‘Things can only get better’. That’s what the optimist in me says after that horrific display at Norwich last weekend.
That said, the realist in me fears that things could get even worse if we don’t perform MUCH better against a potentially ruthless Spurs side this Sunday.
Under Rafa Benitez we had several off days and uninspiring performances, but we often saw a response in ‘big games’ or at least a clear sign that the players had responded to a proverbial kick up the backside after an unacceptable display.
I don’t expect us to beat Spurs here, but a response to last weekend’s collapse is essential – not only for our new signings but for Steve Bruce and this 3-5-2 system he seems intent on sticking with…for now.
Personally, I’d love to see us go with a 3-4-3, scrapping the 3-5-2 that seems to do no one any favours and starting with Almiron and Saint-Maximin either side of a previously isolated and frustrated Joelinton.
Sadly, I see Bruce sticking to his guns, but a few changes seem very likely after that drubbing at Norwich last time out.
As seen below in our ‘Predicted XI’, I can see him bringing Sean Longstaff back in for Ki – a player who allowed the game (and several Norwich players!) to totally pass him by next weekend. Even in a three-man midfield, his lack of energy and tracking off the ball means he can not be in a team with Jonjo Shelvey that does not dominate possession.
I can see Javier Manquillo also coming in at right wing-back. Emil Krafth was thrown in at the deep end at Norwich (although he wasn’t the worst defender out there that day), but I feel it was harsh to drop the Spaniard in the first place after a steady display vs Arsenal and a quietly impressive pre-season.
Not only that, Bruce may be wary of the fact Krafth could be coming up against a direct and deadly Son Heung-Min (who’s now available after suspension) should he be handed a second start.
At centre-back I’d argue that Federico Fernandez deserves a start considering how unorganised our defensive trio looked last weekend, but I don’t see Bruce making any knee-jerk changes in that area just yet. That said, the return of classy defender and calming influence Florian Lejeune can’t come quick enough.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4-3) – Dubravka – Schar, Lascelles Dummett – Hayden, Longstaff – Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, Almiron.
Aside from the obvious, here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in this Tottenham side:
Son Heung-Min: The South Korean seems like an obvious ‘one to watch’, but he feels worth noting given he’s not actually been involved in Spurs’ opening two games – but he’s back for this one after completing a three-match ban. We’ve been weak defensively down our right-hand side, so the prospect of a fresh Son tearing at Manquillo or new boy Krafth is a slightly terrifying one. He was involved in 20 league goals for Spurs last season and will be keen to get off the mark in this one.
Moussa Sissoko: With French compatriot and £63m man Tanguy Ndombele ruled out of this one, the onus will be on the ex-Mag to step up and put in a big performance in the centre of midfield. Give him space to run into and he can do damage, but we know that he’s limited on the ball in tight spaces.
Harry Winks: The midfielder has really impressed me over the first two weeks of the season and will be an England regular before long. We must be much more energetic and combative in midfield if we’re to stop him running the show and getting good service into Spurs’ front three.
Predicted Spurs XI: Lloris; Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Sissoko, Winks; Lucas, Eriksen, Son; Kane.
Joelinton is fit despite limping off last weekend, while Allan Saint-Maximin will travel with the squad after recovering from a hamstring strain – although he may have to settle for a place on the bench.
Elsewhere, Andy Carroll (ankle), Dwight Gayle (calf), DeAndre Yedlin (aroin), and Florian Lejeune (ACL) will all miss out once again, but Christian Atsu is back in contention after returning to training this week.
For Spurs, Song Heung-Min is available for the first time this season after completing a three-match ban, but club record signing Tanguy Ndombele will miss out.
Dele Alli could have a late fitness test after returning to training this week, but he seems unlikely to start.
I think we’ll be more competitive in terms of our running and attacking intent, but fear for us defensively against a potentially devastating Spurs side – especially now they’ve got Son back.
Getting bodies forward and moving Almiron closer to Joelinton as a result is essential if we want to get our £60m duo into good areas, although we’ll have to get the balance just right now we’re dealing with the likes of Kane, Eriksen and Son at the other end.
Bruce’s insistence on this 3-5-2 formation really does worry me considering how lost so many players have looked as a result, so we’ll have to be MUCH better in this one if we don’t want to get hammered…never mind get a result.
I’m hoping for a much improved performance but fearing the worst.
Prediction: Tottenham 3-0 Newcastle
Howay the lads!