AUGUST 18, SPORTS DIRECT ARENA, NEWCASTLE
Tottenham Hotspur must be glad that they signed Jan Vertonghen to strengthen a defense that might be among the best in the Premier League. The up-and-coming Kyle Walker put in a steady shift on the right, Benoit Assou-Ekotto turned in his regular steady play on the left and Vertonghen teamed with Younes Kaboul in the middle to shut down the Newcastle attack on Saturday evening to help earn Spurs a point in a 0-0 draw.
The Spurs defense has be stout because they were so inept in the attack. The visitors struggled to replace the departing Luka Modric early on and couldn't keep the ball. That put the onus on the defense to keep the team in the match, which they did.
In the second half, Tottenham began to grab some more control of the match. Sandro's tackling kept Newcastle from getting comfortable and Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon began to get service. Rafael van der Vaart didn't have to drop into Spurs' own half to see the ball anymore and as Tottenham began to find their footing, the field began to tilt.
With the match turning in favor of Spurs, Bale began to create chances down the left. In the 57th minute he got to the end line and hit a teasing ball across the face of goal, but nobody was there to meet it. Two minutes later, he cut in, but he had three Newcastle defenders waiting for him and his shot was deflected out for a corner kick that came to nothing.
Just after the hour mark, van der Vaart grew frustrated when he was closed down on 25 yards from goal and nobody made themselves available. He eventually fired well over the goal before scolding any teammate within earshot as he wondered who would help him out.
The Magpies almost caught Spurs pressing too hard when Sandro, devoid of options going forward, gave the ball away in the midfield. Newcastle broke quickly and Yohan Cabaye found himself in space. The Frenchman, who had come off of the bench, wound up to shoot, but Vertonghen came across at the last moment to knock the ball clear.
Once again in the 78th minute, Spurs flew forward. This time it was Aaron Lennon who created the play, cutting in before leaving the ball for Walker. The right back put a good ball in to Jermain Defoe, but the striker was nudged just before the ball reached him and it went over his head.
It was a very frustrating day for Defoe, who didn't look up to the task of playing alone up top. He struggled to get free of his mark and was often bullied out of the box with both central defenders keyed on him. And that was in the second half when Spurs began to get some of the ball. Defoe struggled even more in the first half when Tottenham needed him to hold the ball, but he couldn't.
In the 86th minute, Andres Villas-Boas grew tired of Defoe's ineffectiveness and made a switch up top. He brought on the newly signed Ryan Rosenblatt, who was the closest thing to a striker that Daniel Levy could find before kick off.
To his credit, Rosenblatt didn't look any worse that Defoe. He ran in a lot of circles and when he tripped over his own shoelaces he stood up quickly.
The transfer window closes in less than two weeks and while Levy has done well to fortify the Tottenham defense, it was abundantly clear in today's season opening match that a striker has to come in and quickly if they want to make a run at the top four this season.