May 21 2013 Latest news:
By Daniel Grigg
Monday, August 20, 2012
Tottenham supporter Daniel Grigg looks back on Saturday’s trip to St James’ Park.
Normally the onset of a new season is something you can hardly wait for, but this time around it all seemed to come too soon for Tottenham’s liking.
The pre-season results have been relatively uninspiring, Luka Modric has not been sold and there are still not enough strikers at the club.
Indeed, Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas are very fortunate that Jermain Defoe has been in such fine form for both club and country – otherwise there would have been even more pressure to sign at least two new strikers before September 1.
Of course they still need to do that, and the board now have less than two weeks to do what they’ve failed to in the last seven weeks – and even before that.
But it will be difficult to sign anyone – Emmanuel Adebayor, Loic Remy or Leandro Damiao – given the lack of Champions League football, the relatively low wages on offer and the fact that Tottenham prefer not to go over the top with their transfer fees either.
Spurs may have flashed the cash a few years ago but they never topped the £20million mark on a single player, which is the bracket Damiao has now stepped into following his success for his club Internacional and Brazil.
However, Defoe appeared to relish the task of playing as the lone striker at Newcastle on Saturday, hitting the post after pretty much fashioning the chance himself and eventually getting his goal later in the game.
While Defoe’s height, strength and even his first touch will remain issues to be overcome if he is play up front in the long-term, he is still a natural finisher – and he was in the right place at the right time to capitalise when Krul scrambled his initial header onto the post in the second half.
The goal came from a well-judged Aaron Lennon cross – and it was hardly surprising that he and Gareth Bale were behind most of Spurs’ most threatening moments, despite the absence of Luka Modric’s trickery in the middle.
Things in the centre were a bit shakier though, and Spurs lost the battle for possession against the likes of Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye, while Hatem Ben Arfa was a real handful, adding pace and a cutting thrust into Newcastle’s attacking play.
Sandro worked hard but never quite managed to bully the home side into retreat, particularly when Ben Arfa moved inside, and Livermore – now an England international - failed to impose himself strongly enough.
That said, the scarcity of chances that Newcastle actually created says something about Spurs’ midfield, the back four and the overall balance of the side that Villas-Boas has already put together in a short space of time - so there were definitely positive signs amidst the disappointment.
William Gallas gave a good account of himself, despite being a surprise inclusion in the first place alongside his countryman Younes Kaboul, and the big summer signing Jan Vertonghen will have to wait to make his league debut another day.
Bale has been criticised recently - not by Spurs fans of course - for sitting out the Olympics. But having done so and survived his latest meeting with Charlie Adam in America, he was fit and ready to start the season, having also put pen to paper on a new contract during the summer.
The Welshman used his height, skill, pace and stamina to good effect and almost put the finishing touch on Lennon’s excellent floated cross in the first half, finding the crossbar with his header with Krul beaten - although there was a man on the line.
But if Newcastle’s full-backs struggled at times, so too did Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker. Spurs’ right-back surged forward to support Lennon and enjoyed lots of decent little moments, but a defensive lapse with his header at the back post - more up than out - presented Demba Ba with the opportunity to put Newcastle into that vital lead.
The chance still took some finishing though, as the Magpies forward whipped his shot around Brad Friedel from a fairly tight angle.
Overall, the 2-1 defeat away at a Newcastle side who finished fifth last season was more disappointing than surprising - but there wasn’t much between the teams, and the hosts were only missing Fabrizio Coloccini from their best starting 11.
Tottenham now have to get their season properly under way next Saturday, and they face a buoyant West Brom side who beat Liverpool 3-0 on the opening day – and in fact it could have been worse for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
However, Spurs had a very similar and probably worse-looking scenario last season. Having been beaten by the two Manchester clubs in their first two games, and without a point on the board, the Lilywhites took on a Wolves side who had picked up seven points from their first three games - and, with most of the same personnel that remain at the club, they picked up a vital victory.