Newcastle United defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Sunday in improbable comeback fashion. Here are five things we think we learned from that match.
1. The "Lull the other team to sleep then attack" tactic works occasionally
But only occasionally. It's probably best to play two halves of football moving forward. Newcastle were lucky that their one half of ascendancy corresponded with a complete meltdown for the other side.
2. This team is indeed capable of playing inspired football
It hasn't happened often recently, but there were multiple players who could be accused of possibly caring about the outcome of the match on Sunday. Even before the second half, Moussa Sissoko was playing with determination, as were Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini. That goal in the first six seconds of the half really put them on the front foot. The hope is that they'll carry that belief into the next match. (checks fixture list) Never mind.
3. Newcastle's defenders are still pretty bad, but at least they're determined
Tottenham created all kinds of chances and were in Newcastle's defensive third for seemingly the entire first half. They generated 17 shots, 7 of which were inside the area. There were several other chances (like the ball that went straight across the mouth of goal in the waning moments) that don't show up on the stat sheet. On more than one occasion, the Newcastle defenders were guilty of ball-watching. They were careless on and off the ball. It wasn't good enough.
At the same time, they showed some graft, blocking 7 shots and 6 crosses on the day:
They're going to continue to be bad, at least until January and probably beyond. There are obvious problems with the way this team is constructed, but at least the guys that were out there were willing to put themselves in the way.
4. Vurnon Anita probably shouldn't be playing in the middle of the park
Alan Pardew was without Cheik Tioté this week, so instead of turning to a similar player like Gaël Bigirimana (even Moussa Sissoko would have done) to fill his role, he inserted Vurnon Anita, who has been a defensive midfielder in name only since he arrived on Tyneside. Anita is superb in the pivot when he's not the one tasked with ball-winning and breaking up play. As it was, he was on an island in front of a vulnerable back four, and the likes of Ryan Mason and Étienne Capoue absolutely abused him.
5. Alan Pardew isn't completely clueless
If we're going to kill Pardew when the other team scores within the first five minutes of the second half, it's only fair when we recognize that he pulled some strings to turn the tide in this one. The first goal was still lucky in the sense that it doesn't happen if Eric Dier isn't taking a nap, but the introduction of Sammy Ameobi was inspired nonetheless. There were some outlets that took the opportunity to throw around words and phrases like "#Vindicated" and "Proof that he is the man for the job," which is frankly ridiculous, but it was an undeniably good game for the gaffer. I'm just glad he finally showed up.