter in from the left wing, get his shot away and force the parry from Hugo Lloris that led to Jacob Murphy’s first goal of the afternoon. This was then quickly followed up by an easily trackable run from Joelinton in behind the Spurs back-4, who promptly rounded the goalkeeper and the second goal went in on 6 minutes. A hospital pass from Eric Dier to Heung-Min Son and failure to properly close down Murphy allowed him to get off a rocket of a shot from 35 yards that Lloris seemed powerless to stop, 3-0. Another bout of bad Tottenham passing led to Joe Willock picking up the ball on the left flank of his own half and delivering what must be an assist of the season contender, an outside-of-the-foot through ball to Alexander Isak who finished coolly past Lloris to make it 4-0. In a move down the right-wing that culminated in a confused shrug of the shoulders from Isak, the Newcastle players work it to the Swede on the edge of the Tottenham penalty area and he delivered a finish from an angle that Lloris will be embarrassed to concede from, frankly. All this action was inside the opening 21 minutes!
The Tottenham management then made a tactical substitution, replacing the young midfielder, Pape Matar Sarr with Davidson Sanchez, a player who the Spurs fans had booed off just a week prior. In addition, an injury-enforced half-time switch from Lloris to Fraser Forster in goal. These alleviated the defensive pressure for the remainder of the match but the damage was done. A moment of individual brilliance from Harry Kane was consolation at best and Callum Wilson made it 6-1 to Newcastle just before the 68th minute mark.
In what should’ve been a grudge match between two clubs fighting for Champions League football, Spurs delivered yet another disastrous performance, reminiscent of the 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Kevin Keegan’s “entertainers” in 1996. Ryan Mason has now been installed as Manager until the end of the season, but will this be enough for Tottenham to clinch that all-important top-4 finish? I think not. This was surely a day to forget for anyone associated with Tottenham Hotspur.