Tottenham suffered a 6-1 thrashing against Newcastle at St James’ Park on Sunday; defeat leaves them six points off the Champions League places; Spurs are without a permanent manager and have only won two of their last nine games
It will go down as one of Tottenham’s darkest days in the Premier League era, a humiliating 6-1 loss at Newcastle which all but ends their top-four ambitions and plunges a chaotic season into crisis.
On the pitch, Spurs were a shambles, ripped apart as the rampant hosts roared into a five-goal lead after just 21 minutes, the second-earliest by any side in the history of the competition.Now-sacked Interim boss Cristian Stellini took responsibility afterwards, admitting he was wrong to switch to a back four. It was the first time since January 2022 that Spurs had deployed the system and the players looked like they did not know where to stand or what to do.
Heavy criticism for those players, and the coaching staff, followed and that is of course understandable.
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Get Sky Sports | Download the Sky Sports App As if this defeat is not bad enough in itself, it comes directly after an abject loss at home to Bournemouth. Spurs have two wins from their last nine games, during which time they have crashed out of two cup competitions as well as the top-four race.Things hit a nadir on Sunday, undoubtedly. Ultimately, though, the defeat is just the latest reminder of the issues pervading every level of the club. The chaos that unfolded on the pitch at St James’ Park is, at least in part, a consequence of what has happened – or not happened – off it.
Already without a permanent manager, Spurs this week lost their managing director too, Fabio Paratici resigning following a lengthy saga over his future which was allowed to drag on as he appealed, unsuccessfully, against his 30-month ban from footballing activities due to issues of alleged financial mismanagement at Juventus.
The situation had become an unwelcome distraction, raising questions of chairman Daniel Levy’s decision-making, but the biggest error is surely the one made to hand managerial duties to Antonio Conte’s No 2 following his sacking a month ago.
Is it any surprise that the long-serving assistant of the man whose reign blew up in such spectacular fashion has failed to change the direction of the team? His methods are Conte’s. He is struggling and out of his depth. The wrong man at the wrong time.That much has been obvious for weeks but it was clearer than ever at St James’ Park. Stellini said the move to a back four was intended to change the “energy”, but what good is a grand tactical switch if you do not have the personnel to carry it out effectively?
Pedro Porro and Ivan Perisic can be offensively potent from the wing-back positions, but they are plainly not full-backs and Newcastle took full advantage of their defensive frailties, running riot in the wide areas through wingers Joelinton and Jacob Murphy.
There were similar issues for Spurs centrally. Cristian Romero and Eric Dier are accustomed to being part of three-man defences but neither excels in a pair and Alexander Isak, like Joelinton and Murphy on either side, ensured Newcastle capitalised there too.
If Spurs were already struggling to defend adequately in a five, then what hope did they have in a four? There were errors at every turn, their already fragile confidence disintegrating completely.
Stellini had injuries to contend with, of course, but it was damning that midfielder Pape Sarr, the player he favoured in place of a defender, for only his second Premier League start, had to be hauled off after only 23 minutes, his withdrawal an acceptance of the mistake – albeit far too late.
Davinson Sanchez, Sarr’s replacement, came on having been the fall guy against Bournemouth a week earlier, when the Colombian was sub-subbed and booed as he went following an error-strewn, 23-minute cameo. But the blame is better shared out.Conte will feel he has been vindicated for the comments made in the extraordinary outburst which preceded his departure. “I see selfish players,” he said at the time, “players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put the heart in.”
That lack of togetherness was there to see at St James’ Park. Even the players’ arguments between themselves appeared half-hearted as the goals flew in during the early stages.
“They are used to it here, they don’t want to play under pressure,” continued Conte. It was difficult to argue with him then and it is even more so now. “Tottenham’s story is this,” he added.
The issues with mentality are deep-rooted but Tottenham’s struggles on the pitch come back to recruitment too. How many of this season’s signings have really improved the team? How many of those brought in during the preceding windows can be deemed successful?
The flops far outnumber the success stories and that is just another factor to contribute to the feeling of worry among supporters about where Spurs go from here.For Levy, the obvious next step is to accelerate the process of appointing a permanent manager. But you would not blame prospective candidates for backing out after watching the team’s latest offering. And besides, it is surely too late to salvage a top-four finish this season.
Their fight, in the short term, is more likely to be maintaining their place in the Europa League spots. But even that will not be straightforward with a fixture list which throws up Manchester United at home on Thursday and then a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool next.
Beyond that, there are more headaches to come. For all the money spent, the squad looks in need of an overhaul and that is before you even consider that it may not contain Harry Kane next season.
Supporters will hope they are planning for that eventuality but it is not easy to do that without a managing director or manager. It will not be easy, either, for their beleaguered players to bounce back from what happened at St James’ Park.
Carragher blasts ‘disgraceful’ Spurs
Jamie Carragher labelled Tottenham “disgraceful” and captain Hugo Lloris said he was “embarrassed” after they shipped five goals in the opening 21 minutes against Newcastle.
Writing on social media, the Sky Sports pundit said: “Newcastle are brilliant, they have been all season. Tottenham are a disgrace! How have they gone to a back four for the first time this season, with [Pedro] Porro a full-back that can’t defend and [Ivan] Perisic who is a winger? Get a proper manager in right now, not Conte’s mate.”Lloris told Sky Sports: “It’s very embarrassing. The first thing is probably we should apologise to the fans who travelled, the fans who watched the game.
“Obviously we didn’t show a great face today. We could not match the performance of the Newcastle players. We were late in all the aspects of the game. We completely missed the first part of the game. Obviously the second half is another story. It’s really painful.”
Former Tottenham defender Danny Rose, watching in disbelief on Sky Sports, added: “All I’ve been thinking of in that first half is, how am I unemployed?”