New season, different issues for Newcastle United as defensive concerns revealed

New season, different issues.
Rafa Benitez will be keen to address Newcastle's defensive frailtiesRafa Benitez will be keen to address Newcastle's defensive frailties
Rafa Benitez will be keen to address Newcastle's defensive frailties

For all the positives that came from Newcastle United's opening day defeat against Tottenham, there was one glaring issue that needs to be addressed - their inability to defend crosses.

In what was a polar opposite to last season, Rafa Benitez's side looked positive and lively moving forward and at times carved Spurs apart. The fact the hosts only netted once is perhaps an unfair reflection of just how promising they looked in an attacking sense.

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But at the other end of the pitch, new issues presented themselves.

Benitez will no doubt be seething with the manner in which his side conceded against Spurs, with both goals easily avoidable.

The first - which saw Jan Vertonghen head home from a Christian Eriksen corner - saw Newcastle fail to react quickly to a flick-on while Dele Alli caught Deandre Yedlin sleeping at the far post to net the visitors' second.

For the second goal in particular, the hosts were also guilty of not putting pressure on the ball - instead allowing Serge Aurier the chance to whip in a cross which was perfect for the England international.

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MORE: Newcastle strikers shine despite opening day defeatSuch negligent defending is in stark contrast to the end of last season where Newcastle's disciplined and fully-committed defensive performances proved to be the blocks on which they built up to a tenth place finish.

Benitez alluded to conceding goals in his post-match press conference and was keen to deflect the blame away from his own players.

"In this case its quite simple, they have too many big lads, strong lads," he said.

"They are good in the air and the deliveries are very good. You have Eriksen kicking the ball and Sanchez, Alli, Kane or Dier in there."

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He does have a point - Tottenham's physical superiority was clear to see with Spurs winning most of their physical battles across the park. Mo Diame, in particular, was culpable of being out-muscled a fair few times in the centre of midfield.

But as the old saying goes, brains triumph over brawn. And Newcastle's backline were guilty of not using enough of the former when defending.

The hosts will have done their homework on Spurs and known their aerial and physical strengths. Every corner the visitors won resulted in a choreographed routine which saw them pumped towards Davison Sanchez. Yet nothing was done to try and prevent him winning the ball in the air.

That is easier said than done, of course, but Newcastle should have been more alert.

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READ: Rafa Benitez reveals why Matt Ritchie was withdrawn - and why that backfired Being outplayed is one thing, but the hosts were the architects of their own downfall in this clash.

Such errors will need to be eradicated ahead of a particularly tricky set of early Premier League fixtures against some of the league's leading lights.

But on a more positive note, Benitez's side looked threatening going forward against one of the top flight's best defensive lines.

After last season's woes in front of goal - and a pre-season in which Newcastle hardly looked inspiring in an attacking sense - it was a welcome relief to see the Magpies threatening Spurs and going toe-to-toe with their opposition.

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For all Ayoze Perez was somewhat disappointing, those around him were lively, creative and looked to have plenty of ideas in the final third.

That perhaps wasn't the case before the interval, where Newcastle struggled to make the ball stick in the Spurs half, but Benitez's half-time team talk provided no end of improvement.

OPINION: Promising Joselu performance shows that he CAN compete at NewcastleMatt Ritchie and Kenedy looked especially lively and helped get the fans on their feet and creating that signature St James's Park atmosphere.

Ritchie's pinpoint deliveries were typically accurate and, in as usual from the wideman, his energy and application were useful attacking assets.

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It was his fine cross into the area which allowed Joselu to nod home a leveller between Vertonghen and Alli's own efforts.

And Kenedy, while far from his dynamic best, was direct and posed plenty of questions to the Tottenham. He ought, however, to have done better when he was put through one-on-one with Hugo Lloris - only for a poor first touch to let him down.

These individual displays, coupled with Newcastle's all-round attacking play, will inspire plenty of confidence for the rest of the campaign - and rightly so.

But now the side need to ensure they are equally effective at the other end of the pitch.