1. Kyle Walker-Peters becomes the latest academy product to make his debut
Kieran Trippier’s injury against Juventus last Saturday was terribly timed, leaving Spurs without either of last season’s senior right-backs, given Kyle Walker now wears the blue of Manchester City.
Trippier was replaced at Wembley by academy player Kyle Walker-Peters, who won the Under-20 World Cup with England in June – but Mauricio Pochettino promptly scotched the suggestion that the youngster could start at Newcastle.
“He’s very young,” the Argentinian stated in his post-match press conference. “To think and to give the big responsibility like Kieran, it’s too much today for him.”
Those comments caused some surprise, given Pochettino’s liking for developing, encouraging and promoting young talents, but Spurs’ manager has clearly changed his mind in the last week.
On Friday he revealed he was deciding whether to pick Walker-Peters or Moussa Sissoko on the right side –and it was the 20-year-old who got the nod at St James’ Park, making his first competitive appearance for the club.
In doing so he became the eighth Spurs academy player to make his debut under Pochettino, following in the footsteps of Josh Onomah, Harry Winks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Marcus Edwards, Anton Walkes, Shayon Harrison and Filip Lesniak. Ryan Mason additionally got his Premier League debut under Spurs’ current boss.
Walker-Peters showed his inexperience at one stage in the first half when he fouled Dwight Gayle from behind the box, but he was saved from conceding a penalty as the Newcastle striker was flagged offside.
Otherwise, the youngster did well, making some key interventions in his own box while looking increasingly confident going forward, especially when he took on his man and delivered a low cross, rather than looking for an easy sideways or backwards pass.
That was a particularly welcome sign of ambition which had mostly been missing during his pre-season outings in the USA.
2. Moussa Sissoko fails to seize his opportunity against his former club
The France international, who performed so poorly last season, put in an encouraging performance in last weekend’s victory over Juventus and was rewarded with a starting role as he returned to St James’ Park today.
Newcastle’s fans made it pretty clear how they felt about Sissoko – a member of the Magpies squad that was relegated in 2016.
While Spurs’ fans sang ‘he’s magic, you know, Mauricio Pochettino’, the home supporters chanted ‘it’s tragic, you know, nobody wants Sissoko’.
Here was an opportunity for the 27-year-old to silence his critics, in both the home and away stands, and provide further evidence that this campaign can be different for him in north London.
He did not take it, contributing little, and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Heung-Min Son in the 58th minute. Spurs took the lead three minutes later.
3. Rafael Benitez’s plan frustrates Tottenham in the first half
Newcastle’s manager is a shrewd tactician and he had a plan ready.
While many sides sit deep in a bid to crowd Spurs out, Benitez sent Ayoze Perez up with Gayle when the hosts were out of possession, tasking him with staying tight to Mousa Dembele.
It meant Spurs’ defenders were unable to play easy passes forward to the Belgian, and it limited his ability to dictate play and carry the ball forward.
With Eric Dier frequently dropping back and becoming a third centre-back, as he often does when Spurs have the ball, Tottenham lacked a link between defence and attack, and Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were all too often staved of options.
Vertonghen seemed to be making that point to his captain Hugo Lloris when the teams headed in for the interval.
Benitez’s scheme was ruined soon after the interval but other sides may have observed his initial success with interest.
4. Jonjo Shelvey’s attempt to rile Dele Alli backfires
Alli can be hot-headed and he lost his cool in the half, reacting angrily after a seemingly routine and fair challenge from Jamaal Lascelles.
The 21-year-old then displayed his displeasure when a free kick decision went against him three minutes into the second half, and Shelvey sneakily trod on the Spurs man’s ankle as he sat on the ground.
If the intention was to tip Alli over the edge and goad him into a costly backlash, it backfired spectacularly – Shelvey was shown a straight red card for the offence.
Newcastle were down to 10 men but they had overcome the odds before. After all, when they last hosted Spurs at St James’ Park, they memorably won 5-1 despite the 67th-minute dismissal of Aleksandar Mitrovic. Indeed, they scored their final three goals with a numerical disadvantage.
This time, however, Tottenham made the Magpies pay – and it was Alli who netted the opener in the 61st minute, punishing Shelvey in full.
5. Danny Rose not missed
Danny Rose gave his club a sizeable distraction on the eve of the season, voicing his frustration about Spurs’ wage structure and lack of signings – and there have been reports that his feelings are privately shared by some of his team-mates.
But Pochettino drew a line under the incident on Friday, following Rose’s apology, and insisted his squad remains united.
There were certainly few signs of friction and unrest behind the scenes this afternoon as Tottenham got their campaign off to a winning start, capitalising after both Chelsea and Liverpool dropped points in their season openers.
While their victory came against a side that were playing in the Championship last term, Newcastle have been something of a bogey team for the Lilywhites in the past, winning five of the previous eight meetings in the Premier League and completing the double over their north London foes when they were last in the top flight. This was not a match to be taken lightly.
Rose’s controversial comments may not be forgotten for a little while yet but his team-mates did their talking on the pitch today and, perhaps appropriately, it was Ben Davies – Rose’s rival at left-back – who struck the second goal against Newcastle.
The Welshman also scored on the final day of last season, in the 7-1 rout at Hull, and he has become a trusted member of the side.
If he can continue to make an impact in the final third – an area where his team-mate has previously had the edge – then Rose may find it tougher to get back into the side than he has maybe presumed.
Meanwhile, Spurs have already kept their first clean sheet of the campaign, having had the best defensive record in the league last season.
Given Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have all conceded at least three goals each this weekend, Tottenham’s solidity could be a real advantage again this term.
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