When Tottenham beat Newcastle 2-0 at St James’ Park back in October, many fans felt that the result would herald a season of consistency for the north London side and showed how far the Magpies were from being a Premiership force.
But although the three points from that win briefly put Spurs above Bobby Robson’s side in the table, their league form has been erratic ever since, while Newcastle have gone from strength to strength.
Since beating the Magpies, Glenn Hoddle’s side have won just five of 13 Premiership matches and are subsequently in mid-table, well out of the chase for a UEFA Cup place. By comparison, Robson’s men have been consistency personified. Newcastle are currently second in the table, having won nine times since last meeting Spurs, and are in with a real chance of the title.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Newcastle’s game this season has been their attacking play. Alan Shearer appears to have been rejuvenated, while Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy, Laurent Robert and Nolberto Solano have all played crucial roles for the club.
Wide men Robert and Solano have been particularly important in providing service to the strikers. Former PSG man Robert has whipped in a total of 203 crosses this season, and of all the players in the Premiership, only Peruvian winger Solano (217) can better that record.
As a result of this excellent service from the wings, Newcastle have had 75 headed efforts at goal this season — the second-highest figure in the division. Shearer has arguably been the main beneficiary as he has been able to use his aerial strength to great effect, scoring three headed goals to date. Online bookmakers surreySPORTS are offering odds of 5/1 on the former England captain netting the first goal with any part of his body on Wednesday.
Tottenham may, however, have sufficient height and power at the back to deal with Newcastle’s crosses. Dean Richards has been a huge influence since signing from Southampton, making 141 headed clearances, which is the highest total at the club and the 11th highest figure in the league. Add that to his 29 headed clearances with the Saints and only three players have a larger tally.
Richards has not been the only Spurs defender to emerge with great credit this term though. Goran Bunjevcevic has displayed some elegant skills after his move from Red Star Belgrade, Ledley King has been earmarked as a future England player, while the recent surfacing of giant Anthony Gardner has shown what great strength in depth Spurs now have at the back.
It remains to be seen whether Tottenham’s defensive strength can help to improve their consistency during the remainder of the campaign. But if they can stifle Newcastle’s exciting front line on Wednesday, that would be an excellent start.