What Postecoglou kept yelling at Son, why he grabbed Cristian Romero and Maddison's apology

Tottenham had got through the first 21 minutes without conceding a goal - the point at which they were 5-0 down a year ago at St James' Park - so surely this would be better than that horror show?

Well no, not particularly. Within a noisy stadium, Eddie Howe's men needed only 27% of the possession and just 185 passes to score four goals against a Spurs back four so generous that you would have been forgiven for thinking Cristian Stellini had selected them once again.

This latest defeat at Newcastle ended up being almost as woeful as its predecessor, simply because far more was expected this time around. It was a performance that showed up every crack and deficiency of a club still a long way off the one Ange Postecoglou expects to compete for the Premier League title next year.

The Australian's system requires everyone to be switched on, playing their part, physical in their play and most of all brave in their passing and movement. Without that it looks one-dimensional with the same rigid attempts to get the ball out wide and open to any opposition who wants to knock a ball over the top to a willing runner.

At its best, the Postecoglou way is a high energy display of total football with players interchanging positions and carving opposition defences apart and keeping the ball high up the pitch, only allowing the odd counter-attack that can be mopped up by a speedy centre-back or covering team-mate.

That was certainly not the case in the heaviest defeat of the Postecoglou era so far. Other than a string of early Timo Werner chances, Spurs created little and again struggled against an organised, packed defence with quick counter-attacking players.

READ MORE: Every word Ange Postecoglou said on what concerned him about Tottenham defeat and Porro injury

READ MORE: Tottenham player ratings vs Newcastle - Son and Bissouma struggle with Porro poor before injury

The Postecoglou system falters if the players lack the courage to pass between the lines and run into areas to receive the ball. They have to play fast risky forward balls out from the back to beat the press and break the lines and to provide them with options requires movement.

That is what the Australian has been getting his coaches to drill into the squad over the past eight or nine months more than anything, but in the face of the opposition his players can sometimes revert to type.

If there are no options and they play the ball backwards then they invite the opposition upon themselves and make life incredibly difficult.

Tottenham's passing success rate numbers on Saturday across the squad were high, with some attacking players above 90 per cent. You would think that would be a good thing but instead it was simply indicative of the many short safe passes that Postecoglou's players were attempting.

"Anyone who's played here before knows what kind of game you're in for when you come here," said James Maddison. "It still kind of took us by surprise I guess. Just sloppy errors, we needed a bit more courage to be braver with the ball and play forward and not take the safe option of an easy pass backwards because that just invites pressure.

"At 0-0 I felt like there was space there to capitalise on. You get the feeling sometimes in a game as a player about the space in between the lines and in wide areas, but we didn't capitalise on it and we played too safe. We didn't play that line-breaking pass enough times and it cost us I think."

That's not to say Postecoglou is blameless. Just six days before he had reacted quickly to a failing performance with half-time changes which were successful but this time he just seemed to watch on as his team wilted under the pressure.

By his own admission, he now has a squad strong enough to change things around whenever he feels like it - and it was a far stronger bench than Newcastle's - but he allowed the game to run its course until six minutes after Spurs were 3-0 down, three players eventually coming on around that more standard hour mark.

It was a day that showed up some of the aspects of the Postecoglou system that critics will point to, with the mistakes that will come with constant passing from the back, the gaps in behind the inverted full-backs, the open door for opposition players to counter with balls over the top of the high line and the set piece problems. The Tottenham head coach might not be concerned about it, but he cannot let the players begin to doubt what he's building.

On the whole, Spurs' away form is generally pretty good. They have lost just four games on the road in the Premier League this season, one more than Arsenal and Manchester City and the fourth fewest away losses in the competition.

Mainly there have been too many draws away from home, their total of six the highest in the league. Tottenham fans might have taken a draw before the game - they certainly would now - but what they were served up was never in danger of bringing a point back down south.

It was such a poor result that it knocked Tottenham out of the top four below Aston Villa without Unai Emery's side needing to kick a ball. Spurs will now have to rely on Arsenal doing similar to Villa, the worst of all desires - to want your local rivals to win. Technically to also help the Premier League's chances of getting Champions League football for the fifth place team in case they need it, Tottenham could do with the Gunners also beating Bayern Munich in midweek. Yes it feels wrong. This is not how football fandom is meant to work at all.

Tottenham's own performance was one littered with errors from start to finish. The first goal came from Destiny Udogie being eased off the ball far too easily by Anthony Gordon and the England international's pass through to Alexander Isak might have been eventually dealt with by Micky van de Ven, had the Dutchman not slipped awkwardly as soon as the Swede turned inside.

