Newcastle United were left without anything to show for a positive opening day performance against Tottenham. They fell behind early to a goal from Jan Vertonghen that was awarded by goal line technology. The Magpies quickly fought back thanks to a goal from Joselu, before a Dele Alli header won the points for the visitors.
It was another opening day defeat to Tottenham, but there were far more positives to take from this display compared to last season. The home side worked hard until the final whistle and were arguably the better team after half-time, hitting the woodwork twice.
Their opening run of fixtures mean that they may find themselves near the bottom for the first couple of months. However, this performance showed that they should have more than enough to stay in the division. Below, we discuss three things learnt from Saturday’s game.
It is a positive that Matt Ritchie stayed during the summer
There was a lot of speculation regarding the future of Matt Ritchie over the summer. Stoke City and Middlesbrough were both heavily linked with the midfielder, but a transfer didn’t materialise, and he remained a Newcastle United player.
It was no surprise that he started against Tottenham, as he is a crucial first-team player for Newcastle and he proved that he has the quality to influence games in the Premier League. He rarely gave the ball away with an 86% pass completion and he managed to deliver a superb cross to set-up Joselu for the equaliser.
Ritchie’s work rate and quality on the ball mean that he is integral to Newcastle down the right side. At the age of 28, he will be looking to have his most productive Premier League season and Saturday was the perfect start.
The defence needs to tighten up
Last season, Newcastle’s success was built on a strong back four. They conceded 47 times and that ranked them as the 7th best defence in the Premier League. That wasn’t a huge surprise as they are coached by Rafa Benitez, who pays close attention to the organisation of the back four.
However, they were more open than he would have liked against Tottenham. Dele Alli regularly caused problems with his movement, while the marking for the first goal was poor. Benitez will believe that set pieces are heavily influenced by the tactical side of the game, therefore he won’t be wanting his team to conceded often from them.
Jamaal Lascelles was the standout defender in the Newcastle back four and he will have a huge part to play this season, both as a player and as captain. He was partnered by Ciaran Clark against Tottenham, but it is likely that either Fabian Schar or Federico Fernandez will be the one chosen to partner the club captain.
Kenedy is set for a breakout season
The Brazilian was the most important signing made by Newcastle during the summer. He arrived last season and made a huge contribution as the side climbed to safety. Many supporters were disappointed that the club didn’t sign him on a permanent deal, but another loan spell is better than not having him at all.
Kenedy showed his technical ability against Tottenham as he caused problems with his direct running and distribution in the final third. The Brazilian completed six dribbles and that created a lot of space for Newcastle to attack. His decision making was mixed, but that will get better as the season develops.
The one disappointment will be his poor first touch when he was played through on goal in the second-half. He will know that it was a golden chance to score and he should have done better. Despite this, his performance was a positive one.