Hits and misses: Shoddy Spurs blowing CL hopes?

Gordon’s skill and Howe’s tactics key

Anthony Gordon was instrumental in Newcastle’s 4-0 win over Tottenham at St James’ Park. It was his strength when pressing that sparked the shift in momentum in the build-up to the opening goal. Destiny Udogie had the weight advantage but was still outmuscled.

Gordon picked out Alexander Isak with the pass, scored the second himself within two minutes and even provided the cross for Fabian Schar to make it four late on. An emphatic win and an emphatic performance from the former Everton winger.

This was the first time that he has been involved in three goals in a single Premier League game and he now has more goal involvements than anyone in home matches this season. It should be enough for Gareth Southgate to take him away to Germany this summer.

But this Newcastle win owed as much to Eddie Howe’s tactics as any individual performer. It was impressive how he was able to nullify Tottenham’s build-up play through their inverted full-backs, even changing his own team’s defensive shape to do exactly that.

“Tottenham are unique in what they do and we felt we needed to change to give ourselves the best chance of what we wanted to do. I thought tactically it worked, it was a really good delivery from the players, they always deserve the praise for the execution.”

Those players, Gordon among them, will receive praise following such a stunning result. But this was a big day for Howe too, his tactical acumen winning the day.
Adam Bate

Heavy defeat big blow to Spurs’ CL hopes

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Newcastle’s win against Tottenham in the Premier League.

Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou said ahead of his side’s clash with Newcastle that there was “no reason” for him to watch last season’s 6-1 defeat at St James’ Park.

In hindsight, maybe he wishes he had.

The heavy defeat back in April – Newcastle were 5-0 up after 21 minutes – proved to be the end of Spurs bid to qualify for the Champions League last season, and the big defeat this time around could prove just as damaging to their hopes this year.

Spurs were second best in every department against Newcastle as Eddie Howe tactically outthought Postecoglou. The switch to a back five worked wonders for the hosts, who countered at will against a lacklustre Spurs.

The 4-0 scoreline sees Postecoglou’s side drop to fifth on goal difference, with Aston Villa, who face Arsenal live on Sky Sports on Super Sunday, moving up a place to fourth without kicking a ball. And with England’s hopes of pipping Germany in the race for an extra Champions League spot set to go down to the wire, Spurs Champions League qualification hopes remain firmly in the balance.

It doesn’t get any easier for Spurs. They now have to stew until April 28 when they face north London rivals Arsenal, live on Sky Sports before games against Chelsea and Liverpool.
Oliver Yew

Spurs’ struggles at Newcastle…

Each of Tottenham’s last three Premier League defeats by 4-plus goals have come against Newcastle at St James’ Park – also 1-5 in May 2016 and 1-6 in April 2023. Indeed, they’ve now lost by 4-plus goals against Newcastle more often than they have vs any other opponent in Premier League history (five).

Spurs have now conceded 61 Premier League goals against Newcastle at St James’ Park, only conceding more at one away venue in the competition (64 at Anfield).

Newcastle have scored 93 Premier League goals against Tottenham, more than they have against any other opponent in the competition. Meanwhile, today was their first home clean sheet against Spurs in 18 home league games, since a 4-0 win in December 2003.

Doku dazzles with record touches in opposition box

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win against Luton in the Premier League.

It felt like Jeremy Doku was everywhere for Manchester City. Doku here. Doku there.

City did do a lot of attacking against Luton – as the 393 passes in the final third proves. And Doku was at the heart of the constant pressure towards Thomas Kaminski’s goal. He recorded 23 touches in the Luton box – that’s the most of any player in any game this season. Two of those actions led to a goal.

First when dancing past Fred Onyedinma, whose tired legs could no longer resist the urge to have a nibble, and Erling Haaland stroked home the penalty. Doku then grabbed the goal his exhibition of dribbling deserved with a masterful solo effort.

Pep Guardiola had described the Belgian as shy during the early stages of his Manchester City career. He’s now craving attention – and defenders don’t know how to deal with his direct and dazzling feet.
Lewis Jones

Muric mistake sums up Burnley’s failings

Burnley goalkeeper Ari Muric looks dejected after conceding a calamitous own goal against Brighton
Burnley goalkeeper Ari Muric looks dejected after conceding a calamitous own goal against Brighton

Before Burnley’s game with Brighton, assistant manager Craig Bellamy vowed his side would continue their way of playing and not change their methods in the face of relegation. Come full-time, he may be rueing those words.