Spurs had barely kicked off from the restart when they gifted it back to Newcastle for a second goal. Those back at home were watching a replay of the first goal which TNT Sport producers suddenly had to cut away from to the sight of Gordon slotting home a second.

That's because Pedro Porro had, without looking, attempted to lob a ball back into his own penalty area, either for Cristian Romero or Guglielmo Vicario and instead sent it straight to the feet of Gordon. Once again Van de Ven ran in and ended sliding on to his backside.

You know things are a complete mess when the team's most reliable players are having a nightmare. It was the same at the other end, with the first three goals starting with the captain giving it away earlier in the build-up, starting a chain of errors from his team-mates.

Son Heung-min has been there for Tottenham so many times when they have needed him this season, but he struggled in the central role on Saturday. He touched the ball just 26 times and didn't have a single shot at goal or a dribble forward.

As others were marked, too often Postecoglou would have to call Son back into his own half to give Vicario or the defence an option to pass to rather than boot it long where it was just lost every time, but that's just not Son's strength. Playing with his back to the play is something he has improved on in recent years but he's not a strong, hold-up striker that the team can play off, he's a driving force and more comfortable when he's facing the goal.

So disappointing was Son's display - he was by no means alone in that - that Postecoglou took him off after just 58 minutes as part of a triple change. The solemn look on the South Korean's face said it all.

Recent team performances have made the decision not to bring in a natural striker to replace Harry Kane last summer all the more baffling. Postecoglou was keen to give Richarlison a chance in the role but that was pinning a lot of hope on a player who had missed 11 matches through injury the previous season and has so far missed another seven this campaign.

Even then the Brazilian is not a natural forward. With 11 goals this season he has still never been a prolific goalscorer. The 26-year-old has the physical capabilities though to act as a target man and Spurs are missing his aerial presence from defensive and attacking set pieces.

Alejo Veliz is the only striker Tottenham brought in during the summer, a youngster who played a handful of minutes from the bench before being sent to Sevilla on loan, where he is currently not even getting the experience of leaving the dugout.

Spurs are looking to bring in a striker this summer but it feels like they are paying the price for failing to - or deciding not to do so - when it became clear that Kane was heading off to Bavaria.

The goals have been shared among the team this campaign but Postecoglou would only have had to look at Isak to see what might have been in his Tottenham side with a natural goalscoring centre-forward in it.

The Swede has netted 21 goals this season in 34 matches, with 17 in 24 in the Premier League, and the 21st goal of his campaign came from the simplest of passes over the top from Bruno Guimaraes.

So open was the Tottenham defence that Isak started his run from the Newcastle half, killing any attempt to play him offside, and he ran on without any real obstruction or challenge as Vicario hesitated and decided to run back to his box. The striker gratefully accepted another gift of a goal.

When it was put to Postecoglou that his team looked so vulnerable on the break to balls over the top, he said: "We allowed them to dictate the way the game was played, ended up being a transition game, a lot of it was self-inflicted by us, we weren’t brave on the ball, we’ve been really good this year at understanding that when we have the ball we can be a threat, certain players, we just shied away from that today.

"When you do that you allow the game to be played on Newcastle’s terms. When that happens especially away from home it’s hard for us to then claw it back once it’s got away from us."

Spurs are not showing that clinical instinct consistently. After his impressive display against Nottingham Forest, Timo Werner put in the kind of performance that harked back to the Chelsea days that ruined the confidence of a once prolific goalscorer at RB Leipzig.

Early in the match Brennan Johnson delivered a first-time cross to him at the back post and instead of instinctively attacking it with his head the German attempted a far more complicated volley on the run which ended up high in the back of the stand.

Not long after he was picked out by a lovely ball from the outside of Son's right foot only to blast his shot straight at the South Korean's feet to send his captain crashing to the floor. Werner's best opportunity of that spell came after when Maddison teed him up in the box, only to scuff his shot across the six-yard box rather than anywhere near the goal.

Had the German taken one or two of those chances from good positions then the game may well have taken a different course, with Newcastle forced to come out of their tight formation as happened in the reverse fixture in December.

Werner offers plenty of attacking threat down the left but it is that lack of confidence in his finishing that will be the main cause of pause when it comes to deciding whether to bring him in permanently for around £15m, particularly with what could be higher wages than many in the Spurs squad. Let's be honest, if you're life depended on Werner putting the ball in the net, you're likely to be saying your goodbyes.

Johnson was barely used in the first half, Spurs mostly choosing to go down the left-hand side through Udogie and Werner. Perhaps Porro's injury worry - he kept looking across at the bench in the first half and at one point was pointing to team-mates to pass to others rather than him - ended up stopping the players from spreading the ball to the right, also killing Johnson's chances of getting the ball.

