EPL

Stellini takes responsibility as system change backfires in Newcastle rout

By Sports Desk April 23, 2023

Cristian Stellini declared himself responsible as Tottenham's hopes of a top-four Premier League finish were left hanging by a thread after a humiliating 6-1 defeat to Newcastle United.

Spurs found themselves 5-0 down after 21 minutes during a stunning start at St James' Park, with Jacob Murphy and Alexander Isak scoring two apiece and Joelinton also netting for the rampant hosts.

Only once in Premier League history had a team gone 5-0 up at an earlier stage of a game, with Manchester City doing so inside 18 minutes in an 8-0 win over Watford in 2019.

Though Harry Kane pulled one back after the break, Callum Wilson tapped in a sixth as Newcastle moved six points clear of Spurs in the race for a top-four finish – still with a game in hand.

The latest humiliation to befall Tottenham came after Stellini ditched their usual 3-4-3 system in order to field a four-man backline, a choice he accepts backfired.

"It went so badly because we were not prepared enough to play an important match. We have a good squad, I think, but today no one showed how good they are," interim coach Stellini told Sky Sports.

"It was my responsibility to decide the system we play, and we decided to defend differently because we had many injuries – Ben Davies and [Clement] Lenglet could maybe only play 15 minutes.

"It is my responsibility to take this type of decision. I took it and it was wrong. We spoke in the week about it being possible to change system, but obviously we didn't show this.

"We were not prepared to play this type of tough game. To be prepared means to suffer, control the space, to fight, to win duels. We were not well prepared."

Stellini reverted to a three-man defence after Newcastle's fifth goal, replacing young midfielder Pape Sarr with Davinson Sanchez, and he feels that change enabled Spurs to show some fight.

"I have to take responsibility on this, because after we changed system, the game was gone, but we played better, we scored and tried to fight," he said.

"It's very difficult to understand why the first 25 minutes were so bad."

On Sarr's 23rd-minute withdrawal, Stellini added: "It was not his mistake or his problem. We knew that the first 20 minutes here would be difficult for everyone. Just don't concede a goal. After the first shot, we conceded the first goal.

"I am the coach, and I am above them [the players]. I have to protect them, and they deserve my protection. Today, I have to take this responsibility."

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