Burnley, with their possession-based style of play despite having an inferior-quality playing squad compared to most, have been too nice this season in terms of their lack of ruthlessness and easiness to play against.

But then there was hope. Josh Brownhill’s opener against Brighton briefly put them four points away from safety with a big game away at Sheffield United to come next week. Survival was still improbable but the great escape was very much on.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 1-1 draw between Burnley and Brighton in the Premier League

Then came Muric’s mistake – a costly lack of concentration from a safe back-pass – and that hope was gone.

While it was a costly individual error, Burnley’s way of playing was partly to blame – Muric made 94 touches against Brighton, the most by a Premier League goalkeeper in the last eight seasons.

Yes, Muric should do a lot better in the moment, but trying to play out the back with 10 minutes to go in a must-win game is part of the process at Turf Moor – when it shouldn’t e.

This lack of streetwise attitude is why Burnley are likely to be in the Championship next season.
Sam Blitz

Will Frank start to use Toney sparingly even when fit?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brentford’s win against Sheffield United in the Premier League.

I Am Maximus romped to victory in the Grand National, and while Brentford would eventually win here at a canter, they did so without their own gladiator. Ivan Toney remained in the stable, an unused substitute.

Having only been called upon against Aston Villa last weekend after Ollie Watkins’ late equaliser, you begin to wonder just how much more will we see of Toney in a red and white shirt.

Injured or not, Thomas Frank knows he has to start preparing his players for life without their talisman. Frank’s attack was still not quite at full throttle, but here they still carried more than enough potency to extend Sheffield United’s abysmal away record.

The Blades, still without a clean sheet on the road, were unable to capitalise on Toney’s absence.

The striker is on his lengthiest Premier League goal drought, having amassed 21 shots and 36 touches in the opposition box during seven consecutive starts prior to his omission at Villa Park.

“Ivan Toney was ill during the week, and his hip injury is still not perfect,” Frank said afterwards. “Now we have time to get him ready for Luton and I’m convinced he will be ready.”

No Toney, no problem for Brentford? Not quite, but if he is to be sold as expected this summer, the return of Kevin Schade to fitness alongside Bryan Mbeumo means it would be smart management to use him sparingly in the remaining games – regardless of his fitness.
Ben Grounds

Cunha makes welcome return for Wolves

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 2-2 draw between Nottingham Forest and Wolves

How Wolves have missed Matheus Cunha. The Brazilian was injured early on against Brentford in February, having scored twice in the win over Chelsea in the previous match. He delivered another two goals on his return to the starting line-up at Nottingham Forest.

The first of those goals was a fine example of what he brings that others cannot. A powerful run from deep, a smart turn to elude the defender and an emphatic finish. His second was an atypical poacher’s effort to take his Premier League total for the season to 11.

Matheus Cunha has now scored 11 Premier League goals for Wolves this season
Matheus Cunha has now scored 11 Premier League goals for Wolves this season

It was not enough to win the game for Wolves. Cunha was withdrawn with the game in the balance, a nod to the fact that he is still ahead of schedule – the initial prognosis for his muscle injury was that he should still be on the treatment table, not the pitch.

Gary O’Neil may still be wondering what might have been had he felt able to call upon Cunha for the FA Cup quarter-final against Coventry when teenager Nathan Fraser was asked to lead the line instead. With Cunha back, Wolves are always able to pose a threat.
Adam Bate

Gibbs-White grit gives Forest a fighting chance

Morgan Gibbs-White gestures at Pablo Sarabia after equalising for Nottingham Forest against Wolves
Morgan Gibbs-White scored against his former side Wolves

Grudge and grievance bubbled beneath the surface. How Nottingham Forest would have loved to get the better of their Midlands neighbours in league competition for the first time since 2018.

Morgan Gibbs-White taunted the Wolves fans that used to applaud him after scoring his fifth league goal of the campaign. Had Forest gone on to win the game, clawing themselves three points clear of the drop zone, the entire episode would have been justified.

But goading his former employers was perhaps a little ill-advised given what actually transpired five minutes later – a Matheus Cunha equaliser. Gibbs-White does, however, remain key to Forests’ survival hopes and their future is crucially in their own hands.

The importance placed on upcoming games against Everton, Sheffield United and Burnley is increasing by the week. Five games to rescue a season.

Forest have fight, that’s for sure. But do they have enough quality, consistency and nerve to stand up in games against direct relegation rivals, with the consequences so grave? Not so sure.
Laura Hunter

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