The Wales international touched the ball only 24 times, fewer touches than any other Spurs starting player yet two more than the clinical Isak and Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff. Johnson switched to the centre of the attack after Son went off but his team-mates rarely found him.

Tottenham had only two shots on target from their 11 in the game, one from Maddison and the other from Dejan Kulusevski, both sailing centrally and safely into the arms of Martin Dubravka.

Spurs' midfield provided neither attacking help nor defensive cover for the back four. Postecoglou had used two different pairings alongside Maddison against Forest and had to decide which blend would work at St James' Park.

Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr had been excellent in the reverse fixture against Newcastle in December but struggled against Nuno Espirito Santo's side last weekend. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur had changed that game after replacing them for the second half.

Hojbjerg has become the Eric Dier of sorts of the midfield. Postecoglou clearly does not see the Dane as part of his long-term future and with his contract approaching its final 12 months, he is giving others their chances.

The problem is that, unlike Dier, Hojbjerg has consistently been able to come in and impact matches and has deserved more than his six Premier League starts this season, especially when Bissouma has struggled to find any kind of consistency.

So Postecoglou went for Bentancur and Bissouma as his pairing and they never really took a grip of the game in the middle of the park with Maddison, who at least played four key passes. To give some context though, Gordon played eight for Newcastle, with a goal and two assists.

"Newcastle were good, credit to them, I thought they were really good today," said Postecoglou after the game. "We just didn’t really get a grip of the game at all. Right from the start it felt like we allowed Newcastle to dictate the way the game was played, we never really wrestled control at any stage. We paid a price for that."

When the individual errors were pointed out, the Australian responded: "I think that’s just kind of a symptom of the whole collective of it. I don’t think it was one person that was at fault today. It was about us as a collective. We never really got to grips with the game of football. We let it get away from us. And like I said, we paid a price for it."

The other worrying sight was Newcastle winning each of the individual battles across the park. They might have had very little of the ball but every time it mattered they were physically far stronger than their Tottenham counterparts in tackles, winning second balls and reacting in big moments.

When football.london pointed out those physical failings, Postecoglou said it was just one of many areas of the performance that bothered him on the day.

"I was concerned with all of it. I don't think there was one area that cost us today," said the Spurs head coach. "I don't think there was any part of our game that reached the levels that it needs to for us to be able to play the games on our terms, so whether that's the physical aspect, the technical, the tactical, all of it, we just never really got to any sort of tempo or intensity that we needed to, to stop a team that's got momentum right from the start."

Tottenham are looking to upgrade in the number six role this summer and it's a position where if they can get it right then it will strengthen the team's play in both directions. Postecoglou plays down the significance of delineating between sixes and eights but it's a key, quite literally pivotal, role in his system.

Then there was the fourth goal. Postecoglou made it clear last week that he does not see Tottenham's set piece defending as a problem but this was the 11th goal they have conceded in the Premier League from such situations this season.

Having publicly stated earlier in the season that Mile Jedinak is in charge of organising the defending around set pieces, with his compatriot confirming that in recent interviews, perhaps the Tottenham boss feels the need to shield the young coach or simply stop it from becoming a thing that plays on the mind of the defence.

The problem is that it keeps happening. This time in the 87th minute it was Dejan Kulusevski who completely lost Fabian Schar, who sold him a dummy inside the box before powering a header beyond the static Vicario. Newcastle won almost every header from every set piece during the game but Spurs were fortunate they sent most of their efforts wide and one on to the left-hand post.

That record of 11 set piece goals conceded is worse than 12 other teams in the Premier League. It is nine more conceded than Manchester City, six more than Arsenal, four more than Liverpool. Of the top five, only Aston Villa have more with 14. For those interested, Forest top the chart with a remarkable 21.

This was a stinker of a display from Tottenham across the park and it smacked of a young team in transition and a manager who is yet to implement his beliefs completely. You could try to point to a theme with the previous St James' Park mauling but only three of the starting XI that day began this game - Son, Porro and Romero.

None of that trio covered themselves in glory this time around - Postecoglou had to pull Romero away from a confrontation with Dan Burn after the final whistle which the Argentine was not delighted about - and this performance felt more akin to the team showing at Craven Cottage last month than the one a year ago.

"A tough day, a horrible day really. It's hard to assess and speak about after such a horrible scoreline. A really bad day at the office. We've got to assess and see where it went wrong and pick ourselves up and go again," said Maddison.

