Cristian Stellini and Hugo Lloris both issued apologies to Tottenham’s supporters following the team’s humiliating 6-1 defeat against Newcastle on Sunday, with Lloris describing the display as “very embarrassing” and “very painful”. Stellini called it “the worst I have seen”’.
Newcastle’s win, in which they race into a 5-0 lead inside 21 minutes, moves them to third, two places and six points clear of Spurs, whose hopes of Champions League qualification took an almighty knock.
“There are no words to explain a performance like this,” said Stellini, who expressed his desire to remain in interim charge until the end of the season but admitted he was “not the right person to ask” about his job security in north London following such a devastating loss. “The first 25 minutes were maybe the worst I have ever seen,” the Italian said.
In a damning indictment of his teammates, Lloris, the visiting captain, blamed a lack of “pride” and “fight” for an extraordinary capitulation. “The first thing we should do is apologise,” he said. “We could not match Newcastle’s performance, we were late in all aspects of the game. It was very embarrassing. It is very painful.”
The goalkeeper, who was replaced for the second half by Fraser Forster after sustaining a hip injury, said: “Newcastle were very aggressive and offensive every time they got the ball. We could not even react. We can try to find excuses but we missed the fight. You cannot go on to the pitch without a desire to win the battle. It makes things very hard. It was a bit of a mess. It was much too slack.”
Stellini accepted his decision to abandon Antonio Conte’s preferred three-man backline and start with a 4-3-3 formation played a significant role in Spurs’ downfall. Newcastle fully exploited a shambolic defensive showing by the visitors, and it took Stellini reverting to five at the back for them to stem the tide. Harry Kane made it 5-1 shortly after the interval before Callum Wilson, on as a substitute, restored Newcastle’s cushion.
“Changing the system was the wrong decision and, if it was a mistake, it was my mistake,” said Stellini, who has won only one of his four games in charge since Conte’s departure last month. “What I can say is we have to apologise to everyone,” the 48-year-old said.
Stellini went on to insist Spurs can still qualify for the Champions League. Newcastle now look almost certain to do so, with Eddie Howe singling out Joe Willock for praise after what could prove to be a defining victory for his side.
“Joe Willock has got to be knocking on England’s door,” said Howe. “As a team we were at our very highest level, our peak but we have to believe there is more to come from us.”