"We're just as disappointed as any of those fans. We can only hold our hands up and apologise to the travelling fans. Even at the end when we went over a load of them were still clapping us after a performance like that. You don't expect to be clapped when you go and applaud the fans so thank you to them for sticking with us, but I can apologise that they had to watch that today and we just weren't good enough and we have to accept that, look in the mirror and know that it just wasn't good enough.

"It wasn't a fluke, it wasn't that they just got lucky goals, we weren't good enough today to a man, so we need to have a stern talking to ourselves to pick ourselves up. You can have a period of mourning, if you like, over it but you've quickly got to switch on, look at where you went wrong and go again because the Premier League comes thick and fast and we've got a big game next."

Postecoglou always comes with a warning when he arrives at clubs that there will be plenty of pain as the team and entire club adjust to his very different ways.

At Tottenham, it feels like it's happened in reverse which has not helped. Spurs started the season like a steam train and quickly took on plenty of Postecoglou's demands even if it was not yet instinctive.

Then that unbeaten run came to an end amid the chaos of the Chelsea match and Postecoglou's side have been unable to find any real vein of consistency since.

It's not been awful. They have won 10 of the 17 Premier League matches since that injury and suspension-hit period after the Chelsea defeat, and only lost four games, but there has been little flow or consistency to the performances.

The losses to Newcastle and Fulham in particular have been particularly galling, heavy defeats with no goals scored.

"There's no point sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. There's another game in two weeks," said Postecoglou. "We've just got to get ready for that. It's not the first time it's happened to us and it won't be the last. It's part of our growth. Sometimes that growth is painful. That's part of it and you've just got to embrace it, use it and get ready for the next challenge."

The pain might be more intense after a performance so muted and disappointing and the emotions will cloud the growth for some, but it has been there.

Spurs have the same amount of points as they finished last season with - 60 - with six games left to play. They have seven more than at this stage last year, they have scored six more goals than they had managed at this point last season with 64 - without a certain club record goalscorer up front - and they have conceded two fewer in the Premier League.

As importantly, the odd game aside, the football on show has been much better although days like this will make that hard to believe.

They are also three points ahead where they were at this stage in Antonio Conte's first season at the club, which was considered a positive one, they've scored nine more goals now than they had at that point, but they have conceded 11 more mostly thanks to those heavy defeats at Newcastle and Fulham.

So Postecoglou's team is far ahead in terms of points and goals at this stage than in any of Spurs' five years after Mauricio Pochettino's departure.

The 58-year-old expects Tottenham to improve greatly under his watch in the time ahead and when asked whether he was worried after watching his team that they still have Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City to come, he laughed in disbelief, followed by "No, no, no, no".

Postecoglou may well point to the fact that so far he has not lost to any of those teams in the Premier League.

The key for the Australian now is to dispel the notion that teams have worked out how to play against his system, a way which would have surprised many in those early months when everything was going so well.

He has repeatedly indicated that this is only stage one of Postecoglou's Tottenham and it is only when he feels his team is instinctively playing his way that he can then really dive into the tactical details and step it up a notch and evolve it into different variants.

He will get time to try to reach that stage next season. Tottenham are fully on board with the Postecoglou way, they're happy with what he's done behind the scenes and on the pitch on the whole and there is a recognition that this was always going to be a rebuilding season after such a mess of a previous campaign and then the departure of their star player.

Daniel Levy said as much in his recent chairman's statement attached to the club's financial results earlier this month: "This season, the first under Ange, was always going to be one of building for the future. We have seen progress with the return of exciting, attacking football, even when faced with significant player injuries."

Spurs have no choice but to see through this project. They've made such a mess of the club's path over the past half a decade with their flip-flopping managerial appointments with contrasting ideas on football that they need to give Postecoglou the chance to implement what he has done elsewhere and give them some kind of identity.

Tottenham's women's team is also going through that process with their head coach Robert Vilahamn and he will be looking to take them to something tangible as they face Leicester in the Women's FA Cup semi-final today against Leicester City.

For Postecoglou, he has made a career out of overcoming the doubts that always follow him to each new job. In fact he relishes it, but this is the biggest test yet on the biggest stage.

Does his football work for an extended period at this level? How does it evolve as opposition managers work out ways to counter certain aspects of it? Can he get Tottenham to buy him the right people to fit into the system to get it working at maximum output?

Spurs are in transition and Postecoglou still has plenty of credit in the bank with the vast majority of fans for what he's done so far this season in difficult circumstances. However, he will be more than aware that four of the remaining six games are against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City and regardless of his laughter, he knows the supporters need to see more glimpses of the future than reminders of the past.

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